How COVID-19 has inspired more creativity in the entertainment industry
The entertainment industry is just one of the many things that has been drastically affected by COVID-19. With business closures and physical distancing, it’s been a lot harder to make entertainment media in the way we had been accustomed to.
While this might seem restrictive for many musicians, it has actually opened up a world of new possibilities.
Back in March, at the height of lockdown, everything had to be done from home, including live TV shows that were normally filmed in large, professional studios.
From the comfort of their homes, hosts like Jimmy Fallon and James Corden introduced their musical guest of the evening who would then perform from their own home.
At first, artists would perform simply from inside their homes, with their cell phone camera perched in front of them. Though it might sound boring compared to the studio performances of the past, these “from home” performances had a personal intimacy that was surprisingly attention-grabbing.
And in some cases, these performances gave us an inside look at how these songs are often written: just the artist and their instrument in their comfortable space.
But as the pandemic continued longer than most of us expected, “from home” performances actually began to afford artists more room for creative experimentation than a studio ever could.
There was no longer the restraint of having to fit into a required physical space, so artists have been using technology to their advantage, making their songs stand out like never before.
In April, singer-songwriter Declan McKenna performed from home on British morning show Sunday Brunch, where he superimposed five versions of himself in the same room, each playing a different instrument on his song “Beautiful Faces.”
While being entertaining and meme-able, this performance also effectively showed off McKenna’s instrumental talents in a way that just isn’t possible in the studio.
Green screens have also been a popular choice and R&B duo Chloe x Halle offered their take with a heavenly performance for Jimmy Kimmel Live. Pairing an ethereal slowed-down version of their hit song “Do It” with a clouded, dream-like background, the sisters created a visually nuanced performance that looked more like an actual music video.
Some artists have taken their performances to interesting locations outside of their homes, such as HAIM’s performance of their song “Gasoline” on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Performing in the empty parking lot at The Forum, the trio reminded us that concert venues around the world have sat empty for months and that the music industry is struggling immensely with the loss of touring.
This isolation-inspired creativity has even made its way into music videos over the past few months. Greenscreens have been big here too as we saw in April with 5 Seconds of Summer’s video for their song “Wildflower.”
Since the visuals of music were stripped back down to the basics in March, there has been a reinvention of how visual performances are made and of what audiences expect. In a way, this growing experimentation with the visual impact of musical performances is like a renaissance of the MTV era.
And similar to the MTV days, the visuals of music are once again a crucial factor in an artist’s ability to sell music, because without the possibility of going on tour, the artists of 2020 have had to test out new ways to promote themselves.
But if video killed the radio star back in 1981, will COVID-19 kill the conventional studio TV performance?
Only time will truly tell, but we’re getting a bit of a preview as COVID restrictions have loosened over the past few months. SNL is filming in-studio again and, for the most part, the musical guests have returned to the standard stage performance—with the exception of Justin Bieber’s “Lonely,” where he wandered around backstage in homage to the song’s music video.
And home performances aren’t over yet, as travel restrictions are still in place. iHeartRadio has just announced that its popular Christmastime concert—the Jingle Ball—will be taking place from the artists’ homes this year.
With a star-studded lineup including Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish and Harry Styles set to share their favourite Christmas songs and traditions virtually, we’ll just have to wait and see how creative they get with their visuals.
As home performances continue, artists will keep experimenting with new ways to make eye-catching content. On the bright side of a pandemic with no end in sight, we’re seeing a revolution in visual creativity in the music industry which will only go up from here.