Written by Kelsea Lee • Photography by Jordan Nicholson, Live Nation • December 28, 2016
Audience participation at shows has been an essential element to performances throughout the history of concerts. What used to be limited to crowd sing-alongs and volunteer participation has now become a method to showcase innovative and interactive displays.
With modern day technology, there are many creative ways to incorporate and engage the crowd. As the distance between artist and audience gets smaller and smaller, the trend towards fan-driven experiences is growing quickly.
Most shows and concert experiences these days employ LED technology of some sort. LEDs are a preferred light source because they’re energy efficient, small, cool and durable. They have many uses in everyday life, but they’re especially well-suited for concert lighting.
With advancements in visual and lighting effects being used on stages, the same technology is being applied to incorporate concertgoers. Companies like Crowd Sync, PixMob, and Xylobands now are using LED wristbands as an integral part of the concert experience. Wristbands given to audience members are programmed to strobe, fade and flash in sync with the music, turning the crowd itself into an extra-large LED wall similar to those on stage. By transforming and scaling each of the wearable objects into pixels, the crowd becomes a display.
PixMob debuted the use of their interactive devices in concert back in 2011 with Arcade Fire. The team held hundreds of PixMob balls above the crowd and released them onto the audience during the band’s encore performance of “Wake Up.” Attendees were able to bounce the flashing, colorful balls around, creating a new type of collective crowd energy.
Xylobands, the company behind Coldplay’s LED concert experience, and Crowd Sync have also started incorporating RFID technology into their wristbands and lanyards, combining ticketing, payment, and social activation into a light-up device that concertgoers can take home with them.
Light-up wristbands are getting increasingly sophisticated, with control options now including sound activation and motion activation in addition to manual control. For the wristbands to light up in sync with the music playing, techs can run an audio feed to a control unit. For more control over the choreography of the lights, lighting directors can manage the effects through a control pad or lighting board.
Though these devices make for a great light show, what’s really special about them is their ability to foster a sense of community and energy among the crowd. Bringing people even closer together through the power of music? We can all get behind that.