Are drive-in and livestream gigs the future?
When it comes to entertainment, the road ahead looks promising - albeit carved out differently
Humans, over the ages, have proven themselves resilient - as individuals, as organisations, as industries. In the world of entertainment too, the future looks bright but may need to be carved out differently. The question is: can we embrace change?
At the start of the pandemic, major festivals such as Burning Man, Glastonbury and Coachella were either cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Global touring schedules and Vegas residencies were halted. The annual pilgrimages for festival junkies were put on hold till further notice.
This could have been the new norm - but, as mentioned, the human race is resilient, if nothing else. Within weeks of the pandemic, together with the UAE's Public Diplomacy Office, I took part in a campaign with philanthropic organisation Global Citizen to activate the world's largest digital entertainment fundraiser and raise awareness for Covid-19 frontline workers around the world. Entertainers including Jennifer Lopez, Coldplay and The Rolling Stones gave performances from their living rooms, while Oprah, Beyoncé and world leaders lent their voices to support the cause. The event raised $127 million, and attracted and entertained over 270 million viewers across 144 countries. Records were set, and a new format of entertainment was born.
Last month, the UK announced plans for drive-in gigs this summer, where one of the world's largest concert promoters Live Nation would host a series of gigs across key cities in car parks with a capacity for up to 300 cars; the expected capacities of the audience is approximately 1,200. While this does not compensate for the mass loss of earnings venues and promoters are facing, it is a step towards rebuilding trust between the community and artists and overcoming the anxiety of being together in public spaces. Ticket sales will follow when people are ready but, so far, the response has been positive.
The UAE's summer heat may be a cause for hindrance for such entertainment activities. Nevertheless, we can expect changes like these will be adopted in Dubai, where we can cater to bigger crowds due to the larger outdoor spaces and car parks. Drive-in movies are already back in vogue, and I think 'gig drive-ins' - where you bring a picnic and share a more intimate experience with your loved ones - could definitely take off long-term, even though they cannot replace the energy and excitement of a stadium concert performance.
Recently, entertainer and producer Swizz Beatz 'broke' Instagram, with his ingenious Music Battles called VERZUZ, where he paired two musical icons to battle one another. The debut show on IG Live pitched Babyface vs.Teddy Riley. Instagram couldn't cope with the bandwidth for the subscription, and the show ended up being postponed and re-scheduled to accommodate an even bigger live audience of over 400,000 - not counting reposts and recorded views. Both OG fans and millennials tuned in to see the epic battle, which lasted over an hour and streamed live for free.
Packing out stadiums is no easy feat, but social media is the new currency for commerce. Will it have a role to play once the arenas open? Or do we go back to the way we did things in the pre-Covid era?
A clear winner and one to watch is D-NICE, hip hop DJ, producer, and Hollywood photographer. In March, D-Nice made history when he started club quarantine on IG live from his home as a way for people to come together and dance. During this time, he played for nine hours with over 100,000 people tuning in, Face-timing each other, dancing and uniting remotely. Rihanna, Lenny Kravitz, Oprah, The Obamas, Janet Jackson, Bernie Sanders, and many more tuned in to the power of music. His livestream went on to capture over 200,000 viewers.
A quick glance at most posts on social networks today tells us to take this time for growth, regeneration and change. Looking at the trendsetters, entertainers and musicians - who never stay on a flattened curve but are always ahead of the curve - tells us entertainment, concerts and shows that will be born out of Covid-19 will be there for us all to revel in and build those memories and emotions again - not remotely and not in the too-distant future.
One thing is for sure: there's a future full of entertainment to look forward to.