The Year In Innovation: Tech Meets Elbow Grease In Challenging Year

Courtesy Virtual Crowd
– Metallica
The pandemic has brought creativity to the live experience, with innovations like Virtual Crowd, which debuted recently during a Metallica benefit performance, finding new ways to keep fans engaged during performances.

2020 was by all accounts a year of great challenges, but it also spurred some incredible problem-solving and exciting advances in technology and business that will continue having an impact moving forward.

Innovators like Pollstar cover subject D-Nice used the pandemic to create new kinds of content and grow their digital presence in ways that would likely never have been possible pre-pandemic.
Some acts got very creative and reinvented what concerts could look like in light of current restrictions. 
In the case of The Flaming Lips, this meant plotting a “Bubble Concert” at which every attendee would attend the show in their own Wayne Coyne-esque bubble at The Criterion in Oklahoma City, Okla. 
Drive-in concerts were by no means the salvation of the live business or even a reasonable proposition for all acts, but some artists were able to use the medium to connect with their fans around the country in a safe way, and acts like Bert Kreischer said they intend to continue to put on drive-in tours well after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. 
Travis Scott made waves when he put on a concert in the free video game Fortnite, using the occasion to premiere a new track with Kid Cudi. That “Astronomical” event made waves and was one of many events bringing artists into video games, and ventures like Hit Command, which grew out of Red Light Management, are dedicated to continuing to bridge that gap moving forward.
Companies like Strangeloop Studios, which were already tinkering with introducing new kinds of technology into conventional performances, have thrived during the pandemic. Strangeloop was already working on shows incorporating virtual reality technology with the likes of Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar before the industry-wide shutdown and they have since launched the Spirit Bomb “virtual label” which is to release its first “visual album” in 2021.
And companies like InCrowd Entertainment and the VirtualCrowd collaboration between Fireplay, PRG and Clair have found ways to make digital audiences more and more a part of shows, whether it be by creating digital walls of fans viewing a show in real time or by integrating audience members into livestreaming platforms like Twitch, as was the case during Rolling Loud’s Loud Stream events. 
In general, a wave of new investment has come into music technology in 2020. Tech entrepreneur Shara Senderoff told Pollstar earlier this year: “What we’re trying to do is improve [returns] and understand how to spend marketing dollars that bring people a return and then generate new revenue streams. So when we talk about live specifically, obviously we’re trying to sell tickets. And that’s a big focus on the marketing side, which is not only selling the tickets to a tour. 
“We know how significant of a revenue stream touring is in general, but it’s necessary to understand who the people are that are in those seats.”