Image from the "Beatles: Rock Band" video game showing the band playing their instruments in a field.

Living in a Virtual World

Although it might seem as though concerts are in full swing—after all, there is the galactic phenomenon of the Taylor Swift tour, to say nothing of Beyoncé and others (yes, The Who Hits Back! is still running in earnest because Townsend and Daltry just can’t get enough)—as Phaedrus told Socrates, “Things are not always what they seem.”

For one thing, concert-going has become an economic issue for most people, and we’re talking Federal Reserve Board-level for the regular person. Th average ticket price in 2022 was $111, up from $90 in 2018. While $21 might not seem like that big a deal, look at it another way: that’s a 19% increase. Add 19% to all of the related aspects of one’s concert-going experience and it is, as they say, real money.

According to Morning Consult, 37% of adults say they’ve attended fewer concerts this year. That’s not none. But when more than a third of those who would don’t, then there are more than moderate warning signs for those who may not be a first-tier draw.

When that 37% is broken down demographically, the warning signs are in LARGE LETTERS and with all manner of flashing lights and other attention-grabbing aspects.

40% of Gen X members say they’ve seen fewer shows. Only 10% of them say they’ve attended more.

And while there is often a gulf between Gen X and Boomers, that’s not the case when it comes to attending concerts: 41% say they’ve seen fewer shows and 9% say they’ve seen more. (It is also worth noting that the Elders have actually stayed moderately more consistent, as 36% say they’ve attended the same number of shows as they have previously. That’s 4% better than the 32% of Xers who have done the same.)

And while those two generational cohorts have good levels of income vis-à-vis those who are either up and coming or who have student loan debt that is about equal to that of a small country, the macro finding is that 82% of those attending fewer concerts say that it because. . .the tickets are too expensive. That’s the number-one reason.

Since this is, after all, the 21st century, there is an alternative to this whole idea of going someplace, of doing something in, as it is sometimes referred to, meat space: Virtual concerts.

Morning Consult found:

  • Gen Z adults: 17% very interested/30% somewhat interested
  • Millennials: 20% very/31% somewhat
  • Gen X: 9% very/24% somewhat
  • Boomers: 6% very/19% somewhat

Which is to say that 37% of all U.S. adults are at least somewhat—if not very—interested in watching a virtual concert.

Is it a coincidence that 37 is also the same percentage of those who have attended fewer live shows?

The virtual bricks and mortar exist for such events in the forms of things like Meta, Roblox and Fortnite.

Presumably it would be advantageous for the musicians to the extent that they would seriously cut down on touring expenses (they might not have to go anywhere beyond their usual practice space for the show; if it is a case where there is thought to be a need for all manner of integrated and gratuitous visual additions, that could be dropped in as readily as putting up a background during a Zoom call). They could also use it as a means to generate some revenue by charging a fraction to view and then use the virtual concert as a means to generate additional attendance at physical events.

But a Morning Consult finding that should be somewhat disconcerting to various bands and musicians is a manifestation of those that have get even more: Asked what musicians they would be most interested in seeing in a virtual concert, one musician scored 100: Taylor Swift. In second place is Beyoncé, but that’s back at 31. The Rolling Stones and Garth Brooks (?!) tie for third, at 29.

To make Guns N’ Roses, Luck Combs, Morgan Wallen, Earth, Wind and Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran, and Coldplay all feel better with their 11: That’s the same level of interest garnered by The Beatles.

And let’s face it: the only way anyone is going to see John, Paul, George, and Ringo perform together contemporaneously is if half of them are in avatar form.

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