Is Livestream the Future of Music Festivals?

Tomorrowland festival in Boom, Belgium, in 2019.
Tomorrowland festival in Boom, Belgium, in 2019.
In 2019, thousands packed Tomorrowland in Boom. In 2020, the event went fully virtual. (Photo: Tomorrowland.)

We’ve seen that two dimensions can work as well as three, and in some ways, surpass it both practically and emotionally.

Now, concert livestreaming is not necessarily a new phenomenon, yet it continues to grow. In 2016, Tomorrowland was viewed on Facebook by 14 million people. A year later, Ariana Grande’s benefit concert in Manchester drew 76 million viewers; and, in 2019, livestreams for Coachella hit 82 million on YouTube, up 90 percent from the previous year. But the primary difference between those livestreams and 2020’s Tomorrowland event is the number of paid viewers. Tomorrowland’s haul was by some estimates nearly $15 million and perhaps higher. While that revenue figure pales in comparison to 400,000 people dropping a few hundred dollars for a ticket (plus concession and merchandise sales), fifteen million dollars is fifteen million dollars, and even when Tomorrowland and Coachella (and Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits…) begin welcoming people back for in-person attendance, paid livestreams will undoubtedly figure into the festivals’ plans.

Kerry Perry rocked fans around the world at this summer’s Tomorrowland music festival.

Affiliations — religions, sports, bird-watching — are as much about the product themselves as the company they keep.

There’s more to livestreaming than money. People enjoy livesteams and chats for a variety of reasons, not least of which includes an immediate feedback loop, driving those hits of dopamine when users submit comments and discuss topics in the moment. To be sure, humans crave instant gratification, and livestream music festivals provide both a dynamic, real-time experience complimented by chats that encourage immediate reactions and more engagement. (Just think: would you rather critique Superbowl ads at home alone or with a few friends?) It’s a duality that, frankly, can’t be replicated in person — go ahead, try discussing and learning about the intricacies and creative direction of Deadmau5’s set at Red Rocks standing amidst a throng of 10,000 fans.

Eric Prydz’s performs at Tomorrowland 2020, the show’s first-ever fully virtual event.

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