The User Experience: InCrowd, VirtualCrowd Make Fans Part Of The Show
As the pandemic hit in march, the live business has had to contend with multitudes of naysayers, provide solutions and solve problems. One of the obvious issues apparent early in the socially distant era of live entertainment was the lack of crowd interaction or audience feedback.
“As a standup comedian myself, I‘ve felt the void of audiences and stage time,” says InCrowd Entertainment’s Ryan “Bubba” Ginnetty, creator of the Los Angeles-based InCrowd Stage, featuring a nearly 360-degree wall of virtual fans that can interact with a performer, along with up to tens of thousands taking part in the live discussion. “InCrowd was spawned from us knowing the traditional ways of stream-ing weren’t going to be cool enough and deep enough. We dug for a deeper, more connected way to showcase these types of performances in a way that felt connected and real.”
InCrowd’s up-close-and-personal fan wall, which debuted back in June, gives opportunities for virtual meet and greets as well as a heightened give-and-take between artist and fan during performances, with the convenient Southern California location and opportunity to do innovative show formats such as Omarion’s “Virtual Paint n’ Puff” smoke-and-paint experience.
Rolling Loud has made use of similar concepts, putting up virtual crowd walls at its Loud Stream events allowing fans to interact with each other and artists.
“Putting the screen up that Twitch had and putting fans on the screen for the artists to see, it really did the trick of creating that energy exchange we were looking to create,” Rolling Loud co-founder Tariq Cherif says. “They gave it right back to the fans and the fans gave it right back to them and it was awesome.”
As the pandemic has continued, seasoned concert players have entered the space as well, with the Fireplay, PRG and Clair team-up of VirtualCrowd debuting during Metallica’s Nov. 14 Acoustic livestream benefit event at the band’s San Francisco HQ.
With heated competition and multiple ways of providing a virtual crowd with today’s fast-moving tech, the onus is to make the crowd engagement seamless and compelling as part of the show, according to Fireplay’s Nick Whitehouse.
“That’s what makes this really different,” Whitehouse says, whose company is known for handling visuals and show design for the likes of Justin Timberlake among many others. “It really is an interactive experience. We’ve all seen the Zoom windows on a screen behind the artists and that kind of thing. How do we take it and brand it for the artist, how do we do things that are actually part of the show? That’s what we really concentrated on and that’s why it’s developed into what it is.”