By Swaroop Banerjee
At least once in our lives, we have encountered events that made us think: “I wish, I was there”. Whether it was Chris Martin’s impromptu Delhi performance or your favourite band’s concert in a different country, we have all had moments where we wished to witness something we thought was impossible to miss.
The year 2020 changed everything. With a global lockdown, the normal was disrupted and reimagined. Physical isolation buoyed by digital solutions led to the rise of virtual and hybrid events. According to a 2020 EY report on live events, the sector saw a 67% increase in digital events, a significant rise from 27% in 2019.
As we adjust to the new normal, technologies like big data, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), virtual reality (VR), and innovative platforms such as ARHT Media Inc, Platoo, and ViewStub are enhancing ways of connecting with audiences, giving rise to a promising hybrid model.
Show must go on
Necessity is the mother of invention, and that is what the hybrid model brings to the table — it is strategic, creative and built on the possibility to curate experiences that reach audiences directly. It brings forth the hub-and-spoke model in which a person enjoys a live event at a venue, while it gets streamed worldwide, improving participation and engagement from those who are sitting at home.
There is something to learn from the K-Pop industry. Be it BTS redefining fandom or BLACKPINK collaborating with Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez, these bands have become trendsetters in exploring limits and leveraging new media. Closer home, virtual shows such as Arth – A Culture Fest, It’s A Girl Thing and Supermoon House Party have ramped up live entertainment games. Using easily accessible platforms like Zoom, Skype, StreamYard and vMix, these events set up virtual stages, reaching out to the global Indian diaspora. Comic-Con India is celebrating a decade of its existence virtually. What started at Dilli Haat back in 2011, and is today the biggest pop-culture experience, is holding a week-long digital celebration.
Big Hit Entertainment found a digital solution to spread a sense of togetherness during the pandemic. For the BTS concert, it employed 4k technologies, programmed the system to link the show with light sticks at home to give a concert-like feel. Augmented reality and VR are here to stay: creators are leveraging technology to curate evolved experiences; viewers get front row tickets to events from the comfort of their homes. AI can power customer engagement via bots, delivering personalised experiences, driving demand generation during events, virtual or hybrid. Machine learning can learn different patterns of customer behaviour and act as personal chaperones for all attendees of the event.
Some companies are also experimenting with interactive holographic tele-presence which creates a virtual presence of the speaker on stage, emulating their live presence. Sound will be the next gamechanger: Belgian techno music festival Tomorrowland proved it with its in-house team of 200 people, while VR specialists stYpe created a modern technological marvel. Each studio incredibly large in size to fit in the festival’s stage effects as well as crowd cheers were added. Writing history in a two-day festival, the event drew over one million participants with eight virtual stages, 60 artistes, laser shows, interactive chat platforms, and more.
With ease of connectivity and accessibility, hybrid events and chatbots are existing technologies changing the event industry dynamics. It has led brands to vie for eyeballs, making it imperative to break clutter. From identifying to sustaining, personalisation, inclusivity, and user generated content are quintessential. Fans are more connected to artistes, and IP creators are bridging this gap. The EY report states that if recovery continues, the category could nearly double in 2021, and digital events will drive future growth. Events that are springing up are futuristic and exciting. You may call it recovery, revolution or reimagination — but marrying digital and real is the future. And rest assured, all of us can surely say in tune, “I am here”.
The author is COO & business head, Zee Live.
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