For creators in the music industry, 2020 was all about agility and adaptability. In the face of canceled or postponed live events, attendees were more hungry for entertainment than ever. Many concerts and festivals responded with online content, but they soon found that bringing the music to people in their homes presented a whole new set of challenges, from technical issues to keeping people engaged.

As live events slowly come back in 2021, music event creators will have to continue to adapt in order to put on quality events in this new normal. We spoke with the creators of the AFROPUNK festival and Beanstalk to find out what they learned from a year of virtual and social distancing concerts. Read on to see what technology and tools they’re taking with them into their 2021 concert planning, and for tips on planning better events and supporting local musicians and venues during these difficult times.

Embrace outdoor and hybrid events

Outdoor concerts aren’t a new idea. But during the pandemic, creators of live music events had to come up with innovative ways to host socially distanced in-person music events.

Beanstalk was the first festival in North America to make the pivot to a drive-in format in 2020, and it was a huge success thanks to its focus on safety. According to the creators of Beanstalk, “The June 2020 drive-in event was met with some uncertainty because we were still very much spiking in the pandemic. But we had a good safety plan and it still sold out in hours.” The 2021 festival, which will be a socially distanced camping event, sold out in under a minute.

The creators of the AFROPUNK festival predict that any in-person events they host in 2021 will have reduced capacity, social distancing, and COVID-19 testing measures put in place. But still, they don’t think streaming is going to go away anytime soon. “What 2020 has shown us is that virtual events are here to stay and we have adapted our model to be a hybrid of IRL and digital with broadcast being a part of a mainstay to our events — you just reach more people and there is a beauty in that.”

Get the right equipment

High-quality video and sound are essential to a successful livestream concert. Since online events will continue to be a large part of how people can experience live music in 2021, it may be time to invest in better tools.

At the minimum, you need a powerful internet connection to avoid interruptions during your livestream. You’ll also need the software to stream your video — there are many different free and paid options available. You can stream many events right from your smartphone, but great live music streams require somewhat heavier-duty tech. If you’re ready to take your 2021 virtual concerts to the next level, consider a Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera that can be controlled remotely. There are also cameras like the Mevo made specifically for streaming to Facebook Live.

Sound quality is the most important part of a concert, whether it’s live or livestreamed, and bare-bones equipment rarely offers a full range of sound. If you’re streaming from a venue that already has sound equipment, take advantage of their tools and hire a professional sound engineer if there isn’t one in-house.

Make it charitable

When asked about the best way to support local musicians, venues, and event organizers during this time, Beanstalk pointed to merchandise and donations during free live events. “Merch is usually always available for bands and events. And they’re all doing things online to raise money as well.”

If concert tickets to your event are free, consider collecting donations for the artists or venues providing the livestreaming, and make sure you’re advertising the link to relevant merch websites during virtual concerts in 2021. For contactless donations, set up a text-to-donate campaign. You provide attendees with a unique keyword to text to your number, then they’ll receive a direct link to a mobile donation page.

Creators make it happen

While Beanstalk took to creative outdoor events in the wake of COVID-19, AFROPUNK saw an opportunity to offer virtual connectivity to the community.

In the creators’ words, “Planet AFROPUNK debuted October 2020, a global digital festival set over the source of 3 days in which the global AFROPUNK diaspora came together to celebrate. The premise being a global family reunion that redefined togetherness in the 21st Century. The main priority for us was to avoid producing a static viewing experience and it was important to deliver an interactive two-way experience where the audience can engage with artists and vice versa and to provide a unique way for our global audience to come together and potentially set a standard for future virtual AFROPUNK events, even post-pandemic.”

AFROPUNK’s creators embraced the opportunity to “weave technology, live experience, and global community to create the ultimate global celebration of Black creativity,” and aren’t slowing down no matter what new challenges 2021 brings.

Beanstalk and AFROPUNK’s creators all emphasized a focus on safety when planning 2021 music festivals. Remaining aware of local guidelines and working closely with local authorities are the best ways to stay informed and plan an event that’s safe and fulfilling for all attendees.

Ready to plan your next music event?

Check out how live music creators have elevated virtual concerts for some inspiration as you plan your next event.

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