Looking Back at SXSW: The Future of Live Music

Posted on: May 9, 2022
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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, live music and other events had begun to find footholds in the digital realm. But when live events shut down in 2020, the only way for many venues to stay afloat was by bringing the experience online.

The Future of Live Music panel was moderated by Amy LaMeyer, managing partner at WXR Fund. The panelists were Aaron Lemke (native Austinite and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at Wave XR), Jillian Rothman (senior director of business development at Warner Music Group), Marisol Segal (head of digital partnerships at AEG Presents), and Leila Amirsadeghi (head of live entertainment at Microsoft Mixed Reality at AltspaceVR).

The first question of the morning was predictable: Will the future of live events go back to what it was before the onset of the pandemic?

“It’s both,” said Rothman. “I don’t think anything is gonna take away the experience of being in a room with your favorite musicians and friends live… but I think there are going to be new ways to incorporate new technologies into that.”

“Technology is helping us get to that place,” Amirsadeghi said. “I don’t think we’ll ever replace the live event, nor would we want to replace the live experience.” But technology can help grant event access to people who may otherwise not be able attend due to cost, geography, or even accessibility. Hosting live events online can also help reduce the carbon footprint of touring.

What technologies exactly? The metaverse, for one. Lemke believes that Web3 offers a layer of protection for bigger audience. It’s “the connected, next evolution of web.” According to Rothman, “The ability to connect with fans is one of the biggest benefits.” She shared the story of Twenty One Pilots’ big Roblox show, which was designed not only to kick off an upcoming tour, but also to enmesh fans in the world of TOP.

“There’s no limit—it should be fantastical,” said Segal. “This is all complementary to the existing live experience that we have.” But VR concert experiences aren’t for everyone. “Finding great partners who can help create and ideate with us” is crucial to the experience.

How ready do they think the fans are? Rothman made a great analogy, comparing it to a scene in The 40 Year Old Virgin in which Jonah Hill goes into the eBay store and sees a pair of boots. He wants to buy them, but the store owner explains that he has to go on eBay to purchase them. But he has money now, says Hill’s character. He just wants to take them home and wear them. “There are ways to do all of this, but you have to be targeting the right audience and the right fans and the right artists.”

Article and photos by Stephanie Robinson, A.K.A. Stefny! At the Disco