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The Peninsula

A Future for Virtual Concerts?

Published January 3, 2022
Author: Korea View

During the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea’s entertainment industry pioneered a new era of virtual concerts. K-pop bands live-streamed their performances, often adding features like augmented reality to provide audiences at home with new experiences. This also complemented the broader push in the industry to become more technologically savvy, including the adoption of virtual avatar idols and strategic partnerships with web platforms like Naver.

But audience behavior tells us that the technology is not yet satisfactory enough to substitute the real thing. When the band BTS held a live concert in Los Angeles after a 2-year hiatus, South Korean fans traveled to the United States to attend. And despite the spread of the Omicron variant, bands are planning on resuming live tours and concerts.

But the industry’s aspiration to create a more seamless virtual experience for fans – and thereby transforming from downstream entertainment service providers to upstream producers of proprietary technology – continues. And the Korean state fully backs this vision. Days after BTS performed in Los Angeles, the South Korean government opened a state-run studio for artists to host immersive online concerts. Although nominally a health and safety measure, this is industrial policy. The government intends to demonstrate the feasibility of this new service with the hope that artists will demand more, creating space for nascent private sector companies to improve on this pilot project.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Janet Hong, Yubin Huh, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from the WSJ video “How K-Pop Is Reinventing Virtual Concerts”

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