Artists Adapt Concerts to the COVID-19 Context

by The Cowl Editor on October 15, 2020


Harnessing Creativity through Drive-ins, Live Streams

by Nikki Idelson ’22 A&E Staff

Drive-in movie theaters have always been a beloved American pastime to experience a favorite movie during the warm summer months. Recently, drive-ins have undergone a resurgence, one that has not necessarily been solely for the movie-watching experience. Artists such as Chelsea Cutler, Quinn XCII, the Beach Boys, Keith Urban, and many more have utilized drive-in movie theaters to hold concerts safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Forbes, in several states such as Nebraska, Wisconsin, Washington, North Carolina, Illinois, and West Virginia, “drive-ins are popping up like daisies.” Some artists are performing live in-person, while others are pre-recording their concerts.

For many artists, drive-in concerts have garnered their highest attendance. Examples of this unexpected popularity have been seen with Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, and Metallica, who all had pre-recorded drive-in concerts. WIS News 10 reported that “other than his show in Times Square in the ’90s, he’s [Garth Brooks] never had 350,000 people show in concert before, making it a massive success. Same with Blake Shelton and Metallica.” These drive-in concerts have offered people a taste of what it was like to attend concerts pre-COVID-19—minus the huge mosh pits, of course.

However, these drive-in concerts have also received some backlash. This is mainly due to The Chainsmokers’ live drive-in concert that was held in the Hamptons in late July. CNN reported that some of the issues with this concert included “thousands of people in close proximity, out of their vehicles, a VIP area where there was no pretense of a vehicle, and generally not adhering to social distancing guidelines.” The security hardly enforced the social distancing guidelines, mainly due to the fact that hundreds of individuals were in attendance, resulting in the concert being difficult to manage.


Despite this, several artists who have performed live drive-in concerts have had no issue. Chelsea Cutler and Quinn XCII, who are currently performing together, recently had live drive-in concerts in Charlotte, NC, and Columbus, OH. The drive-in concerts were unbelievably popular and received much attention, so much so, that they will be holding another drive-in concert on Oct. 23 and 24 in Chicago, IL. They had very strict protocols in place, such as having to stay in one’s car unless going to the bathroom or sitting in the trunk, as well as the requirement of social distancing and wearing masks, with strict security in place.

Another popular technique of media delivery that artists have been utilizing in order to offer some semblance of a concert experience is live streams. These live streams have typically been through social media, such as House Party, Youtube, Livexlive, Instagram, and many artists’ individual websites. Several artists have turned to this tool, such as Billie Eilish, Avril Lavigne, and Machine Gun Kelly. Even the Metropolitan Opera House has turned to live streaming. Many of these live streams are free of charge, while bigger artists are charging a small fee. According to the New York Times, in order to help popularize these live streams, artists have had to invent new and exciting ways to present music. For instance, Brad Paisley tried to turn his live stream into more of a pre-COVID experience by performing “his full stage show at the Steel Mill, a rehearsal space outside Nashville.”

Artists and large live streaming companies have also turned to hosting live stream music festivals. These have gained much attraction as music festivals have been a long-loved tradition for many individuals. Although live streaming and drive-in concerts are not ideal for those who are avid concert and music-festival-goers, this has become the new normal for the time being. If you are itching to see your favorite artist in concert, a live stream or drive-in concert is your safest, and only, bet for the foreseeable future.