Technology Beyonce Live Performances

Introduction

Technology is disruptive and music performance has not been spared in its wake. Artists have learnt to adapt to and apply the use of latest technologies in their performances, music production, and sale of music (Ganguly, Nilchiani and Farr, 2010). This paper focuses on the extent to which technology has affected the performance of Beyoncé Knowles as a renowned female artist. It is evident that that performances 20 years ago would be considered archaic and out of touch by today’s audience. The stage has evolved and so has both the audience and artists.

Following the above, existing studies on the role of technology in live performance will be considered at length is this paper. Literature on the subject will majorly cover technology in performance and significant milestones achieved presently. To narrow the overall topic, a specific artist is highlighted to give credence to the studies that have been undertaken. In doing so, a critical analysis will be undertaken with regard to the impacts of technology in live performances.

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In her performances, Beyoncé has previously used technology to hypnotize her audience and leave them in awe. The effect is an audience that wants more and immensely engaged in the performance from the beginning to the end (Moe, Poell and van Dijck, 2016). She has applied tricks from flying above the audience during performance to suddenly appearing on stage. Over the years, her techniques have even become better with the aid of technological advances. An outstanding element in her recent appearances is the use of holographic images, a technology that is not often applied by most artists. Apart from that, the use of screens has been instrumental in her performances. With massive screens portraying her performances, all round an arena, the audience remains captivated and glued to these screens.

This research focuses majorly on the correlation between technology in performance and audience engagement. In a narrow perspective, the paper examines the above in the context one particular artist. It is important that this study considers a case study like the one above because it presents an opportunity to test the efficacy of technology in live performances (Conner, 2013). Again the artist in question is one that is highly regarded and famous. It is thus a practical application of the concept to investigate the extent to which it applies in real life situations.

Evolution of live performance

The definition of live performance has changed over the last decade. Such change has been occasioned by the application of modern innovative technologies by artists, producers and directors in stage acts or performances. A common thread in the literature review is the disruptive nature of technology in the field of musical performance. Live performance was a word limited in scope three decades ago. Today, live performance transcends the limited meaning of attending concert in person and includes even livestreaming of a live event from the comfort of one’s bedroom or sitting room (Barkhuus and Jorgensen, 2008). Essentially, a person need not be present at concert to enjoy the same. Equally, an artist needs not to be present in person at a live concert for it to be considered a live performance.

Traditionally, audience participation was construed so narrowly that it was limited to only certain conduct or reaction. Occasional claps and nods were a common performance norms during this time. With time, this has changed and audience have got more say in live performance to an extent that one would rightly term it as being democratic in many aspects. Justification of the above can be seen in the manner in which audiences are currently taken center stages in performances through their active participation (Ball, 2016). Audiences now have the ability to even determine which songs they want performed during concerts depending on the artist in question and how much freedom he or she gives her concert fans.

In 2018, Beyoncé’s performance at the Coachella became the most viewed live performance on YouTube in the history of the festival. From that historical performance, it can be gleaned that mobile and communication technology has disrupted the norm in live concerts. Whereas traditional performance consisted of physically present audience, present day performance includes even audience present by virtue of mobile technology (Hodl, Kayali and Fitzpatrick, 2012). Livestreaming as become the new normal for people wishing to attend a live concert in person but for one reason or the other are unable to make it.

Interactive audience participation has been tested and applied in many occasions to gauge audience reactions. In one particular case, members of the audience, during performance, were invited to access a particular website and sketch different faces (Rowe, 2014). The sketches made subsequently appeared on the large screen at the stage in real time. Members of the audience who engaged in this activity were fascinated and were actively involved throughout the concert (Lee and Freeman, 2013). However, some of them were distracted by the technology and lost track of the actual performance. All in all, it was a technology that sought to take live performance to the next level in relation to audience engagement.

Technology beyond live performance

Technology is important in live performance and provides myriads of opportunities for audience engagement. In the same way, technology has played a big role in live performances of Beyoncé. She has on many occasions resorted to certain technologies which have exhibited positive results in terms of audience engagement, participation and satisfaction (Ball, 2016). During Beyoncé’s performance at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, she used a three dimensions holographic effect to portray multiple images of her. This use of technology to convey magical and illusionary performance by an artist is one of the many ways that audiences are kept engaged and wowed throughout performances.

