Virtual Concerts and the Music Industry During Covid-19


Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the beginning of 2020, our lives have been put on pause in every aspect. And although having a small student body has allowed us to return to in person classes at Montrose, many parts of the world have still had to stay in quarantine to contain the spread of the virus. This has meant daily elements of our life disappearing from our radar, one of which is the entertainment industry — especially music. As the world went into lockdown, concerts and tours were rescheduled, album releases delayed, and live awards shows cancelled. Facing unconventional circumstances, many aspects of the music industry were reworked to suit our new quarantined lifestyle. 

The initial stages of the pandemic saw at-home, live-streamed concerts on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube from the likes of Hozier and Niall Horan, who both participated in a movement of Irish artists asking people to “Unite by Staying Apart.” At-home concerts have seen an expected rise in popularity. Since lockdown began, NPR has released many Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts from artists – some bands recorded individually over Facetime; but, as lockdown restrictions eased, we’ve seen more artists in studios with their bands. NPR has a wide range of performers, from big hits like BTS, Billie Eilish, and Dua Lipa to classical pianists to Indie artists including King Princess and Phoebe Bridgers. Prior to Covid-19, national radio would hold “Jingle Ball” concerts in some states to celebrate both the holiday season and the music of big artists from the year. In 2020, iHeartRadio arranged an all-virtual event that was free for anyone to stream online — different from past years when people had to pay. The lineup in 2020 included Billie Eilish, Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, Lewis Capaldi, Sam Smith, Shawn Mendes, and The Weeknd. 

Individual artists have held virtual concerts as well. Significantly lower priced tickets allowed for more fans to attend such concerts. For example, former One Direction member Louis Tomlinson held a livestream concert on December 18, which we got tickets to. However, we were only two out of approximately 160,000 tickets bought for this event. Furthermore, 100% of the proceeds for Louis Tomlinson’s concert were donated to five separate charities, helping currently unemployed crew members in the industry as well as children in Covid-serving hospitals. Such events provide entertainment for individuals like ourselves during a time in which most recreational facilities are limited.

As lockdown continued and artists realized that in-person album releases would not be possible, many musicians dropped albums and new music in quarantine. In 2020, Taylor Swift released — not one but — two studio albums. Other artists such as HAIM, Shawn Mendes, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Zayn have debuted full-length albums since quarantine. Many of these quarantine albums have truly reflected the ongoing pandemic: Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Evermore, Phoebe Bridger’s Punisher, and Troye Sivan’s In a Dream have all earned the title of a “quarantine album” with their themes of isolation and loneliness. Recent music has not only responded to the pandemic but also to the racial justice movements that began in the summer of 2020. Songs including Beyonce’s “Black Parade,” Anderson .Paak’s “Lockdown,” and H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe” provided listeners with a musical narrative of the Black Lives Matter movement and perspectives of black artists on protests, racism, and identity.

Living with the pandemic for these past ten months has been an unprecedented and often distressing experience. It has forced us to stay home as much as we can while also taking away the opportunity to enjoy weekend concerts and public gatherings. However, in isolation, artists and fans have both had the opportunity to rely on music as a creative outlet and as an opportunity to come together as a community. Although we continue to enjoy virtual concerts and quarantine-produced albums, with an effective vaccination in place, we hope to return to the normalcy of in-person concerts soon. 

Spandana Vagwala ‘22, Co Assistant Editor-in-Chief & Tess Farr ‘22, Copy Editor &