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How Did Lollapalooza’s Virtual Festival Pan Out?

So, this hasn’t exactly been a great year for music festivals.  Coachella’s annual April festival was delayed to Octoberand other big destination fests like StagecoachBonnaroo, and SXSW were canceled outright in the Spring.

That’s why we were surprised to learn on July 27th that C3’s Lollapalooza would move ahead with their annual August festival as planned, but as an entirely virtual affair.  

Now sure, this certainly isn’t the first virtual music event to take place this year.  If you all remember, way back in March (we were so young and naive then) Elton John hosted a number of performances from his stunning, spacious mansion for an iHeartRadio benefit concert.  It’s one thing to livestream DJs or solo artists from their home setups. It’s an entirely another challenge to accommodate full bands that require multiple performers and other personnel singing and breathing in the same place.

Which is why, all things considered, we were actually pretty impressed by the way Lollapalooza handled that challenge.  Their free Youtube event dubbed Lolla2020, took place from July 30th to August 2nd and featured home setups, interviews, live soundstage performances, and never before seen archival recordings from past festivals.  This gave us some insights into how we might expect Coachella to pan out, and offered an interesting concept that festival organizers would be wise to use in a post-COVID environment to maintain hype year round.

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One of the biggest challenges that Lollapalooza managed well was anchoring the ‘setting’ of the event.  How did Lollapalooza integrate its home turf of Chicago into its virtual experience?

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Well on top of a slew of Chicago acts on the bill like Chance the Rapper, interviews with key Chicago figures like Michelle Obama and Lori Lightfoot were also billed as a central part of the experience.  Even the Chicago Bulls were part of a live event collaboration featuring Polo G, Wendell Carter Jr., and Zach LaVine.  

Events like the Democratic convention, which we discussed previously, have gone to great lengths to virtually reinforce the notion that the event is “taking place” in Milwaukee, even without most major events or speeches taking place on site.  Utilizing local organizations, drawing on local artists, and involving local luminaries is a great strategy for actually grounding your virtual event “somewhere.”

As we mentioned above, livestreamed performances are no longer newsworthy.  Everyone with a webcam and an acoustic guitar has proven that to be the case since March. So how do you make a virtual concert an unmissable experience now?

Well, one great way to do that is to really make it live.  There are no VODs.  If you missed it, then you really missed it, unless you manage to find pirated videos floating around somewhere.

While the archival gigs were briefly interesting to see (mostly because no one was social distancing!), special reunions from bands like Jane’s Addiction, one-off performances by Metallica or a rare Lupe Fiasco performance turned the event into spectacle. 

The diversity of the streams also made for an entirely unique event that would just not have worked in person.  Salesforce sponsored LL Cool J’s 4-part series on the pillars of hip-hop, providing audiences advice on breaking, DJing, graffiti, and MCing from one of hip-hop’s undisputed masters. 

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Interviews with everyone from Metallica’s Lars Ulrich to Michelle Obama touched on a variety of topics and kept the event lively and engaging. 


One of the more unfortunate aspects of this event for me as that I had to finally admit I’m not up to speed with the young people anymore.  While the internet was ablaze with chatter about H.E.R., I was completely jazzed about this Porno for Pyros reunion so I could throw on some flannel and party like its 1996.

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If you’re looking to pull off a virtual music event over the next 6 months, Lollapalooza is a great starting point to develop your concept. Get in touch with us today to make that happen!