With the advent of powerful instruments, it is now possible for artists to perform for large audiences. For instance large concerts are usually staged in large fields and stadiums so as to accommodate more people in attendance (Vernallis, 2013). The artist has to ensure that they are able to reach thousands of people in attendance. Beyoncé has been able to achieve these at her Super bowl performances. There are instances where one artist is involved and he has to play for example a guitar to thousands of people in huge stadium. The exploitation of technological advances that can provide sound system enhancement, and this can aid in reaching everyone in attendance

Artists going live on either Facebook or YouTube is now commonplace (Valdellós, Jennifer and Santiago, 2016). It allows fans to follow in real time the artist’s performance. People who buy tickets and attend live concerts are sometimes influenced to do so after watching previous live concerts of a particular interest (Vernallis, 2013). Therefore, these social media tools can invoke in someone the interest to physically attend a live performance. Apart from, these tools, television stations such as the BBC have previously covered Glastonbury so that viewers experience a live event even though not physically present. Hence, technology can also invoke interest in people causing them to attend concerts therefore building towards the agenda of audience engagement.

It can, and has been argued, that music performance has taken a turn. It is evolving from aural to becoming more visual in many aspects as a result of technology. Live concerts are now masked with more visual aids than never (Rowe, 2014). During concerts, more screens are now deployed during performances so much that audiences may feel they are not enjoying actual live performances. Over time, the screens are becoming even bigger than before to an extent that the whole process of live performance becomes automated.

Mobile technology, depending on the person concerned, is either a distractive element in live concerts or an interactive element. While one view is from the point of a pessimist, the other is from an optimist’s perspective. Directors of concerts have now learnt to make use of a technology that has been termed distractive to turn passive audience into an interactive one through the same technology (Bennett, 2012). The trick is encouraging such audience to either make use of specific websites or install apps related to the concert.

In addition to this, the fact that the current generation of young people have phones connecting to the internet has become a big issue for planners of concerts and artists in equal measure. Arguments have been put forward that access to internet and availability of music in social media platforms might reduce interest in live performances (Lee, 2012). Interestingly, this has served to even create increased interest in those who have watched artists on these platforms so that they want to attend an actual concert (Bennett, 2012). To this extent, even the sale of tickets is now online and potential audience gets to access them just using their mobile phones.

Correlation between technology in live performance and audience engagement

Therefore, a connection exists between technology in performance and the place of technology in Beyoncé’s performances. In fact, the latter seeks to clarify the former through narrowing down the whole issue to a specific artist for a real life experience. It provides perspective to the general subject area through the lens of a practical artist. For instance, in a 2011 performance at Billboard Music Awards, Beyoncé danced accompanied by army of screen illusions of her. A performance that was considered eye-blitzing and memorable by many in attendance (Yamaoka and Kelly, 2018). In short, it was a performance in which technology purposed to enhance audience engagement and satisfaction.

However, not everyone agrees on the influence of technology in live performances. Some researchers have maintained that it can sometimes be a source of interruption and even failure (Bennett, 2012). Interestingly, this argument indeed holds water since there have been instances where audiences are distracted by technologies intended to increase audience engagement (Bucknole, 2017). Such cases reveal a failure of technology. Mobile technologies have been thus noted to contribute to cases of audience disruption hence defeating the purpose of the innovation itself (Denise, 2017). Technological mishaps have caused embarrassments and artists having to cancel shows to the disappointment of fans. Therefore, technology is not perfect in the circumstances.

Further, artists have on certain occasions, opted to use technologies like light emitting wristbands. These wristbands are designed in such a way that they have an interactive feature and the performing artist can control the colours and when they become active. This gives the artist a degree of control over the fans engagement in a live performance. Nonetheless, such control may not augur well with some of the audience who may feel that they are not totally engaged as they would have wished. In fact, in some cases it has been noted that the audience may be distracted as a result of the interactive nature of the wristband technology (Crawford et al., 2014). As consequence, it can be pointed out that the wristband technology may affect audience engagement due to the distractions caused.

Conclusion

In light of the above, technology has played a great role in performances of artistes by enhancing audience engagement. A case in point is Beyoncé’s experience with technology in the course of her career and the manner in which it continues to influence her performances. From a wider area of technology in audience engagement in live performances, it is indeed safe to conclude that technology has far-reaching consequences on individual artists (Pullen, 2011). The effects of technology are both positive and negative as regards performance and audience engagement. It can enhance the participation of fans during live concerts thus increasing hype in the sale of tickets to the benefit of concerned artist. Equally, it can fail during crucial times causing cancellation of live concerts that had been planned using costly resources.

Again there is a shift in aural nature of music performance to a more visual approach. This progressive shift is as a result of innovative technologies applied by players in the music industry in an attempt to become more relevant and relatable to the relevant audiences. In this quest, there have been failures and successes. However, the bulk is positive milestones in audience engagement. Such milestones are manifests in scenarios like that of Beyoncé as an artist who has on several occasions, employed technology not only in live performance, but also in music production.

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References

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  • Pullen, K. (2011). If Ya Liked It, Then You Shoulda Made a Video Beyoncé Knowles, YouTube and the public sphere of images. Performance Research, 16(2), 145-153.
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