A giant spider waving its eerily long legs sets the stage for Billie Eilish’s performance of “You Should See Me in a Crown” in her October concert. Jumping on the stage, she belts out the lyrics flawlessly. But when the song wraps up, the expected thunderous applause is absent. All of the attendees to this show, as with many others in the era of COVID-19, are watching through a screen from the comfort of their homes.
In light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, many artists were forced to cancel their tours and move their concerts online.
While the environment is certainly not the same, junior Sana Muneyb recognizes some advantages.
“I liked how it was like you were sitting in the front row,” Muneyb said. “You can see everyone and everything that is going on.”
In addition to the up-close experience, the stunning visuals of Eilish’s virtual concert, including the giant spider, a virtual forest, and a larger than life shark that swallows her whole, could never be replicated at an in-person event.
The online format allows the artist to have full creative control over the vision they want to present, without constraints of what can come on tour or be realistically constructed.
“I liked how it was like you were sitting in the front row.”
— Sana Muneyb, junior
“I thought it was cool to see the editing and the graphics they used,” Muneyb said. “You don’t get that in real concerts.”
In addition, venues can make attending concerts more accessible. Whereas front row tickets might have cost into the hundreds of dollars for well-known artists, the audience experiences the close-up element for a fraction of the price in a virtual environment.
However, there is a reason that the online format is cheaper. The ambiance of a virtual concert does not come anywhere near the kinetic, uninhibited atmosphere of standing in a packed venue surrounded by the energy of the crowd.
“I don’t think I would choose it over an in-person concert,” Muneyb said. “I miss the experience in a stadium with live music.”
Unfortunately, there is no telling of when concerts in the traditional format will be widely available and safe to attend. Some artists, including Maroon 5, Harry Styles, and The Weeknd, have postponed their plans for in-person concerts to 2021. However, if the coronavirus is not under control by then, they risk postponing even further.
“While COVID-19 continues I think I would go to another one [virtual concert],” Muneyb said. “It is a pretty good substitute.”