#011 Virtual Experiences

⏯ Virtual Experiences

the latest in livetoday’s read... 9 minutesAugust 25th, 2020     Issue #011


Live events around the world are stuck in different stages. From virtual experiences to sanitizing drones, technology solidifies its place at the forefront of progress. And this week we learn from multi-faceted events producer Alex Tatem about how he is using his background to produce unique experiences for well-known brands.


  • Metallica will adopt the drive-in theater format this weekend (8/29) when they stream a taped performance to Encore Live produced drive-ins across the US and Canada. Tickets are $115 per car and include an album download. 

  • Blue Ox Music Festival organizers, who had to cancel their 2020 event, are forging ahead with a scaled-down, 250-person capacity “Campout In The Pines” next weekend.

  • In an effort to keep cases low as New York moves through phases 3 and 4 of reopening, the state has restricted restaurants, bars, and clubs from selling tickets to live music events.  The above venues are allowed to have music (DJs, a live performer, etc.) as long as they have a license for it and can follow the phase health guidelines, but “advertised and/or ticketed shows are not permissible. Music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.” 

  • Governor Justice of WV awarded an additional $1.1 million to fairs and festivals in his state, on top of the $1.5 million awarded a few weeks ago. He hopes that this “doubling-down [will] ensure that these great organizations and events can survive.”

  • The social media campaign #MaskNowPartyLater aims to educate the public on what it’s going to take for live shows to come back. While the initiative first ran from 8/19-8/21, there’s still plenty to be done. Share away!

  • Romania’s Untold Festival is offering free tickets to their 2021 event for fans who donate blood plasma, in hopes of curbing the local shortage and boosting low donation rates.

  • Meanwhile in Wuhan, China, a packed and mask-less water park music festival happened last week after the region crossed the threshold of three months with no new COVID-19 cases. 

  • A full-blown, near-normal, indoor concert with 10,000 fans took place in Taiwan last week. The sold out show carried on responsibly by gathering the contact information of attendees, providing sanitizing wipes, and encouraging fans to wear masks (which they mostly did). There was even artist-fan interaction!

  • Australian festivals continue to cancel up until at least February of 2021, due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. Organizers acknowledge that “ultimately, in the current environment, even the best-laid plans can come unstuck.” It’s true - after months with no new cases and strict lockdown measures, China and New Zealand saw resurgences. And in Italy and Spain, music venues have closed again to prevent new infections.

  • If you’re itching to get out of the house we recommend Walmart’s Drive-In series, one of the safest initiatives we’ve seen. They’re free, completely contactless, and happening at 160 Walmarts across the US.



Nightlife Exclusive Pass

The Closecontact app is Berlin’s latest pass to enjoy the city’s famous clubs. Once you’ve added your phone number, email address, and name, the secure app generates a QR code that will be scanned and stored for 30 days upon entry to clubs. This new tool is meant to work alongside mask and social distancing mandates to support a safe reopening. Contact tracing apps are helpful tools on a small scale, but implementing them successfully at festivals and concerts would require large-scale government intervention.

Farms and Festivals?

Aeras Fog Company wants to bring electrostatic drones from the farm table to the main stage. In the hunt for technology to help venues and stadiums reopen safely, drones are emerging as a frontrunner because of their ability to efficiently cover stadiums with sanitizing solutions that cling to a variety of surfaces, all in just a few hours. Like spraying a farm with pesticides, but even more exciting!

Burning Man: A Digital Experience

We’re relying on technology now more than ever to keep us connected.  And so is the Burning Man team, who just reinvented their event into a digital experience that upholds the special social interactions that attract so many fans globally. 

When the team put out a call for developers, they were overwhelmed by the thousands of Burners who volunteered their services to help make the virtual event a reality.  And of course, to keep with their values, all corporate sponsors looking to get in on the action were turned away. With eight different worlds that make up the “Multiverse” to experience, the hope is to keep Burners engaged throughout the event.  And the official apps aim to create a new experience instead of competing with the past, live experiences of loyal fans.  Developers with companies like Tesla and AirBnb on their resumes found different ways for individuals to interact and create bonds around the theme of shared struggle.  Though the experience is optimized for a VR headset, fans can also enjoy the experience via their smartphones.  With different universes and developers comes various ideas on how to monetize the event (free vs. small entrance fee). Additionally, during the Burning Man postponement announcement, Burners were given the option to donate the 2020 ticket cost to the project.  In the spirit of coming together, opportunities to contribute funds will most likely be included throughout the event.


