Although artists across genres have suspended their tours and music festivals across the country have been postponed or canceled, many musicians adhering to social distancing guidelines have turned to the digital world to find creative and innovative ways to interact with their fans.
In one of the largest virtual gatherings of musicians, Global Citizen produced a star-studded concert curated by Lady Gaga titled “One World: Together at Home,” to raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts. The concert, which featured stars like Celine Dion, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez and John Legend, was livestreamed on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon Prime, Tidal, Apple platforms and beyond.
Other artists who have taken advantage of the livestream concert series include neo soul singer and songwriter Erykah Badu who created her own paid concert streaming service. Badu charged $1 for the first “quarantine concert” in March, she charged $2 a person for the second performance, and the most recent concert was $3 a person.
“I immediately thought just like everyone else, we should do some kind of livestream,” Badu told ABC News' correspondent and ABC News Live anchor Linsey Davis. “But I didn’t want just any livestream, I wanted to do a live stream that was interactive, that had the same quality that my live shows have with a few other components, and I wanted to do it from my own platform.”
The latest unique musical effort that has generated a lot of buzz on social platforms is the Instagram live series, “Versuz TV” — a musical battle platform created by super producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz in which artists play their top hits against each other via Instagram.
Such efforts sometimes meet with technical difficulties such as Sunday's highly-anticipated battle between superstar R&B producers Teddy Riley and BabyFace which came to an abrupt and dramatic end before it even began when Riley’s live feed experienced echoes and delays. The problems sparked internet memes and even such celebrities as Snoop Dogg, Toni Braxton, and Diddy weighed in on social media.
However, the much anticipated battle, which hundreds of thousands had attempted to watch, was rescheduled for Monday and during that performance both producers played hits from icons like Bobby Brown and Toni Braxton with over 500,000 viewers in attendance including a star-studded cast of music and political celebrities.
Versuz TV is the latest example of how musicians and DJs have increasingly been turning to livestreaming tools to share music and commentary with their fans in real time during the pandemic.
Some artists have been playing unreleased music, others have been scheduling entire digital DJ sets and others have performing mini live concerts as a way to keep their fans entertained.
Hip-hop artist G Herbo, who released his latest album “PTSD,” on February 28 kicked off his tour in New York City that night, but in March as the pandemic spread across the U.S., he had to postpone the remainder of his tour.
Asked if he was disappointed, the Chicago rapper told ABC News, “I wouldn’t really say disappointed all the way because I was just trying to stay safe and do the smartest thing for me and my family … but did want to go out and enjoy the rest of the tour and to connect with my fans.”
“We got a good run so I was really just appreciative of that. I always try to think of the bright side of the situation,” he added.
As the 24-year-old star spends time with his family at home in Chicago, he said that he has been increasingly turning to social media to connect with his fans and is “trying to be as creative and engaging as possible.”
“I do think that I’ve been more active [on social media],” G Herbo said. “I get on Instagram live a lot. The fans want to actually see what you’re doing … I use my Instagram as a platform to just be goofy and give them stuff that they probably wouldn’t see if I wasn’t having the down time to do so.”
The independent artist said that he is even getting ready to launch his own app, — a digital tool for his community of fans where he can engage directly with them, go live, share videos and even exclusive access to early release songs.
Other avenues of fan engagement include listening sessions, essentially a live playlist which DJs like hip hop veteran DJ EFN started with his mixtape Monday series.
“For me, I play early to mid 90’s hip hop mixtapes and not only do the fans tune in to listen to me spin, it just brings back such a nostalgic energy,” said DJ EFN, a mixtape DJ pioneer of 25 years and host of the Revolt Podcast "Drink Champs." “The feedback has been amazing, I have artists and other DJs who want to join me live as well, but it’s really just me in my room playing and talking about mixtapes,” he said with a laugh.
Originally, DJ EFN thought performing live due to social distancing would be a bit awkward and did not think he would start his “Mixtape Mondays” series. But as distancing regulations grew more strict and the demand from fans increased by the day, he said he listened to what his fans wanted and now says he sees a bit of positivity from quarantine.
“I think the good side of this pandemic is that a lot of big artists who normally would not use Instagram are now going live because they have no other choice,” he said. “Because of this [coronavirus] you are now getting a sort of raw version of your favorite artist and DJs where they are having candid conversations with each other, playing their hits, or collaborating literally in their living rooms,” he said. “Which I think is here to stay post COVID-19.”