THE SHOW MUST GO ON: VIRTUAL CONCERTS & MARKETING IN THE NEW NORMAL

Joey Held

August 10, 2020

As much of the world continues to practice social distancing, we’re finding ourselves on our phones and computers more regularly. A report from Pew Research found that 87% of people believe the internet has been essential or important during the pandemic. And it looks like that frequent usage will continue as we enter life’s “new normal.”

Yes, that phrase has certainly been overused, but there’s a reason for it. We’re not quite sure what things will look like three months, a year, or even a decade from now. All we know is that the world is different and likely won’t go back to the way it was.

But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, there are plenty of places to look for inspiration with the extra time we all have. One of those spots? Virtual concerts. Artists are holed up in their homes too but still have access to music-making machines, from microphones to guitars to drums. That’s led to an uptick in quarantine concerts, fan engagement, and a general sense of joy.

Communications professionals should be taking note, too. These virtual concerts are giving us the blueprint for how marketing will look going forward. 

Fans want more behind the scenes content

Take Goldfinger, who’s been doing a series of “quarantine videos,” highlighting songs from across their catalog. We get to take a look inside singer John Feldmann’s studio, seeing his production setup—and perhaps more importantly, his dogs lounging on a sofa. Other doggos and decor make appearances, too, as the video takes us through each band member’s recording and performance areas.

With everyone in their own homes, we’re seeing an unfiltered look into their lives. It’s easy to spend hours cooking up the perfect post for a social media platform, but these videos are showing that a raw, more intimate look is more than welcome. 

If you want to get even more intimate, take a page from Erykah Badu. She invited fans into her bedroom as part of an at-home streaming concert, taking them throughout her home, including multiple “mystery rooms.” She also let viewers vote on where the performers played next, offering an additional element of inclusion for her audience.

The takeaway: No matter what your “behind the scenes” are, they’re a way to showcase your brand in a new light. Maybe that means showing the technical difficulties encountered during a Zoom call (something we’ve all experienced). Or perhaps it’s letting employees highlight what they keep on their desk and sharing it in a blog post or company newsletter, or on social media.

A chance to amplify social responsibility efforts

Beyond merely looking inside the homes of musicians, virtual concerts have helped bring social issues and charitable organizations to the forefront of conversation. The artists are able to amplify the message of organizations they support, encouraging fans to educate themselves and, if possible, donate to the cause.

Each installment of the Barenaked Ladies’s “SelfieCamJams” has raised money for an organization that’s important to their band. For example, the performance of the hit song “One Week” collected donations for the Canadian Cancer Society.  

As part of the release of their new album Forever + Ever x Infinity, New Found Glory put on a 40-song online concert via livestream. Their concerts often feature a lot of crowd interaction so to capture that spirit, they posted Twitter polls allowing fans to choose songs for the setlist and hosted a mid-show Q&A featuring fan questions.

The band had been planning the release show for quite some time, but used their platform to raise money for an organization fighting for racial justice. They charged a ticket to watch the livestream and also included bundles with the album and other merchandise, donating a portion of proceeds to the Color of Change. 

Earlier in the pandemic, Post Malone and Travis Barker partnered with Google to put on a livestream tribute to Nirvana. The event raised funds for The United Nations Foundation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund for The World Health Organization (WHO) in support of Covid-19 relief efforts. Google matched all donations 2:1, resulting in the livestream raising nearly $6 million (and counting) going to patients and frontline workers.

The takeaway: Diversity and inclusion are top of mind for many companies. If your organization is taking meaningful action or has helpful resources to share, use your platforms to help amplify your message. 

Collaboration is still possible

Decades ago, recording music was a laborious process. Band members, backup singers, additional instrumentalists, and producers would all pour into the studio. The band would play all at once, with microphones capturing each instrument and voice. Trimming part of a track involved literally cutting a piece of tape. Sometimes, the production team wouldn’t even bother making a removal, which is why several older songs have delightful Easter eggs like a hidden F-bomb or an airplane flying by during recording.

Over the past decade, though, so many songs are done virtually. B.o.B and Hayley Williams scored a top-five hit with the song “Airplanes,” and they didn’t meet until five months after the track was released—and more than a year after it was recorded. 

That kind of remote collaboration has become commonplace. And with social distancing, it’s even encouraged. Artists are taking this time to connect with other musicians in their field, creating virtual collaborations that they may never have considered in the past. In turn, they’re opening themselves up to new opportunities—and new fans.

The takeaway: Collaborating with someone else—whether that’s an influencer, podcast host, or another relevant brand—is a great way to both connect with existing customers and build a new audience. You don’t have to be a popular musician to do a collab, though it would be a good idea to conduct research into the areas you’re reaching and where you’d still like to go.

Repurpose previous content

For the most part, these virtual concerts aren’t showcasing new music. They’re a collection of songs from an artist’s back catalog, from their biggest hits to deeper tracks, or perhaps a cover version of another popular song.

In other words, the band is repurposing content that already exists. And yet, there aren’t any complaints about these virtual shows. On a lot of videos, there are comments from fans suggesting the band release the album as a sort of “live social distancing” album—another way musicians can raise money for organizations. 

There’s a comfort in familiarity. Even if you haven’t listened to, say, Mariah Carey in years, you’re immediately transported back to an earlier time in your life when she starts singing the first notes of one of her classics. Side note: Mariah can still sing the heck out of this song, even nearly 30 years later!.

Think about one of your favorite songs—did you enjoy it immediately the first time you heard it? Or did it take multiple listens before it grew on you?

Marketing is no different. The “Rule of 7” suggests people need to hear a message seven times before they’ll take action. But if you just hammer home the same words on the same platform, you likely won’t find success. Look at what’s performing well across all of your channels, then find ways to promote it elsewhere. 

The takeaway: Further your brand message by repurposing your content. Take a blog post and turn key insights into social graphics, or include them in an email newsletter. A customer case study can make for a great video. A webinar can be transformed into a podcast. There are lots of ways to efficiently make your content work for you—test them across channels and see which garner the most positive reactions.

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