STANDARDS

NGSS: Core Idea: ETS1.B

CCSS: Writing: 1

TEKS: 6.3A, 7.3A, 8.3A, TA.1B, TA.6A, IT.3A

The Future of Concerts?

Performers from K-pop bands to hip-hop artists have found new ways to share their music during the Covid-19 pandemic

VIA TIKTOK

DIGITAL EXTRAVAGANZA: An animated version of R&B singer The Weeknd performed a concert on TikTok on August 7, 2020.

AS YOU READ, THINK ABOUT the different ways technology can be used to bring concerts to life online.

Hazy, red light shines on a darkened stage. Music starts to play, slowly getting louder and louder. Then the beat drops. Suddenly, R&B singer The Weeknd materializes on the stage in a blaze of fiery sparks. The crowd watching erupts in cheers. But The Weeknd isn’t standing in front of the audience in person. He’s performing as an animated version of himself. That’s because this concert didn’t take place at an actual music venue— it took place on the popular video-sharing app TikTok.

In August 2020, more than 2 million people turned on their laptops, phones, and tablets to watch The Weeknd perform his virtual concert. This is just one way the world changed during the Covid-19 pandemic, as social distancing prevented people from frequenting places like schools, restaurants, and concert venues.

When many parts of the country started issuing stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of Covid-19, artists like Niall Horan and Ariana Grande started hosting online concerts from their homes to entertain fans stuck indoors. The Weeknd and others began to work on projects that took the concept even further. They found ways to make their internet performances more eye-popping and interactive to better simulate a real concert-going experience. Find out about the cutting-edge technology making these virtual concerts possible.

A hazy, red light shines on a dark stage. Music starts to play. Slowly, it gets louder and louder. Then the beat drops. Suddenly, R&B singer The Weeknd appears on the stage in a blaze of fiery sparks. The watching crowd cheers. But The Weeknd isn’t standing before the audience in person. He’s performing as an animated version of himself. That’s because this show didn’t take place at a concert site. It was on TikTok, the popular video-sharing app.

The Weeknd performed his virtual concert in August 2020. More than 2 million people watched on their laptops, phones, and tablets. This is just one way the world changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Social distancing stopped people from going to places like schools, restaurants, and concert sites.

Many parts of the country put stay-at-home orders into effect to slow the spread of Covid-19. Music fans were stuck indoors. So artists like Niall Horan and Ariana Grande started hosting online concerts from their homes. The Weeknd and others took the idea even further. They found ways to make their internet performances more eye-popping and interactive. It seemed more like going to a real concert. Find out about the cutting-edge technology behind these virtual concerts.

WAVE

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: On June 23, 2020, John Legend performed a concert while wearing a motion capture suit (right) which recorded his movements and translated them to an animated avatar in real time (left).

ANIMATED PERFORMANCE

The Weeknd’s recent concert may have been held on an app, but it still looked a lot like one of his real-world performances. “Animated shows are a really close representation of what in-person shows are like, but rendered in an interactive, virtual environment,” says John Petrocelli, the chief executive officer of Bulldog DM, a company that helps artists create online events. The Weeknd was even able to interact with fans via his avatar, or cartoon-like version of himself. “At an in-person concert, you wouldn’t get to meet the performers,” says Journi Easter, a 13-year-old from Chicago, Illinois, who watched The Weeknd’s concert on a laptop with her brother. “But during this concert people got to talk to The Weeknd!”

All of the moves The Weeknd’s avatar made during his performance were based on the singer’s actual motions recorded using motion capture technology. This requires an artist to wear a special suit covered in dots. This technology can even be used to animate a concert in real time, like the show that singer John Legend performed live on YouTube last June. As Legend sang, a computer tracked the dots on his suit to create an animation that replicated his facial expressions and body movements.

Because The Weeknd and Legend performed as avatars, they could do all sorts of amazing tricks, like teleport around or dance on a floating stage. These online shows can be full of surprises, says 12-year-old Jack Simpson from Los Angeles, California. “You can do a lot of things in an animated world that you can’t do in real life.”

The Weeknd’s recent concert happened on an app. But it still looked a lot like one of his real-world performances. “Animated shows are a really close representation of what in-person shows are like, but rendered in an interactive, virtual environment,” says John Petrocelli. He’s the chief executive officer of Bulldog DM, a company that helps artists create online events. The Weeknd even interacted with fans. He did it through his avatar, or cartoon-like version of himself. “At an in-person concert, you wouldn’t get to meet the performers,” says Journi Easter, a 13-year-old from Chicago, Illinois. She watched The Weeknd’s concert on a laptop with her brother. “But during this concert people got to talk to The Weeknd!”

During the concert, the Weeknd’s avatar performed many moves. All of them were based on the singer’s actual motions. They were recorded with motion capture technology. To do this, an artist must wear a special suit covered in dots. This technology can even be used to animate a concert in real time. For example, singer John Legend performed live on YouTube last June. As Legend sang, a computer tracked the dots on his suit. It created an animation with his facial expressions and body movements.

Because they performed as avatars, The Weeknd and Legend could do all sorts of amazing tricks. They could teleport around or dance on a floating stage. These online shows can be full of surprises, says 12-year-old Jack Simpson from Los Angeles, California. “You can do a lot of things in an animated world that you can’t do in real life.”

