Are virtual festivals the future?
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(BPT) - After a year of being locked away at home, the world is eager to reopen and experience the things we love again, like going to restaurants, on playdates and even sharing the social dynamics of the office. One unexpected revelation during this time is that many of the activities that took us away from our homes are now seen as inconvenient, with some labeling them as unnecessary.

Would you be surprised to hear that throngs of people have not only embraced but also discovered they prefer virtual entertainment to the real thing? It’s true. Live music and performances, as well as conferences and festivals, have found a new lease on life by going virtual.

Producing a virtual event is standard fare for many large, medium and small corporate marketing teams, but big, consumer events had yet to realize virtual success until well into the pandemic era. Moment House produced a virtual Justin Bieber show from a hotel in Beverly Hills on New Year’s Eve, and stand-up comedians like Kevin Fredericks are hosting larger audiences than ever virtually. But a virtual festival? Is that even possible? Popular film festival SXSW went virtual this year and mega media company OZY just wrapped their annual OZY Fest with performances from H.E.R., Marc Rebillet, Sevyn Streeter, Tig Notaro and Big Freedia, and conversations with Malcolm Gladwell, Katty Kay, Stephen A. Smith, Mark Cuban, Condoleezza Rice, Rep. Maxine Waters, Jim Cramer, Matt James, Sophia Chang, Marcus Scribner and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“We were stunned when the festival began as the millennial and Gen Z audience poured in,” said OZY COO and co-founder Samir Rao. “This year’s festival broke every expectation we had. OZY Fest is now the fastest-growing festival in history. Malcolm Gladwell even called it ‘the best festival of the year.’” A nice feather in the cap for the young and successful media company. With over 25 million newsletter subscribers, OZY beats all of its competition — combined.

Virtual event attendees relayed some of their favorite aspects of virtual partying, including the ability to drink without worrying about transportation, dancing like nobody’s watching (because they aren’t) and feeling free to experience emotional moments as they occur. They also note that A-list talent is getting comfortable with virtual performances and conversations because they are beginning to break news. At OZY Fest, Dr. Fauci revealed that we are just a few years away from an HIV vaccine, Mark Cuban set the record straight that he will not be running for office, Condoleezza Rice surprised the crowd when she disclosed that Trump got more things right than many people realize, and H.E.R. divulged that she, Zendaya and Kehlani almost formed a supergroup years ago.

“We at OZY have always been passionate about up-and-comers, we call them New + Next,” stated OZY CEO and co-founder, and host of The Carlos Watson Show, Carlos Watson. “That said, we are hosting the biggest celebrities on the planet. Matthew McConaughey, Saweetie, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Priyanka Chopra, Reggie Watts, Andrew Yang, Ava DuVernay, Finneas and so many more have graciously agreed to join me for great, virtual conversation.”

Are virtual festivals here to stay? Many say yes, but only time will tell. Perhaps a hybrid solution is ahead of us when the world reopens and we can attend live events in person again. With virtual audiences showing up en masse, it is hard to imagine live events abandoning all virtual plans.