Could Live Music Impact the November Election?

By John-Mark Mills

By now, the debilitating effects of COVID-19 on the live music industry have been well-documented. 

With massive concerts like Coachella now canceled, tour dates for popular artists like Post Malone and Maroon 5 put on indefinite hold, and live entertainment venues both big and small closing down all around the country due to COVID-19 related concerns, it should come as no surprise that the concert industry is expected to report tremendous losses by the end of this year.

Event cancellations and venue shutdowns have been even more damaging for smaller, lesser-known artists and bands. Unable to support themselves without the revenue provided by performing at local clubs and festivals, many independent acts have had to return home to find new sources of income. 

New Opportunities

Though the ramifications of the coronavirus have had a disproportionate impact on the groups that need to do live shows to stay afloat financially, all artists have had to come to terms with the gap between themselves and fans that the absence of concerts has created. 

Whether they typically play for a crowd of twenty at a local bar or a stadium of 14,000 in a major city, this lack of connection with fans has proven emotionally taxing for many performers, and has prompted some to seek out new and meaningful ways to bring back the experience of live music.

In recent months, the concert live stream has become the method of choice for artists looking to safely engage with fans in a way that reflects and expands on the pre-pandemic experience of going to a live event. Paid livestreams organized by mainstream stars like Billie Eilish and BTS have enjoyed enormous success and have showcased the unique opportunities for experimentation that live digital concerts provide.

One of these opportunities that has been championed in large part by the aforementioned Billie Eilish is the opportunity for live music to influence the upcoming November 3rd presidential election. Not shy about vocalizing her political opinions on social media, Eilish has backed up her words by partnering with the concert livestream platform Mandolin to headline its #iVoted event.

Set to be the largest digital concert ever, #iVoted will feature a whopping 600 performers. Fans will be required to RSVP by either submitting a selfie of themselves holding their unmarked mail-in ballot or by submitting a photo outside their polling place. Additionally, in the hopes of providing key voters with an added incentive to vote, many of the concert’s smaller acts have been chosen specifically because of their popularity in swing states.

Only time will tell whether the concert will play any sort of significant role in the outcome of the election. But with names like The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy expected to join the fray and with guest appearances from the likes of Eilish and MGMT, #iVoted is sure to attract a substantial amount of attention. Indeed, though the incredible 993,000 tickets sold to virtual performances by BTS earlier this month places the bar unimaginably high, if #iVoted’s Election Day stream draws even a small fraction of that audience, it will undoubtedly have achieved its aim.

Whatever the impact of #iVoted, the model for the festival itself is an impressive step forward in the development of online concerts, and shows that live music can still hold sway even in our world today. Six months ago, no one would have believed that the floundering live music industry would have been able to affect even the most avid of concertgoers, much less a presidential election.

But thanks to the innovation and adaptability of artists like Billie Eilish and platforms like Mandolin, it may be able to do just that.

#election #music #BillieEilish