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News / Ioná Corrêa / 19 Jan 2023

Live UGC: What makes fan-made concert videos special?

5 minute read

We breakdown the elements that draw us into watching, filming and sharing user-generated content.

Attending concerts is always a unique experience. People often talk about how some of their most cherished memories come from live events, so it’s only natural that we feel drawn to filming and sharing these experiences with others. With ticket sales and attendance figures for live music events beating several records in the third quarter of 2022, it wouldn’t be surprising if we were also to witness noticeable growth in the amount of User Generated Content (UGC) – essentially, live concert footage filmed on smartphones – being uploaded to platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

Contrary to popular belief, capturing videos or photographs during concerts does not necessarily mean the experience is spoiled for whoever is recording, nor that it takes them away from the moment they’re in. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2016 showed the opposite results to be true: in most cases capturing special moments actually increases the enjoyment of an experience.

What matters most when capturing content, are the motivating factors that drive people to film in the first place. A separate study published two years later by the Journal of Consumer Research said that an experience can be negatively impacted when the desire to bring phone cameras out and hit record is born from solely wanting to share the media captured, instead of wanting to keep something for remembrance.

On this same topic, author and media psychologist Dr. Pamela Rutledge told NBC News: “When people hold their phones up constantly, or want to get the perfect image to show their friends, it removes them from the experience. There’s a trade-off — they’re willing to enjoy something less in the moment for the social media approval they might enjoy later.”

On the other hand, Dr. Rutledge stated that when someone takes a video as a souvenir, as a way to relive memories from an event, their attention is actually shifted to their phone lenses. This means that they are not distracted from the experience, but hyper-focused on those particularly meaningful or exciting parts of the event they’re witnessing.

Still, it’s safe to assume that those bits, those unique moments that pique our interest, tend to be the ones that we are most excited to share online and talk about after the fact. If we do post videos later on, we tend to pick only our favorites to upload and show our social media followers and friends. But what is it that makes some videos our favorites? Why are some of them more cherished than others, not only for the uploader, but also for the users who look up and watch live UGC?

Aside from the usual technical aspects, like good sound quality and image – which we will further explore in a different article – we came up with some key components that make certain videos more treasured and liked than others. Essentially, the elements that make live UGC so special.

Imperfection and humanization

One type of content that is wildly popular and tends to be loved by fans is mishaps and mistakes of all kinds. Artists forgetting lyrics, slipping on stage, dropping their microphones, getting choreography wrong – you name it. People love to see artists mess up live because it reminds them that they are human too.

We have a tendency of placing musicians, or famous people in general, on a pedestal. Be it because of their appearance, their skills or the fact that the concert production makes them look like actual living gods, these artists tend to appear absolutely unreachable to most of their audience. Because of this, seeing them mess up every once in a while reminds us that, just like everyone else, artists aren’t actually perfect – no matter how much our brains try to convince us otherwise.

Up close and personal

Because it is so hard to get physically close to artists, we tend to also enjoy watching videos taken from a nearby point of view of the stage. Of course, this might have something to do with the previously discussed humanisation aspect of UGC too, but it’s likely to be more closely related to how rare standing close to a musician you admire actually is.

Attending concerts is already a rare experience for many since there is obviously no way artists can perform in every city everywhere for everyone. On top of that, golden circle tickets – especially front-row seats – tend to be over the general public’s available budget. Basically, most people will not get the chance to stand just a few meters away from their favorite artists – which makes videos from people who actually have been in that position all the more interesting. 

A different type of UGC that has a similar effect is videos of fan interactions in concerts. Because our minds create this distance between artists and the public, and because a lot of the time there is a palpable physical distance between us and them, we love to see fans getting called up to the stage, getting their phones picked up by the performer or simply talking to the artist from the crowd. Whether it is because this sparks some parasocial feelings of jealousy, or because this reminds us that the possibility of connecting with those musicians we admire exists, seeing Paramore invite fans to sing Misery Business at their concerts or a POV video of a fan playing the piano onstage for Coldplay can be utterly fascinating.

Witnessing stage production

Amongst the many things that make live shows special, one of the biggest factors might just be stage production. Lights, sound, dancers, musicians, bands, stage design and everything in between, go a really long way when it comes to setting a mood and transmitting emotion to a crowd. Impressive production can definitely be a factor when it comes to generating engaging UGC. 

Because production elements can be subject to a lot of change sometimes depending on the tour, the songs, the venues etc. we can’t really witness all of them in person – especially when it comes to very competitive or limited attendance performances. Concert videos are the next best thing for a lot of fans… who wouldn’t want to watch Adele literally setting fire to the rain – and to a piano – at her Las Vegas residency?

The magic of crowds

There’s something utterly enchanting about thousands of people who have something in common by being in one place at the same time. Nothing truly compares to the feeling of being in a crowd who understands and shares your passion for the artists you’re all about to see together. 

Since every concert is different, and because different countries have significantly different cultures and habits, it can be really fascinating to watch artists performing in different countries. Fans in some European countries stomp their feet to show excitement, Latin-American crowds are known for their ear-piercing singing and Japanese fans famously listen in silence while artists play, respectfully clapping once they’re done. It’s not difficult to notice exactly how every crowd is unique in its own way and, luckily, with UGC and the internet we can witness all this with absolutely no extra ticketing or travel costs involved.

It is also quite moving to see the effects of crowds demonstrating their admiration on the performers themselves. Something about seeing artists being passionate about what they do and seeing that passion reflected in their fans can really evoke all sorts of emotion. Watching fans joining forces to give back to the artists they love – like Twenty One Pilots fans surprising the band by lighting up the venue in the band’s signature colors – is enough to give anyone goosebumps, at the very least. 

All of the factors listed above can be boiled down to one simple thing: a sense of community. There is emotional value in the sharing of experiences with people you don’t know personally, who live across the globe, but who can understand the exact feeling that you had in a given moment by watching a video you shared of it. This bond created by fans, not with the artists they look up to, but with each other; is a unique, powerful thing that has been given the tools and the space to grow into by the internet – and that live UGC has the power to strengthen.

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