The pandemic is over and live music is back. The amount spent on live music event tickets in July in the UK was up 22 per cent in 2022 compared to 2019, with annual concert spending passing the £2bn threshold for the first time ever, according to data from PRS for Music, which licenses live events.
Thanks to pop queens Beyonce and Taylor Swift, some live music events have even managed to boost the GDP of entire nations.
But while the industry is basking in its recent success, new technology could radically change the way we consume live events in the future.
Groundbreaking productions like ABBA Voyage, a live London concert experience featuring ‘ABBAtars’, have taken centre stage, selling over 1m tickets as of April this year, since it launched in November 2021.
Cris Miller, managing director global of Viagogo, said the ABBA Voyage show, which the secondary ticketing marketplace has sold on its platform since May 2022, “doesn’t appear to be slowing down in popularity”.
“Live, virtual and integrated events are continuing to evolve, and we do see the potential of AR events extending far beyond where they are today,” Miller told City A.M.
Cliff Fluet, managing director of media advisory company Eleven, is also optimistic about the untapped potential of technology-driven entertainment.
“We are at the foothills of what we can imagine,” he said.
Multimedia messaging app Snap is making headway with its augmented reality approach to live entertainment, having already added tech-powered experiences for gigs with Drake, Taylor Swift, Lil Nas and, most recently, Kygo.
Using Snap’s augmented reality tools, audiences can add surrounding visuals to the live performance while watching the show through their phone screens.
Manny Adler, Snap’s head of music strategy, told City A.M. it is working to “revolutionise” live performances, adding that it was a “no-brainer” to add it to Kygo’s shows this summer.
He said that the tool helps bring fans “deeper into the experience without taking them out of the moment”.
But fully virtual experiences could also become more popular as the live music industry wrestles with environmental challenges.
The United Nations said last year that live concerts and tours contribute to the climate crisis, driving up emissions through fan and artist travel, energy consumption and the mass production of merchandise.
Alex Wills, chief experience officer at Disguise, a company specialising in live event technology, told City A.M. the environmental challenge is “going to become an increasingly big issue” and could lead to the “hybridisation” of concerts.
“People can’t all go to the Taylor Swift concert – there’s a limitation.”
While he believes a fully virtual concert cannot replace the experience of actually going, they do offer a way to extend the audience and generate more revenue for the artist.
Wills suggested that headsets such as Apple’s Vision Pro will be adapted for live music events, as they are already being used in sporting ones.
He said Apple is using the headset to stream courtside experiences of NBA games.
In June, courtside seats went for as much as $46,326 per ticket, according to ticket platform Seatgeek.
By comparison, Apple’s headset costs $3,499 (£2,755), and some expect that price to fall over the next decade.
Sceptics argue that virtual gigs won’t take off, with many struggling to imagine watching a live gig through a device.
But Fluet replies: “Have you ever looked around at a concert?”