It’s been a tough year. With touring and live music gone for the foreseeable future, careers are disappearing and venues are closing. As someone who would usually be at multiple shows a week, it’s heartbreaking to watch and feel so helpless to change this reality. Instagram livestreams and pre-recorded shows filmed in empty venues are fun, but seem to be accepted as a second-best alternative to the real thing. On Friday night, I spent an hour virtually attending Joji’s Extravaganza, and I felt like the sky opened up before me and sent the answer down from the heavens. This virtual chaos event was exactly what I needed, and I think it might be what the industry needs as well.
Good lord, I think my brain produced more serotonin during this sixty minute video than it has all year. Joji took everything he learned from his YouTube origins and made an hour of pure content. From costumes to dunk tanks to a frighteningly good Justin Timberlake impersonator, every moment was enthralling. I couldn’t look away if I tried. It felt like a music-centric I Think You Should Leave. Quick sketches where as soon as you start to settle in to a scene, it switches to something jarringly different.
I find it difficult to devote a full hour to watching a livestream without puttering around. I’ll send some emails, draw on my iPad, fold my laundry… sometimes I’ll just stare off into space for a while. This year has given me the gift of being constantly distracted by the crushing weight of reality. So finding something that keeps me engaged — even just through pure chaos — is to be celebrated.
It’s not competing with live music
I think this has been my main gripe through the different live sets I’ve watched. After the first month or two went by and we started to realize this wasn’t ending soon… virtual concerts started to become tedious. Watching them reminded me of what I was missing out on. Without the community factor or the feeling of the music rattling through your bones, it’s just not the same. And I think that’s what Joji’s Extravaganza has going for it.
This event wasn’t meant to be a direct replacement for live music. It’s a new category all its own. It’s something you would never be able to experience live. And hopefully it’s something that could stick around in a new entertainment stream after live music returns. I never once felt that pang of loss. Not during the scarecrow’s piano solos, and definitely not during his “the floor is lava” obstacle course. I wasn’t comparing it to my usual happy place. It became a new standalone thing I could enjoy.
It also gives another option to artists for seeing their audiences. Artists that aren’t on a tour cycle could do a one-off event while deep in the recording process. Emerging bands could create one globally accessible event to cater to all of their fans without having to fill a room in every city. Plus, it has the added benefit of being accessible to audiences that may have complications attending venue shows.
It could be a viable revenue generator for everyone
(This is my attempt to reel the whole industry in because I really want to see more of these)
My first thought when watching this was “if smaller bands had this kind of budget, they could absolutely make enough money to get through this pandemic.” And then I thought about it. If you partnered up a promoter with a venue, a couple of bands, and a crew… this could be doable. You wouldn’t need more budget than a usual show, you’d just need to allocate it differently.
The audience size is limitless so the potential revenue is higher than a standard show. Money would go towards digital ads but not towards posters/billboards/signage. Show promoting platforms like Bandsintown have already adapted to the current conditions, so they can be used to alert the core fanbase. Zoom has added a feature specifically for this type of paid event. It’s a lot of work in the lead up, but condensed into however long it takes to film and compile the video as opposed to months of promoting a show.
And it’s not necessary for every artist to do… this. Not every band needs to judge a UFC match while singing a ballad. You could cut multiple sets to alternate back and forth between acts, add in music video clips, share exclusive info about upcoming releases. Options are infinite and can depend on the artist and their comfort level.
I really, sincerely loved Joji’s Extravaganza. It was the first time this year where I’ve done something that didn’t leave me longing for my old life. I genuinely had fun! I wasn’t just filling my time with distractions, but actually doing something I’d like to pay money to do again. Standard livestream concerts are filling a void, but you can tell the artists would prefer to be in a venue. And that’s fine, I think most of us would! But that energy keeps it from being fully enjoyable. You just know that the moment the real thing returns, no artist is going to livestream sets ever again.
Whether live music returns in 2021 or not, virtual events done right have the ability to stick around. The trick seems to be creating something specifically for the internet as opposed to adapting something from another medium. Do something you wouldn’t be able to do live, add in multimedia components, create something that is exciting regardless of what other options exist. Plus, you’re giving an option to fans who aren’t safely able to attend live shows that isn’t watered down. And if you need help putting something like this together, call me. I have lots of stupid ideas.