More than a year in to the pandemic, the new norm for social distant communication is virtual media.  Everyone is jumping on the train from kids videocalling their school teachers , to business meetings arranged online, to even Grandma and Grandpa catching up with the grandkids via video calls. Now when Covid-19 first hit, it was uncertain what roles these services would fill with people believing the restrictions would be short-term temporary. But then lockdown restrictions went into play, and were extended…. and then they were extended again and again. In fact the lockdown extensions have severely impacted industries that were functioning within the economies of “live media”. So much so that they were left grasping for virtual interactive replacements that could fill-in for the restricted live gatherings. But now with a new report by Reuters showing that half of USA adults have been vaccinated, getting back to real-time events is now back in the circle of discussion.

Beyond just circling in the discussion, there’s a new report out from the National Research Group, saying that nine out of ten consumers are ready to get back to these real-time events. The study also shows in a post-pandemic reality that seven of ten consumers plan to continue interacting virtually. So it suffices to say that not only do we really enjoy virtual and videocalls, but the expectation of live events has shifted to virtual as part of the everyday experience.

“What began during the pandemic as forced substitution now reflects a major evolution and democratization of the live events category,” said National Research Group CEO Jon Penn in a statement explaining the live industry’s adoption of virtual options in an ongoing evolution of live media substitution. New virtual media is definitely convenient, and what’s driving this major evolution has more to do with the unique possibilities they offer. Virtual events surpass live media events by creating new ways to connect through community and co-creation that weren’t previously possible.

With the COVID-19 vaccine continuing to rollout, marketers are expecting events in the future to progress further toward fusion of virtual and live media. We can see some examples of the industry’s biggest shows taking shape like the South by Southwest music festival as well as the Consumer Electronics Show moving to a virtual options. Personal conversations and networking have been replaced by video-calling apps, chatboxes, and live streams. For example, musicians at SXSW connected with fans over live streams for intimate performances, press releases, and cooking shows across Facebook and Instagram. Other teams created interactive websites where fans could preview new music and have access to exclusive purchases via a virtual merchandise store. Rather than framing the discussion in black and white terms (virtual vs. physical), creators now have a spectrum of possible options to fit their particular needs in a given moment.

The annual CES trade show, multi-day event in Las Vegas, NV.

 

The live events continue in the creation of virtual spaces where young people flood social interaction in videogames like Fortnite. In one of the industry firsts, Travis Scott held a record-breaking concert on the platform back in April 2020 that had over 45.8M views across the five times it was aired.

Next to Scott, Lil Nas X attracted over 30 million visits to the videogame platform Roblox across four weekend performances of his virtual concert in November of 2020. Taking it a step further, Lil Nas X jumped into playing the Roblox game with some of the biggest Youtube influencers around to extend the interactive experience.

One of four Performances by Lil Nas X, Roblox November 2020.

At the beginning of this pandemic, the goal for video calling and virtual events was to replace the aspects of in-person gatherings by going video. However the examples given in this article suggests that the opposite is happening — as we get back to the ability to do events in-person events, we’ll also notice that there is progressively more video interaction and virtual options. Educational institutions are using video apps like Ourglass and Zoom to further enhance the interactive experience. Artists and Musicians are using platforms like Twitch and Discord to enhance their consumer’s experience. And now the consumer of tomorrow is looking to “live” not only to create new memories with their dear ones, but also to get closer than ever to their favorite creators, get tailored instruction from their favorite teachers, and to participate as a co-creator in a shared moment.

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