Back of House Guest Posts feature some of our favorite people from across the industry sharing their expertise. If you would like to be featured in a future issue or know someone who would, let us know at [email protected].This week Alex Tatem, the founder of the San Francisco based event production company Escape The Routine, shared how seeing the pandemic as an opportunity allowed him to expand his clientele and grow his business.In 2015 I created Escape The Routine (ETR) as a way to create a life filled with adventure while helping other people do the same. Since its humble beginnings it has grown to be a number of things - the annual camping festival Solaura Fest deep in the woods of Mendocino, the concert series Blank Cassette that happens in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and even an opportunity to travel the world as a tour manager for slenderbodies.

Last year ETR had its biggest year yet and while I was excited, I was ready to hone in on the focus of the company. I took a step back from tour management to prioritize our homegrown events. I was pumped to launch the Blank Cassette tours, and oversee the fourth year of Solaura.Naturally, it all came to a halt when COVID-19 hit.I quickly realized I was in a compromised position - being able to operate my business as it was, had spun entirely out of my control. I was eager to find a way where I could both pay my rent, and take the future of my business back into my own hands.Before the pandemic I had started to dabble in private event production for conference afterparties, summits, and corporate holiday parties. When everything shut down I noticed that most of my corporate clients weren’t as drastically affected as the events industry. Some were actually thriving - people working remotely needed their technology now more than ever.I started asking myself how I could best service them. I landed on the fact that though live events were on hold, nothing could replace the power of a good shared experience. I launched a virtual events business EscapeTheRoutine.Live, which made it easier for corporate managers to keep their team morale high, and provided a place where companies could purchase a gateway to fun and stress-free shared experiences for their teams.

Our virtual events include concerts, cooking and mixology classes, magic shows, woodworking, tea blending, and my personal favorites, songwriting and creative workshops with the amazing artists we were booking before the pandemic.Of course I still miss live events, nothing can replace the serendipity of bringing people together in person. I am currently focusing on building out our virtual private events programming and planning concepts for small, outdoor public events when it is safe to do so.

One thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised by during this time is how people have been more willing to take a chance on vendors they hadn’t previously worked with. One of my biggest pain points with the industry was that most people were risk averse, stuck in their ways, and more concerned about a “good look” instead of the creativity and art of a production. In times of chaos I’ve noticed that it’s no longer about doing business as usual, it’s all about what actionable solutions I can implement today.Due to this mindset people have been open to new collaborations, so much so that we’ve added twenty brand new clients to our roster in the past five months, and just surpassed our 100th virtual booking. Clients from all sorts of industries, with employee headcounts from 20 to 10,000+ worldwide. Before the pandemic I would’ve never been able to work with clients internationally, or onboard so many of them at the same time. It makes me confident that when we get back to live events, ETR will have a broader network and client base. I see it as a blessing forged out of a difficult time.I encourage you to use this time to get a foothold in the world you want to be a part of when things get back to normal, because I believe when you get through the tough times with these people you are only going to create more magic when the world opens back up.JOB ALERT I am looking to hire someone part-time, to help with booking livestream events. I am also always happy to meet new people and be a resource for anyone interested in learning more about what I do. Feel free to get in touch at [email protected].


  • August 25: Join the Florida Festivals & Events Association for a three-day forum on how to build stronger, safer events in compliance with health and safety standards.

  • August 25: Industry experts talk risk management and how to create a safe experience for patrons and staff.

  • August 26: EventMarketer leads a Master Class on creating safe, hygienic events, for the COVID-19 era.

  • August 26: Amethyst Collab dives into a panel on women in music marketing

  • August 26: Master Class with Women in Music on building and growing strategic partnerships.

  • August 27: Music Tectonics in conversation on growing, innovative music tech companies, and a virtual experience focused on job seekers and networking.

  • August 29: Improving your creativity and productivity while elevating your mental and physical wellness.

To view the full calendar go to musicminds.online


Do you think the value of technology will continue to grow, or will return to normal once there’s a vaccine?

Last Week's Results:62.5%  of BOH subscribers think Ryman Auditorium's hybrid show series is the future model of venue shows.

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The Back of House newsletter was created in an effort to build a centralized hub for educational content and resources that pertain to the live side of music by those who work in it. Sharing knowledge, resources and ideas with the community is at our core. Learning from each other by highlighting best practices and trends allows us to continuously provide exceptional experiences to fans globally. Back of House is here to support the industry learner and information seeker and is delivered weekly on Tuesdays.