Planning a virtual concert? Here are takeaways from iHeart Media's first ever virtual festival

Despite the coronavirus, the iHeartRadio music Festival is still happening this upcoming September. Some of the biggest names in music are set to perform for the event but are doing it in a brand new way. The event will air on September 27th and 28th with artists taping their performances in Los Angeles or Nashville and will adhere to social distancing guidelines. Now how does one of the biggest music festivals that typically occurs before 18,000 fans, make the most of their 10 year anniversary virtually? And can your company or artist do the same?

iHeartMedia, has multiple procedures in place for the festival to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is iHeart Media’s second attempt at a virtual event, having previously run the Living Room Concert event back in March due to the cancellation of the iHeartRadio Music Awards. iHeart has put more heads together for this larger event, taking multiple precautions and measures. Individual artists such as John Legend, Katy Perry, John Mayer, Chris Martin, Norah Jones, Nelly and many other artists have held virtual concerts or participated in virtual festivals already this year. With virtual shows being artists' realities for the next few months, we have some tips on how artists can make the most of their shows.

There are a lot of tools and strategies other artists who are thinking of doing virtual performances or concerts at home can utilize from what iHeart is doing. In the days of technology and virtual reality, artists and other music industry moguls may use these tricks to enhance their next at home concert series or online performances. Especially since it seems as though live shows won’t be coming back anytime soon. We have listed some ideas on how you can enhance the fan experience for your next virtual set:

  1. Select certain fans to do one on one video chats with you either before or after a performance

  2. Go live on your personal account and do a question and answer after the performance

  3. Have a select fan record themselves singing part of your song and play it on screen during your performance

  4. Have select merchandise available for order only to those fans who paid to watch the set and have the merch available for a limited time only

  5. Give those fans who paid to watch the virtual performance the opportunity to create the set list for the show

  6. Offer an exclusive look or listen to new music and upcoming projects only to those who watch the virtual performance

  7. Show fans on TV throughout the performance through video calls but make it a surprise

  8. Give a select fan who bought tickets the opportunity to introduce you virtually before the show

There are also measures that can be taken in case you want to actually perform in a venue and on a stage rather than your parents' living room. As far as production goes, Sykes said their production team will be outside the facility working remotely in a parking lot while the artist's personal team will be in the venue. In doing this, the artists and their team can get an entire venue for a day and those who work in production can be in another location to avoid multiple people in the venue at once. Any additional interviews or behind the scenes footage can be shot using a single camera with just the artist in a separate room.

These ideas have never been done before and would not have been thought of if it wasn’t for COVID-19. Within the music industry, this is the time for innovation and adoption. While some artists have decided to take this year off in terms of releasing music and performing, others have taken the opportunity to move forward and find new inventive ways of creating a fan experience. Although it won’t feel the same, something as simple as having fans watching the performances virtually and being shown in the venue to the artists while their performing may make it feel a little more normal than just performing in an empty room.

Pandora is currently also attempting a similar virtual concert series and fan experience at a much smaller scale. Their concert series, that kicked off with Kane Brown also had new ideas of enhancing the fan experience virtually. Select fans were granted access to exclusive virtual meet and greets, were able to ask him questions virtually one on one, exclusive merchandise and were even shown an animated film narrated by Brown exclusively after the performance concluded. Both Pandora and iHeart have shown it is possible to make the virtual fan experience more enjoyable. By testing out these options now, they will be able to see what works for the future and give other media companies or festival runners the opportunity to learn from their events.

Some of these ideas may live on past the pandemic such as giving fans intimate experiences with artists, something they couldn’t do before when performing in sold out stadiums. This is what 2020 music festivals look like, and it may be this way for a while. The pandemic has caused so many in the music industry to rethink how they will go about their events this year. The radio and television community had to quite literally change overnight and reinvent how they connect their artists and other talents to their audiences. The precautions and measures taken by iHeartMedia seem to be the next step in being able to have virtual festivals and concerts.