LEE YOUNG-HO/SIPA USA VIA AP IMAGES

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Before the pandemic, K-pop band BTS performed for stadiums filled with people. Now the band performs via livestream for quarantined fans.

LIVE FROM ANYWHERE!

In May, the popular band BTS, which performs Korean music called K-pop, held a livestreamed concert. The show was recorded as it happened and sent to people’s devices in real time. The performance involved a lot of choreography, just like an actual BTS show. But it also required complex camera work to capture the band’s members as they sang and danced their way through multiple sets and stages. Ting Ting Chen, a 14-year-old K-pop fan from Chicago, Illinois, watched the stream. She was amazed at how the event organizers were able to coordinate such a complicated show without any errors or technical glitches.

“A livestream has a lot of moving pieces,” explains Petrocelli. But that hasn’t stopped some performers from adding even more elements to excite audiences. K-pop group SuperM’s “Beyond the Future” online show included 3-D computer-animated tigers that ran past the singers as they danced onstage. Virtual glow sticks bopped in time to the music. These special effects were created using augmented reality. This technology allows the audience to “see” 3-D digital objects layered over a real-life backdrop on their device’s screen.

The popular band BTS performs Korean music called K-pop. In May, they held a livestreamed concert. The show was recorded as it happened. It was sent to people’s devices in real time. The performance involved a lot of dance steps, just like a real BTS show. But it also involved difficult camera work to record the band’s members. They sang and danced through multiple sets and stages. Ting Ting Chen is a 14-year-old K-pop fan from Chicago, Illinois. She watched the stream and was amazed. The event organizers pulled off the complicated show without any errors or technical problems.

“A livestream has a lot of moving pieces,” explains Petrocelli. But some performers have added even more elements to excite audiences. K-pop group SuperM did an online show called “Beyond the Future.” It included 3-D computer-animated tigers. As the singers danced onstage, the tigers ran past them. Virtual glow sticks bopped in time to the music. These special effects were created with augmented reality. This technology places 3-D digital objects over a real-life backdrop. The audience can “see” the objects on their device’s screen.

ALTERED REALITY

The next best thing to actually being at a concert might be viewing one in virtual reality, or VR. “Virtual realities are worlds created from imagination or captured from the real world by 360-degree cameras, which have lenses pointing in every direction,” says Ben Dawson, the director of virtual reality at a company called MelodyVR based in England.

The company has worked with hundreds of artists—including Bebe Rexha, Tori Kelly, and Kesha—to create totally immersive VR concerts. These performances can transport a person to the front row without their ever leaving their couch. A viewer just has to slip on a VR headset, which looks like a pair of goggles. The display screen covers your eyes and tricks your brain into believing you’re in another location (see How Virtual Reality Works). When you turn your head, you can see different parts of the virtual environment. People who don’t own a VR headset can use specialized apps like one created by MelodyVR. It allows someone to change their view of the 360-degree performance by tapping or dragging the screen on a device.

When the Covid-19 pandemic is over, Dawson doesn’t think VR and other types of virtual concerts will go away. That’s because the technology makes concerts more accessible to more people. Anyone with an internet connection can watch a virtual show. And at $20-30 per show, online performances are much cheaper than a regular concert ticket, which cost $94.83 on average last year. “We’re just at the very start of virtual concerts,” says Dawson. “They’re going to get even bigger and better.”

What’s the next best thing to being at a concert? It might be watching one in virtual reality, or VR. “Virtual realities are worlds created from imagination or captured from the real world by 360-degree cameras, which have lenses pointing in every direction,” says Ben Dawson. He’s the director of virtual reality at a company called MelodyVR in England.

The company has worked with hundreds of artists, including Bebe Rexha, Tori Kelly, and Kesha. They’ve created VR concerts that seem totally real. These performances can take you to the front row, without ever leaving your couch. A viewer just has to wear a VR headset. It looks like a pair of goggles. The display screen covers your eyes. It tricks your brain into believing you’re in another place (see How Virtual Reality Works). When you turn your head, you can see different parts of the virtual environment. If you don’t own a VR headset, you can use special apps. One of these was created by MelodyVR. It allows you to change your view of the 360-degree performance. Just tap or drag the screen on your device.

The Covid-19 pandemic will end. But Dawson doesn’t think VR and other types of virtual concerts will go away. That’s because the technology allows more people to enjoy concerts. Anyone with an internet connection can watch a virtual show. And online performances cost $20-30 per show. That’s much cheaper than a regular concert ticket, which cost $94.83 on average last year. “We’re just at the very start of virtual concerts,” says Dawson. “They’re going to get even bigger and better.”

ARGUMENTS FROM EVIDENCE: Do you think virtual concerts will someday become as commonplace as traditional ones? Support your argument with evidence from the text.

What does your class think?
Would you attend a virtual concert?
Please enter a valid number of votes for one class to proceed.
Would you attend a virtual concert?
Please select an answer to vote.
Would you attend a virtual concert?
0%
0votes
{{result.answer}}
Total Votes: 0
Thank you for voting!
Sorry, an error occurred and your vote could not be processed. Please try again later.

Teachers: poll your class, then type the total number of answers in the boxes and click “Cast Your Vote.”

Teachers: poll your class, then type the total number of answers in the boxes and click “Cast Your Vote.”

Skills Sheets (4)
Skills Sheets (4)
Skills Sheets (4)
Skills Sheets (4)
Lesson Plan (2)
Lesson Plan (2)