Are <em>virtual events</em> the future of entertainment?

Are virtual events the future of entertainment?

October 16, 2020

From simple zoom quizzes to milestone graduations, life has migrated online more than ever before over the last seven months.

People around the world are naturally having to adapt to a new remote way of living and working.

The initial novelty of the situation helped us deal with the effects of isolation, but seven months on, the ‘Zoom fatigue’ has set in, with people burnt out from constant virtual dates with friends, family and acquaintances. It seems everyone and their dog has attended a virtual quiz night, hen party or birthday celebration. Bonus points if you managed all three at once!

With the news that Spotify is working on livestreaming virtual concerts directly through the app, the idea that live events might now become a digital experience is becoming more and more of a reality.

A quick poll of Team Sunshine revealed a wide variety of virtual events attended during lockdown and beyond, from Zoom weddings and professional networking events, to stand-up comedy and Glastonbury. At least you wouldn’t need to worry about the mud!

Big hitters in the arts world have also been streaming performances throughout lockdown, from Sadler’s Wells and the National Theatre, to behind-the-scenes Facebook lives with Scottish Ballet and online concerts from bands like Radiohead.

Even the London Marathon will be held virtually for the first time ever this year, with non-elite participants asked to track their 26 miles via an app, surely a bittersweet blow to everyone who’s dreamed of jogging across the famous finish line at The Mall.

The real question is, can live events ever be as enjoyable through a screen as they are in person? There’s a lot of competition, with countless streaming services and YouTube offering a never-ending reel of content at your fingertips. Some are even jumping on board the virtual event train, with Disney+ adding the live recording of Hamilton to their watchlist, much to every musical theatre fan’s delight.

Not missing out on the show you’ve been looking forward to for months has got to be a good thing, but can it really recreate the electricity and community of a crowded theatre or venue? My best guess is no. But really, does that matter?

Maybe we shouldn’t think of these virtual events as replacements for the ‘real thing’ and appreciate them for what they are; a chance to lose ourselves in a song, a movement, a tingling moment of anticipation, and the opportunity to support artists and creatives that we admire. That last one might be the most important of all.

Ultimately, virtual events can never be a substitute for the real thing, but they’re better than nothing for keeping us connected during this unprecedented global situation. Perhaps one of the reasons we can enjoy them is that we know (or at least hope) that they are just a temporary solution to a problem. In the future, we’ll be looking back in admiration of how well we adjusted to life online, while queueing with hundreds of others to see our favourite band in concert. And if you can’t make it, don’t worry, it’ll probably be live streamed. That’s the best of both worlds, right?

One more thing…

Team Sunshine will be dabbling in the digital events world on the 22nd of October, as we will be virtually attending the Marketing Society Star Awards, where we are nominated in two categories. Keep an eye on our social channels to see how we get on; win or lose, it’s a given that we’ll be enjoying a party! 🎉