Arts Events Will Thrive in The Digital Realm, New Report Outlines


12 Jul 2021



Written By Staff Writer



The past 18 months have seen a significant disruption in the way we both engage with and exhibit art and live performances. Events and festivals have had to madly scramble in an attempt to reposition themselves as digital spectacles, and though this was already taking place in one way or another before COVID-19 struck, there is no doubt that the effects of the pandemic have sped things up in this realm.

While many exhibitors have been left reeling by the sudden online shift, could this ultimately have had some positive effect? If going digital by necessity is not an ideal outcome, could there at least be a silver lining to this crappy COVID-packed storm cloud?

Well, a recent landmark report commissioned by the Australian Council for the Arts seems to say just that. Entitled “In Real Life: Mapping digital cultural engagement in the first decades of the 21st century”, the report delves into the relationship between our digital and analog worlds, and how they can complement one another when it comes to festivals and events. 

One of the main takeaways from the report is that the digital sphere will not replace events taking place in person; the two are described as “intermeshed”. That said, the public have been found to be unreliant on actual physical attendance to achieve an understanding of “liveness” when it comes to festivals and events, instead viewing it as “the ability to insert oneself into the story” and “access multiple lines of communication…with performers, audience members and other participants”. This also comes with the increased desire for “significant access to arts and culture for minimal cost”, meaning that while promoters and exhibitors may find it more difficult to control, there is an opportunity for larger numbers of patrons actively participating.

The report also outlines the different ways in which audiences are beginning to experience live events. While traditional promoters can be reassured by the “general agreement that there is something special and irreplaceable about live, in-person performance”, there is also a growing understanding that many younger audiences are rejecting traditional settings like theatres and concert halls in favour for the digital realm, which is increasingly being seen as equally as important and accessible as experiencing a performance in-person.

This opens up the very real and profitable possibility of releasing tickets for live in-person events in tandem with a virtual viewing option, which would likely see much larger audiences. This could be seen as a game-changer, particularly with the increasing affordability and quality of VR technology; giving audiences and promoters more options when it comes to the experience of a live event. With VR technology looking to “bring the digital out into the real world”, it is likely that these two realms will further intertwine in the not-too-distant future.

There’s plenty more in the report, and it’s definitely worth the read if you can spare the time to get through all 92 pages of it. It not only outlines an understanding of the modern landscape for events and festivals, but it also offers a reasonable blueprint for the future in the digital space, which is something that will be crucial for the industry’s survival.

Photo: Giu Vicente / Unsplash


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