This year has been much different than we all expected. Obviously. Sorry for the hyperbole, but it’s true, especially when it comes to hosting events in higher ed. We all saw our large planned events like admitted student open houses, commencement, alumni reunions, lectures and more postponed, done on Zoom, or cancelled. I have sat […]

The post The Future of Live Events in Higher Ed appeared first on HighEdWebTech.

This year has been much different than we all expected. Obviously. Sorry for the hyperbole, but it’s true, especially when it comes to hosting events in higher ed. We all saw our large planned events like admitted student open houses, commencement, alumni reunions, lectures and more postponed, done on Zoom, or cancelled.

I have sat through many Zoom events this spring and summer as the parent of an incoming freshman college student. Some were great. Some were OK. Some were bad. There are just so many variables when it comes on online events, especially when it comes to having multiple people participating from multiple locations. There are so many variables when it comes to people’s webcams, lighting, microphones, echos, backgrounds and more. These variables means that our events don’t have a consistent look and feel.

Perhaps we need to rethink how we’re doing live events in higher ed, and not just during a pandemic. Let’s be honest, this won’t change once this pandemic ends or a vaccine is available. People are going to be apprehensive of large gatherings for the foreseeable future.

I watched a live event this past weekend that really opened my eyes to new ways to do live events, and it came from a Scottish rock band called Biffy Clyro.

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Before I go much further, I’m a big Biffy fan. I’ve seen them four times, I’ve got all their albums (many on vinyl.) Last week, they released their eighth full length album, A Celebration of Endings. Traditionally, a band would release an album and do promotion around the world, including live shows. Since just about every live, in-person event is cancelled, it’s forced artists to find alternate ways to connect with fans and promote their work.

Biffy Clyro are no different. In addition to an acoustic series earlier this summer, the band promoted a live worldwide event where they would be playing their entire new album live. Prices started at $20 and went up from there. Costs were slightly higher if you ordered a CD or vinyl along with your purchase.

I will admit I was skeptical at first about the event, despite being a super fan. I was apprehensive about the quality of the stream, given the cost, for an event that would be less than 90 minutes.

Thank goodness I had a change of heart and bought a ticket. The show was absolutely awesome.

The Live Show

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There was a 30 minute pre-show before the album playthrough started, consisting of the band playing some older tunes in soundcheck as well as a few acoustic numbers., During those acoustic songs, the band used one of those binaural head microphones so the sound was all around you. The band took full advantage, walking around the mic singing and playing. Finally, some behind the scenes footage from the studio was shown, and then it was showtime.

The band kicked off the album playthrough in the famous Barrowlands ballroom in Glasgow, Scotland. They started on stage playing a few songs, but as the set went on, they spread out all over the event space, including the floor where the audience usually is. A string quartet joined them there, along with additional instruments. A third set filled the corner, but the highlight for me was when the band moved to large glass cube to play, not unlike their performance for BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend earlier this year.

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Yes, they were dressed in pajamas.

Here’s the thing about this event. It wasn’t technically live, happening at the exact moment I was watching it. It was pre-taped, despite being promoted as being live. It’s nitpicking, but I guess technically the band was indeed playing live. Even though the show was 1 long live event, it was recorded a few days before for the reasons I mentioned before. For as high a profile event as this, you couldn’t afford to have anything go wrong and keep your paying customers from getting what they paid for. Recording it in advance also let the band stream it at different prime time slots around the world. The UK and Europe got the stream at 9pm their time, and we got it a hours later here in the U.S.A. Given the high level of production that went into this show, I don’t mind it was pre-recorded.

The ticketing process was also interesting. About an hour before the show, customers were sent their ticket. The ticket consisted of a link to an unlisted YouTube live stream of the event. You may have noticed the fact it was YouTube in my screenshots.

In a way, hosting the stream on YouTube is genius. Why not use the infrastructure of maybe the world’s largest technology company (Google) to deliver your product. After all, YouTube is setup to do live streaming, will stop people from downloading the stream (best they can) and turn the video off at a certain time. This greatly reduces the barrier of entry for colleges, universities and small businesses. That has to be easier than maintaining a video streaming infrastructure.

Does that mean that I could have shared my link with ev

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