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COVID-19

What live music looks like during a pandemic

Marielle Segarra Sep 11, 2020
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Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, creators of Verzuz, at an event in 2019. The live shows streamed on Instagram and Apple Music pit two music icons against each other in live performance of their songs. Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Revolt
COVID-19

What live music looks like during a pandemic

Marielle Segarra Sep 11, 2020
Heard on:
Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, creators of Verzuz, at an event in 2019. The live shows streamed on Instagram and Apple Music pit two music icons against each other in live performance of their songs. Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Revolt
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You still can’t go to concerts, so what do you do for your live music fix? Millions of people are turning to Verzuz, a live webcast on Instagram and Apple Music, created by the producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. It pits two music icons — like T-Pain vs. Lil Jon, Snoop Dogg vs. DMX, and Brandy vs. Monica — against one another in live performance of their songs.

So the way this works is kind of like the artists are doing karaoke to their own music and each other’s. These are called battles, but they’re more like lovefests. 

During Snoop Dogg vs. DMX, Snoop is standing, he’s bouncing, he’s rapping along to DMX’s song.

There have been a bunch of these. Brandy vs. Monica’s battle got 1.2 million simultaneous views on Instagram, and more than a million people tweeted about it. 

And afterwards?

“They had 22 million streams in the U.S., and they were up overall … about 300, 400%,” said Larry Jackson, the global creative director at Apple Music, which has partnered with Verzuz. “They owned the entire R&B chart on Apple Music albums and songs.”

Jackson says Snoop’s album also climbed the charts. He thinks Verzuz could be around for a long time.

“Concerts won’t be returning for at least another year,” Jackson said. “So I think all of the societal circumstances are setting this up for this to be a long-running concept.”

Maybe one reason these battles have been so successful is that they’re coming at a time when we really need them. 

“They have been moments in which people have been able to transcend what has been tragedy and find a way to cope when we have physically been cut off,” said Tammy Kernodle, professor of musicology at Miami University in Ohio.

In particular, the Black community. The idea came from two Black producers — Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. It highlights Black artists. It’s a celebration of Black culture and music and enterprise. 

In her battle with John Legend, Alicia Keys talked about Verzuz this way.  

“This is such a powerful platform and there’s no denying it — 100% Black-owned,” Keys said.

The next battle is this Sunday: Gladys Knight vs. Patti LaBelle at 8 p.m. Eastern.

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