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Is the Future of Music Events Hybrid?

Richard Evans, Senior Content Producer at Vizrt, discusses the future of music events and the ways that live events, including major festivals such as South by Southwest (SXSW) are considering the digital experience more than ever.

When the world shut down in 2020, bringing events online became the only option. Demand for quality solutions that would smooth that necessary transition skyrocketed. Soon enough, it became common to hear presenters and attendees of online-only events lament the experience, reminisce of times when they could’ve seen each other in person, and, in a hopeful tone, look forward to someday experiencing the event as it always had been.

So, now that we can be around each other, why is there an increased interest in events going hybrid?

According to research by Markletic, just 57% of people have a preference to attend a hybrid event in person.

Adapted out of necessity, events being attended online and in person are now taking a step further. By being smart, utilizing the right resources, and developing a hybrid plan, organizers can reap the rewards by repurposing good content, driving better returns on investment.

Learning to love the live stream

Live streaming is nothing new; by now, you can pretty much find it as a feature in any social media app. Those who embrace the possibilities of live streaming not only get a say on how the event is recorded and perceived but also get to expand its audience in their own terms.

Last year, Coachella joined forces with YouTube and made it possible for audiences at home to tune in and choose between three stages. Fans at home could see the shows they wanted, just as fans at the festival walked from stage to stage.

More recently, concert films are coming back stronger than ever. Take Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour for example: with fierce competition to get a ticket to her show, it became clear the supply wasn’t meeting the demand. And, because the show was created for audiences in stadiums, with stunning visuals onscreen, cameras were already part of the production.

Recording and giving the film a cinema release gave fans an alternative opportunity to see the show; and although it’s not a live performance, the quality of the video and audio, combined with the communal theater experience lets fans have a pretty good taste of it. Just in presales, the concert film made millions, and the demand for tour tickets continuing this year is still website-breaking-high (but now, websites are ready).

But if the digital experience is different from the lived experience, why does a hybrid model still work?

Facilitating seamless interactions anywhere

Essentially, it comes down to technology. Concerts in stadiums generally count on stage design and visual effects to create an enhanced fan experience, so that even those at the very top of the stands can see an elevated show from a distance. This means that artists depend on great technology to see their vision come to life in real-time.

Recording and distributing also comes down to the right tech – so that whatever was done onstage can live forever and reach an even wider audience. Then, great content becomes more accessible, allowing people with a variety of needs and limitations to be a part of it. Not only because of the difference in environment, but through features such as translation in real-time, closed captions, and adaptive technologies.

South by Southwest (SXSW), the festival celebrating art and innovation, remained hybrid last year. Although it takes place in Austin, TX, the festival’s reach is global – but connecting with an international audience in a significant way requires consideration, and tech you can rely on.

Held in five venues all around the city with several events happening at the same time, SXSW counted on integrated live production systems to connect with a global audience. With a live production system for each of the nine rooms, content was captured using open-source protocol SRT, moved to the cloud, and converted to NDI® – with the TriCaster Vectar managing all the streams coming from every system.

And, because the technology was reliable, the organizers could focus on what to put on stage.

Scalable, reliable, adaptable

As hybrid events remain popular, scalability in solutions is paramount: it’s what makes a creative vision go from paper to the big screen, regardless of being physically present or at home. The seamless integration of live and virtual experiences ensures that great content remains accessible to diverse audiences, breaking down barriers and fostering a global sense of connection.

The right technology exists for productions to make the most out of the show they put together – both live and recorded, offering flexibility and adaptability for both creators and consumers alike.

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from Vizrt. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]