Indie rock band 30 Seconds to Mars is no stranger to technology, innovation, and fan interaction. With the creation of The Summit, a band hosted gathering, fans were given the chance to record their vocals to be used on 2009's This is War. Thousands of fans participated, and their faces were captured and used as alternate album covers upon the CD’s release. After this success, the band looked for a way to offer fans continued interaction without the need of physical attendance. This goal led frontman Jared Leto to create the social streaming site VyRT.com.
VyRT (pronounced “vert”) is described as a “digital golden ticket.” It offers artists the chance to sell digital tickets to live events streamed over the Internet. Not unlike video chat services such as Skype, the site gives people the chance to talk with acquaintances around the globe. VyRT’s approach, however, is one of a bigger scale that allows hundreds of people to simultaneously participate in conversations taking place in real-time.
This past August, 30 Seconds to Mars’ debut, self-titled album reached its ten-year anniversary, and fans were invited to a track-by-track analysis and commentary on VyRT. As a long time fan of the band interested in their recording process, I bought a digital ticket allowing me to view the event. Based on the $9.99 ticket price, I expected to view a quick run through of the album and a short Q&A session with the band, but I was wrong.
The band started the stream with an acoustic session, which consisted of a few songs. Jared Leto performed in an isolated booth with only a guitar and a microphone, and was backed by guitarist Tomo Milicevic during different parts. After this, 30 Seconds to Mars moved into track-by-track commentary and history of their first self-titled album; they explained the meanings behind songs, how they were created and recorded, and told stories about how the band has developed. Both casual and die-hard fans enjoyed this, as it offered an inside view of the band’s entire creative process.
After a lengthy session of answering fan questions, the band showed a number of personal photos and videos. For the first time, fans saw the beginnings of this now popular band from the eyes of the creators. Producer Steve Lillywhite then previewed the band’s new music and offered a commentary on what the future holds. Four hours later, the event wrapped up.
Something as simple as live video of a band may not sound like much, but it certainly goes a long way, especially among fans. VyRT’s interface shows the live video with a chat window on the right hand side, wherein viewers can post messages. They may also participate in “conversations,” or topics related to the event created by other viewers. This results in an organized way to instantly communicate with others while also hearing what the band has to say. 30 Seconds to Mars fans are known for being vocal about their dedication to the band, and seeing this interaction take place in real-time was a powerful experience.
Bands and artists have taken to social media to share their experiences with fans, and this has become an invaluable way to connect with fans. A quick YouTube search for your favorite band’s “video diary” will often yield numerous results of studio and tour updates, and VyRT takes this idea to the next level. While artists can share these moments with fans, the glass barrier of the camera lens combined with the dated footage restricts the level of closeness that can be experienced by the viewer. A live stream lets viewers see that the artist’s attention is on the fan at the current moment, and this connection is one that rivals being there in person.
The possibilities that a service like VyRT allows are endless. Music events like concerts, listening parties, and album commentaries could be held, which are obvious choices, but so much more lies beyond that. During the 30 Seconds to Mars event, the band mentioned that they were considering doing a cooking show, where a band member shows viewers how to cook. While this may not seem meaningful to a casual fan, dedicated listeners would love to see a different side of a band member and connect to them on a personal level outside of music. As viewers see more of an artist beyond the lighted stage, deeper connections are built, and a deeper appreciation for the music can be created.
In today’s world, it’s not always possible for fans to attend music events in person. Whether it’s a far off location, an unaffordable ticket, or simply not having someone to go to a concert with, fans can’t always interact with the music they love in the way that they want. VyRT provides an alternate source of interaction with artists and fans, and gives everybody an equal opportunity to participate.