Live music has been a vital constant in human society for thousands of years. Whether you are part of an indigenous society playing to members of your rural village or a rock god playing to thousands in stadiums, live performance has been an integral part of all music, regardless of time and genre. But despite all of this, live music currently finds itself at the most pivotal and unpredictable moment of its story.
On one hand, modern technology is driving the evolution of exciting possibilities for live performance. But on the other, recent events such as the Coronavirus pandemic have cast a shadow over the future of live music, leaving many people terrified that they may not ever be able to enjoy a concert in the same way they once did.
At WeJam we find it both animating and daunting to think about what the future holds in this respect. So here are six of our predictions for what the future of live music might look like.
VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY
Coronavirus bought the world to a complete standstill as many of us were forced to spend months on end trapped in our homes. In the short time that concerts have been cancelled, the industry has been estimated to have already lost $10 billion. For both an industry that now desperately demands innovation as well as billions of fans who missed seeing their favourite artists on stage, adaptation seems all but inevitable. Therefore, our first prediction for the future of live music is the use of virtual and augmented reality. To many, this may still seem like a futuristic concept, but virtual reality found its way into mainstream society almost a decade ago. Companies like Sony used virtual reality headsets to create visionary gaming landscapes that consumers could enjoy. But the technology even finds extensive use in medicine.
With the technology already so readily developed, it is a logical assumption that it might soon be fed into the music industry to satisfy the appetites of music lovers and drum up revenue for venues. Although you may not be able to physically attend a concert, you will be able to enjoy an extremely realistic replication from within the walls of your own home. For venues and technology companies, ticket sales would rise significantly because there would be no restrictions to a maximum capacity of a venue space. Patrons would not only be able to enjoy live concerts from their homes but would also be able to relive classic concerts that they might never have been able to attend.
Augmented reality has already started to find its way into the music scene. 2012’s Coachella exhibited a hologram of Tupac that moved and sang. This capability of ‘bringing back artists from the dead’ opens up numerous possibilities for futuristic light shows that can also draw on the past.
DRIVE THROUGH CONCERTS
When we think about the way our music industry adapted to Coronavirus, we can look at the future in a less hypothetical way and draw on the actual responses of the music industry that we have seen so far. One response that really stands out is the birth of the drive-through concert. Standing in a crowd of people singing and breathing on each other clearly cannot be allowed, but many seem to think listening to music through the open windows of your car is a close second best. In some cases, people have a designated area next to their car where they can stand and enjoy the music.
This was first seen being done in America as well as parts of Europe, but the UK hosted 12 of these events during July 2020 featuring artists such as The Streets and Gary Newman. For many people including the performers, the crowd energy of thousands of punters dancing and singing in unison is a large part of what makes live music so entertaining and gratifying. So instead of cheers, performers must receive only a dim crowd murmur and the odd appreciative horn toot. Only time will tell whether this strange practice will become obsolete, or whether it will be the
new thing that we all do on a Friday night to get our fill of live music.
SOCIALLY DISTANCED CONCERTS
For some, having a car between them and the next fan just doesn’t quite cut it in terms of creating the lively atmosphere they are used to. We are all now well accustomed to socially distancing in shops and other spaces, so why not bring that into concerts? Beverly Knight gave us an example of this when she starred in the first socially distanced West End performance. 500 people sat in the Palladium (a quarter of the venues’ normal capacity), with masks on, each separated by rows of chairs. For many forms of live music such as classical or musical theatre that didn’t originally require people to stand in close proximity to each other, this would only be a minor change.
Technology’s vast progressions mean that soon both artists and fans may have a completely different type of concert at their fingertips. One example of this is interactive concerts. There have been some examples of these in the past, where the fans are able to have some control over the content of the performance. This might be done through an online voting system via their phones or even direct contact through social media networks that the artists can respond to live.
This leads to the fans being able to have a say in elements of the performance such as stage lighting and even the musical content of the show. Having greater control over the performance is a big draw for lots of concert-goers, and is a great way to fully immerse themselves in the experience. As musicians continue to explore more electronic avenues, the possibilities for crowd interaction only increases. Companies such as WeJam have also developed technology that could potentially allow fans to
play their favourite songs alongside artists from the comfort of their homes.
Recent technological innovations have also led to new ideas such as wearable technology. Tech experts are looking for ways to combine instruments with what performers are wearing. This could include a t-shirt with controls on it, or even something as simple as an apple watch that helps artists to play songs or control the stage visuals. You can only imagine how dynamic a performance could be if none of the artists was limited by musical instruments.
Wearable technology also has lots of exciting potential for fans. Countless venues require patrons to wear a wrist band upon entry, but what if this had some simple technology attached to it that enhanced the crowd experience.
Both Coldplay and Taylor Swift have already proved how effective this can be. They put lights in all of the wrist bands, effectively extending the light show from the stage and into the crowd. The main elements of a live performance are the sounds and the visuals, but this technology could be used to stimulate other senses during a performance. For example, vibrations that are connected to the songs could be sent through the band, adding another dimension to how we experience music.
The final prediction for the future of live music is that the way we purchase and use tickets will be vastly different. We have already seen huge changes in the way we buy tickets. The age of paper tickets now seems like a distant past. Today we are overwhelmed with QR codes that have to be scanned to get into any venue, whether it be from a wristband or a phone. In a world where face recognition technology is commonplace when unlocking phones, is it that farfetched
to predict that it in the near future we might be scanning our faces, fingerprints, or even eyeballs to get entry into venues?
Experts are also predicting democratisation of ticket sale platforms. Often venues or events companies will only sell tickets through one site and frown upon any kind of resale. In the future, it could be the case that concert-goers can buy their tickets from a much wider variety of platforms. This is especially useful for the buyers because a large network of third parties that sell tickets is not only very convenient but also decreases the risk of scammers.
Over the years many predictions for the future of the music industry have been made. Some predicted that CDs would never take off, and others even predicted that radio would never have any commercial value. Clearly such a dynamic industry always holds the potential for seismic changes.
Our predictions may well not come to pass, nonetheless, it’s still exciting to look ahead and dream about what’s yet to come. One thing’s for sure, companies such as WeJam that provide immersive experiences for music lovers are here to stay, and may even play a part in the survival of this currently fragile music industry.