Maybe I’m just a crank, but I’ve had a hard time mustering the interest for live streamed concerts. They’re not just an ineffective stopgap for artists who need direct relief amid months of lost touring revenues, but don’t quite come close to capturing the feeling I miss of being in a room shoulder-to-shoulder with people who chase the same abandon. But for now, it’s all we have.
One high profile event set to take place this upcoming weekend brings a new approach to getting A-list stars on your screen. Warner Music Group is hosting a virtual festival called PlayOn Fest from April 24-26 on Songkick’s YouTube channel. Cardi B, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Lil Uzi Vert, Green Day, Bruno Mars, Paramore, Twenty One Pilots...you get the idea, it’s a lot of big names participating.
Instead of peeking into more celebrity estates, Warner’s going to stream old, but in many cases never-before seen concert footage from the participants. “The majority of this legendary footage has never and will never be available again anywhere else online,” the label writes in a press release. Some of the specific sets include Cardi’s 2018 performance at Global Citizen and Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap album release show. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
Much like how every sports network has retreated to the thrills of classic games in the absence of new sports, I like the music industry’s attempt to mirror the void. (The exclusive merch for PlayOn, I like a bit less so.) A significant amount of my formative music experiences took place on YouTube, just growing familiar with artists through old concerts I never attended. The dude holding up their phone, blocking your view during a show probably sucks in the moment — man, I even miss that right now — but maybe helped someone else get into the band you love. Hopefully other labels and artists can follow suit in the fundraising efforts by digging in the vaults.