Earlier this year, I anxiously sat at the piercingly bright screen, watching the countdown go down before opening the lobby for buying tickets to go to a concert. I got the tickets I wanted, and I was excited to go see my favorite K-pop group, BTS, perform again at Rose Bowl, where I had seen them just a year before. Of course, I didn’t know then that COVID would spread over to the rest of the world and inhibit my ability to go see them in person. Instead of being able to see them at Rose Bowl, surrounded by other fans and flashing lights, I was stuck at home, with the only light being my phone as I watched from what felt like a whole different world.
Thankfully, summer rolled around, and BTS announced that for the first time, they would be trying a virtual format for hosting their concert called Bang Bang Con. Of course, I was elated, as this was going to be the next best thing to being there in person. I was also intrigued by it being online, and how that would affect fans all across the world, as this would, perhaps, be less accessible than having it be in person. For their concert, they modeled it similarly to a real concert: fans could still cheer in the comments, and send hearts through the screen, but otherwise it still felt like it was more of a movie or tv show rather than a live concert with thousands of people watching. However, doing a virtual show was one of the creative ways BTS handled canceling their tour due to the pandemic, and more artists are picking up the trend of sharing performances at home, or on a virtual set with props and live streams.
Just a few days ago, BTS held their second concert online, called Map of the Soul: One, and the format was slightly different than Bang Bang Con. Rather than have a chat room experience, select fans got to participate in a video call system, in which they had a video call wall similar to Zoom, where fans could be seen waving their lightsticks or different banners around. From this, BTS was able to still have a fulfilling concert experience, and the fans would join in on singing different parts of songs, which made it feel more real. The only cons were the occasional lag and the reminder that time zones exist, and thus I had to prepare ahead of time to stay up later than usual.
Despite not being on tour, both of these concerts were successful for the group. For Bang Bang Con, BTS had about 750,000 consecutive viewers from 107 different countries and made about $19.7 million in ticket sales. Because of Bang Bang Con, it is estimated that Map of the Soul: One will also be successful, as some fans can finally see BTS for the first time, due to locations and ticket prices.
As the COVID pandemic carries on, we may see a new era of live performances that is unprecedented in our history; there may be a new shift and initiative to host online concerts as well as live performances. BTS isn’t the only artist that is hosting online concerts either; Billie Eilish is hosting her live stream event, Where Do We Go? on October 24th, as well as Sam Smith on October 30th. As the popular phrase goes in show business, “The show must go on”, and during the pandemic, going to concerts in sweats and with a blanket will have to be the new norm.