The Virtual Covid19 Stage: A Performer’s Friend or Foe?

Onto the Virtual Stage: How Artists are Adapting to the Changing Landscape of the Festival Industry

The arts. Where have they gone? Radical changes in the entertainment industry are challenging the resiliency of artists. Simultaneously, the arts are giving people much-needed respites from the current coronavirus craziness—thanks to live and recorded online shows.

Times like this call for the type of escape that live entertainment offers, but live entertainment cannot happen. The debate amongst artists, and the entertainment industry as a whole, is whether or not they should be jumping on the online bandwagon. Must they be streaming their shows to worldwide audiences? To stay relevant and connected? Or will that devalue their live, in-person shows once the industry is back in business?

This is the paradox—and criteria are changing on a daily basis.

Adelaide Fringe and Airbnb offer Online Platforms

FringeVIEW is Adelaide Fringe’s answer to the current entertainment drought. It will provide a virtual stage for performers, and give them a channel through which to generate some income. Registrations opened earlier this month. You can learn more about FringeVIEW here.

Similarly, Airbnb is offering Online Experiences, so that people can attend unique encounters, virtually, together. Artists can host an Online Experience, and can learn more about what’s involved on the Airbnb Experiences page.

As you can see, there are creative outlets available to artists.

But that’s not really the question, is it? The elephant in the room has more to do with, “Should we?” or, “Shouldn’t we?”

Bamboozled Productions is not here to answer that question for artists. We are, however, going to provide an unbiased view of the pros and cons involved with live performers going online.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Performances

Every entertainment niche—and every individual performer—is different. Not only are they driven by different goals, but they have different visions for the reputations they’ll build and for the specific type of joy they’ll bring to those who experience their performances.

Every pro and con listed here will not apply to every performer. Our hope, however, is that this list will give artists bounding-off points, from which to form their own opinions and strategies for moving forward in the age of Covid19.

Pros:

  • Most artists need an outlet for expressing their creativity, and sharing their craft online gives them the chance to do that. For many, it could mean the difference between staying healthy and slipping into depression.
  • Some artists have close, personal relationships with their audiences. Virtual stages can give those artists a platform from which to maintain those relationships. They can let their fans know they’ve been thinking about them, that they’ve missed them, and that they’re looking forward to getting back out there again.
  • Online performances can expand an artist’s reach and provide exposure in markets that would have otherwise gone untouched. This could mean more bookings after the pandemic is over.
  • If an artist has props, sound equipment, visuals, a recording device, lighting (or whatever they might need), an online performance can be relatively easy to set up. No travel necessary.
  • For many performers, the halt of the entertainment industry has meant no income. Online performances can be a way to earn some extra coin.
  • An online platform can promote support and sharing within the entertainment industry. Any artist can share what other artists are working on, which may spark reciprocal sharing and inspiration for future shows.

Cons:

  • Online performances can bastardise the performing arts industry by cheapening what it really means to experience a live, in-person show. It might be “good enough for now,” but artists might fear their audiences forgetting what a live show is really like.
  • Some artists are not accustomed to performing for a screen. They have built their skills upon reading a live audience, and their craft relies on those human connections.
  • Online performance can place unnecessary pressure on artists who are still coming to terms with what is happening. Some are traumatised after losing their jobs, and that’s no mindset for creating. It’s okay if artists want to simply stop and take stock instead of feeling panicked or pressured into keeping up with their ever-changing industry.
  • Some performers don’t possess the technical skills, resources, energy or financial means to put together professional online content.
  • There can be angst felt among artists who choose not to publish online performances. They could fear that they will become irrelevant, or that they’ll be pushed out of a fast-moving train that’s headed to a new industry landscape. The negative psychological effects can be devastating.

Resiliency in the Hard Times

The current pandemic situation, as well as the recession that will follow, will have profound effects on every type of live entertainer. We are living through unprecedented times.

But as dark as some days can seem, we at Bamboozled Productions know that one thing’s for sure: It is not only heartbreaking, but fascinating to watch how the performing arts industry is riding out the storm and planning for the future.

As we look forward to the hard road ahead, let’s remember that in slow economic times, the best of the best don’t give up. They innovate. They evolve. And they reinvent. Just look at the virtual festivals appearing on the scene now: Virtual Kiss and World Buskers United!

Bamboozled Productions values our artists and the wealth of talent they bring to the stage—virtual and otherwise!

Let’s all support one another. Let’s be as flexible as contortionists, as good-humoured as clowns, as brave as sword swallowers and fire breathers, and as responsive as improv comics.

We’ve got this! When this has passed (and it will), we will all perform and laugh together once again.

Found this interesting and insightful? Check-out our blog for other topical discussions.

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