While a virtual show will never replace the communal sway and sweat of an in-venue experience, fans bored with mediocre one-way music delivery need more immersion, and artists need ways to earn more money for themselves and the causes they support.

Enter live-streaming 2.0. On any given night fans can find a growing number of primarily DJ performances on platforms complete with shout-outs and emoticons. Events staged within online gaming platforms are rising.

With a brave new world of larger-scale immersion comes a whole lot of learning.

Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa staged two benefit shows—a July 9 concert that launched new experiential platform Genius Live and a July 11 show in conjunction with esports team the Pittsburgh Knights (he’s a longtime strategic partner) staged on the Knights YouTube channel and Twitch.

The Genius Live show, which was simulcast on YouTube Live, Instagram Live, Facebook Live and Twitch, was free for to view and vote in advance the set list. Fans could pay $10 to join a closed Zoom watch party. A cool $100 enabled fans to request a shout-out during the show; $200 bought the opportunity to ask the artist a question.

Both the shout-out and question features sold out during the show, and “the private watch party option was the breakout hit feature of the night,” a Genius Live exec says.

Aside from the good business sense that needs to accompany any show—like clear communication prior to the event, and over-delivering on the experience promise—here are some tips from the trenches on powering up a live interactive virtual event:

Optimize Experiences Fans Wouldn’t Be Able To Get in Person

Virtual stages provide engagement opportunities that couldn’t exist in a live environment. That’s the reason the industry likely will see a continuation of immersive stand-alone or complementary online shows even when touring returns.

If you’re playing at a live event, you can’t talk to the guy at the back of the stadium and ask what they think of this set. But if you’re streaming at your house, you can have your monitor to the side and see all of the chat in real time and interact with people who are listening and acknowledge it as you’re playing.

Balance Performance and Fan Interaction

As with all live events, run of show is paramount. Artists going deeper with fan interaction need to make good on promises of shout outs, giveaways and other engagement—especially for fans laying out big bucks—but they also need to get through their set list.

Experiences are always better when the viewer has been transformed into a participant.

Involve Artists In New Ways

The virtual environment is a fertile field for artists, managers and promoters to think out of the box. Have a segment where fans who’ve been watching their stream are allowed to play online games with them. This type of environment gets fans that much closer to the artists they love, but in a different way. Gaming is something that can truly be a binding agent.”

Just Like In-Person, Safety First

Just like in the live touring environment, fan engagement across social platforms tends to spike around virtual concerts, with live chats lighting up during a show.

It’s important to have someone moderate the chat to make sure nobody’s getting bullied in the chat. There are a lot of things that go into making sure everything is done right and people are happy. The biggest thing is letting fans know they’re appreciated and they’re safe.”


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