It’s Time for Virtual Concerts to Go Mainstream

Media & entertainment analyst Kevin Tran explains why the rising cost of live performances and need for metaverse buzz should reignite interest in virtual concerts
Graphic conveying people at a concert
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Sara Wickersham
July 11, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • As big names like Beyoncé and Post Malone kick off their latest tours, many would-be concertgoers are being priced out.

  • Over a third of adults (37%) say they’ve attended fewer concerts in the past year, with expensive tickets being the biggest reason people are cutting down.

  • Regularly staging virtual concerts would allow artists to maximize accessibility to fans while still monetizing those who are eschewing live events because of cost.

For the latest entertainment industry news and analysis, sign up for our daily entertainment briefing.

Music fans are experiencing an embarrassment of riches when it comes to concert options. Beyoncé’s first solo tour in seven years begins its U.S. leg this month, for example, while Taylor Swift kicked off her first tour in nearly five years in March. Other big names like Drake and Janet Jackson have recently launched their first tours in years.

But in reality, concerts have become less accessible as ticket prices have skyrocketed. The average fan paid about $111 for a ticket to the top 100 tours in 2022, up from roughly $95 in 2019 and $90 in 2018, according to Pollstar. Meanwhile, ticketing platform SeatGeek said in April that the average resale price of concert tickets has more than doubled since 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But this belies how the live events industry is not fully reaping the benefits of higher ticket costs. Morning Consult data shows that while most consumers haven’t cut down on concert ticket purchases, 37% of adults still say they’ve attended fewer concerts in the past year, with the most popular reason being the high cost of tickets. Despite die-hard fans paying any price necessary, there’s no question that live event revenue isn’t being maximized due to cost-cutting consumers.

One solution is for artists and ticketing platforms to start regularly staging virtual concerts, which would open up new and meaningful revenue streams thanks to their wide accessibility online. While 37% of adults said they’re interested in attending virtual concerts, that figure was just as sizable (39%) among those who expect to attend fewer concerts in the next year.

Rising ticket prices are turning away concertgoers

While the share of consumers who say they’ve attended at least as many concerts in the past year (48%) eclipses the share who’ve cut down, that doesn’t mean the latter figure is insignificant. Companies like Ticketmaster and CTS Eventim that surpassed pre-pandemic revenue totals in the first quarter of 2023 would have posted even stronger results if a greater supply of cheap tickets had been available.

Despite a Booming Live Event Scene, Some Have Still Cut Down on Concerts

Shares of respondents saying how many concerts they’ve attended over the past year compared with the year prior
Morning Consult Logo
Survey conducted June 15-18, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,203 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Responses of “Don’t know” are not shown.

Of those who report attending fewer concerts, 82% say it’s because tickets are too expensive — a higher share than for any other reason, like favorite musicians not being on tour nearby (65%) or having more work and family obligations (59%).

Older and lower-income consumers were more likely to have attended fewer concerts than their demographic counterparts. This shouldn’t come as a shock, as Morning Consult data recently revealed that consumers cut down on one-off media & entertainment purchases like concert tickets more than subscriptions due to inflation.

Why the time is right for virtual concerts to win back would-be concertgoers

Artists can add additional tour dates to become more accessible, but there will always be a share of fans who can’t attend shows for the biggest artists because of price. To address this, artists and ticketing platforms should start regularly staging virtual concerts, which are usually free and aim to re-create an artist’s real-life movements digitally.

These shows, viewable through either virtual reality headsets or everyday devices like computers, are timely because 39% of those who expect to attend fewer concerts in the next year are interested in virtual performances.

Virtual Shows Can Appeal to Those Cutting Down on Concerts

Shares of respondents who are interested in virtual concerts
Morning Consult Logo
“Virtual concerts” are defined as digital performances that can be accessed using a VR headset or everyday device such as a computer.
Survey conducted June 15-18, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,203 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Virtual concerts gained steam during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to shows like Travis Scott’s massive Fortnite concert, but since then digital events with artists of that caliber have been surprisingly few and far between. For artists, teaming up with brands like Fortnite or WaveXR to stage free virtual concerts would provide additional exposure. Even for top-tier artists who already have big fan bases, amplification is still critical because it’s harder than ever to cement a hit. For example, in July and August of 2022, the average song in Spotify’s top 200 was on the list for 39 weeks, up from just 28 weeks in 2019, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, artists’ virtual concerts could be monetized through brand sponsorships as well as sales of digital or physical merchandise relating to the event. Assuming a 20% revenue-sharing agreement, Travis Scott would have made millions through sales of virtual merchandise from his Fortnite concert alone, according to Billboard. The platforms helping run these events could benefit from any revenue-sharing agreements as well as web traffic from the artist’s fan base.

But it’s really up to metaverse players like Meta and Roblox to lobby big-ticket artists for virtual concerts. These events are among the most compelling ways to show the long-term promise of interconnected 3D worlds, which is badly in need of renewed interest. As generative AI has boomed, funding for companies that operate in the metaverse or Web3 totaled about $587 million in Q1 2023, down 71% year over year, according to PitchBook.

Virtual concerts should not be seen as a fad since there’s always going to be a chance to cater to underserved fans who aren’t able to see their favorite artists live. No fan base currently demonstrates this better than that of Taylor Swift following the Ticketmaster incident last fall: When asked who they’d most like to see perform in a virtual concert, the “Blank Space” singer was by far the most-mentioned musician or band.

Taylor Swift Is by Far the Most In-Demand for Virtual Concerts

Respondents identified the artist they are most interested in seeing perform at a virtual concert
Morning Consult Logo
Responses collected June 15-18, 2023, among roughly 2,200 U.S. adults.

This data suggests Swift’s team would be able to generate a significant audience, including many who aren’t attending her current shows, for a virtual concert that could be supported by brand sponsors.

The difficulty of securing tickets to events like the “Eras” tour, and more recently Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” tour, can serve as a reminder of how virtual concerts — and by extension, the metaverse as a whole — can provide meaningful value. While we shouldn’t expect virtual concerts to become substitutes for in-person shows anytime soon, events on platforms like Fortnite and WaveXR have already demonstrated the ability to drive buzz around top-tier artists like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber.

It should only become increasingly clear to artists, tech players and ticketing platforms that they all have good reason to ensure that these digital events continue to provide fans with live music opportunities from big names that would otherwise pass them by.

A headshot photograph of Kevin Tran
Kevin Tran
Senior Media & Entertainment Analyst

Kevin Tran previously worked at Morning Consult as the senior media & entertainment analyst.

We want to hear from you. Reach out to this author or your Morning Consult team with any questions or comments.Contact Us