In previous years, the spring and summer seasons have exploded with new music, live shows, and music festivals. But this year, that all came to an abrupt halt as social gatherings became restricted and a quarantine was ultimately put in place. This proved to be devastating for artists and their crews who were already on tour, as well as large-scale events that had to be canceled or postponed indefinitely. With social distancing guidelines in place, production for movies, TV shows, and even some major video games has been put on pause. There for a while, it looked like we were destined to spend the quarantine deprived of any new entertainment. Luckily, the music scene we all know and love quickly began to adapt.
Artists big and small have come up with various ways to deliver content while quarantined, with one of the most popular methods thus far being the livestream. Platforms such as Facebook Live, YouTube, and Twitch let artists stream themselves performing so that fans can watch safely from their screens. If you can’t really be there, a livestream seems like the next best thing. Many of these platforms even have a chat feature, allowing viewers to interact and get that sense of community that concerts often bring. Some artists have decided to do this individually. In many cases, this gives them unprecedented freedom to perform what, when, and how they want. The result has been fun, interesting, and intimate acts the likes of which we might never have gotten to see in person.
Electronic music producer Subtronics has been extremely active in the virtual community, putting out schedules for “Cyclops Army TV” on Twitch, where he does everything from teaching production tips to accepting demo feedback from fans. As he points out on Twitter, it’s easy to be more creative when there are no “crowds to keep happy” and you can just “explore new things.” Similarly, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie has taken this opportunity to start up a weekly Live From Home series on YouTube, in which he answers questions and even takes music requests from viewers.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there. With countless sizable events such as Electric Forest, Hangout Fest, Governor’s Ball, and even Burning Man being canceled or uncertainly postponed, digital festivals have moved to take their place. On April 3rd-5th, an online music festival called Digital Mirage featured sets by more than fifty artists over the course of the weekend. On April 18th, a Lady Gaga-curated event called One World: Together At Home featured many different artists, from the Rolling Stones to Keith Urban.
Aside from the typical livestream, artists have found other creative ways to keep us entertained. Rather than streaming live, the online-version of the dubstep festival Lost Lands, a.k.a. Couch Lands, has released unseen content and full sets from the 2019 event. In celebration of their newest album Wake Up, Sunshine, All Time Low hosted a virtual listening party on Twitch to get fans engaged. Alternatively, The Wonder Years invited fans to participate in a bracket event called “Social Distancing Madness” to raise money for health care workers to get personal protective equipment.
Frankly, nothing will be able to compare to live music. But thankfully, we don’t have to spend the quarantine without our favorite artists. The music industry has proven to be as innovative as ever, and we can keep it alive by offering our continued (virtual) support.