Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram Are All Launching Music-Tech Projects

When Marshmello and Halsey wanted to tease their new song “Be Kind” at the end of April, they enlisted the help of the biggest TikTok star, Charli D’Amelio, to do so. On Wednesday, the pair employed another creative marketing initiative by launching “the first-ever musical experience” for Amazon’s voice-activated Echo products.

From May 27th to June 2nd, users can ask their Echo devices “Alexa, what’s Marshmello’s (or Halsey’s) thought of the day?” to get a peek into the celebrities’ minds, according to representatives from Halsey’s label Capitol Records.

But — coincidentally or not — this Halsey-Marshmello Alexa feature is premiering on the same day that two other tech platforms, Facebook and Instagram, are dropping new features stemming from the music industry.

Also on Wednesday, Instagram announced that users can now create effects that “respond” to music. Using the Spark AR Studio app, anyone can come up with augmented-reality effects — in the form of photo and video filters — that operate in sync with music. In theory, this could give Instagram more weight as a music-discovery destination. (Last month, for instance, a Snapchat filter assisted a song up the charts.)

Only a matter of minutes separated the news of Instagram’s savvy augmented-reality effects with news of a music-related venture from Instagram’s parent company Facebook. Facebook’s research and development team, The NPE Group, has designed an app called Collab for making collaborative music videos. With Collab, users are able to fuse together parts of uploaded videos and create content exclusively for original music (as opposed to covers). Currently, though, it’s only available in beta and via invite.

While this trio of new music features isn’t explicitly aimed at younger users, the tech-savvy Gen Z demographic — which already dominates music-heavy TikTok — seems a likely audience for all three of them. In consumer surveys last year, some 73% of Generation Z-ers said they would make a purchase based on a social media recommendation; Generation Z-ers also spend an average of three hours per day on social media And in 2019, Business Insider also reported that 65% of their surveyed Gen Z members check Instagram on a daily basis, preferring the platform over other options. If users are willing to buy a product because Instagram said so, it seems likely that they’d be willing to download or stream a song too.

Amid the ongoing quarantine, the projects also offer new ways for tech giants to collaborate with the music industry — which has been hit particularly hard by the loss of live events and is eager to adapt and innovate.

Amazon’s quirky take on the “Thought of the Day” marketing play, for one, is the latest in a series of music-tech projects out of the company. Two weeks ago, another Capitol Records star, Katy Perry, intentionally “leaked” the release date of her forthcoming album by allowing Alexa to correctly respond to fans who asked the smart speaker when her new project was coming. Furthermore, Amazon recently made a job listing for a software engineering position in its Music department with a compellingly vague description: “Come join us as we make history by launching exciting new projects in the coming year.” Amazon representatives did not reply to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.

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Instagram DJs run afoul of music publishing regulations

The party may soon be over for celebrities and virtual partygoers who tune in to DJ sets on Instagram Live.

Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, DJs have been performing on the platform, with some performers attracting hundreds of thousands of remote, club-starved partiers and VIPs.

But the platform, which permits users to play only short clips of songs, is in a tailspin because the jocks are playing tracks in full — violating Instagram’s deals with music publishing companies and labels. “The product is being used in a way that it hasn’t been used [before],” an Instagram insider told us. “We’re looking at the relationship with partnerships [with the music industry and Instagram users] on all sides, and all things are factored in.”

In the meantime, Instagram has been flagging shows. Marjorie “DJ Mad Marj” Gubelmann told revelers during her popular Wednesday night party — which has hosted the likes of Kim Kardashian, Martha Stewart and Miss Lawrence — that Instagram kept kicking her out of her feed this week. “I’ll keep going until we finish,” she said during one set, before finally conceding, “I’m going to turn it off before they turn me off.”

Meanwhile, DJ M.O.S.’s virtual hot spot, Club Insomnia, was also shut down numerous times. His wife, DJ Kiss, whose virtual ladies’ night was also flagged, said, “We’re not making money from this. We’re not sinister people plotting to play Luther Vandross. We’re just trying to uplift people’s spirits with music and build a community.”

On Wednesday, Instagram posted guidelines for including music on its livestreams. The list recommended shorter clips of music be played — and reminded users that “people also have access to a library of custom music and sound effects at no cost using [parent company] Facebook’s Sound Collection.”

Ironically, Mark Zuckerberg was a guest at one of the biggest A-lister-packed DJ sets by D-Nice in March, when the trend took off.

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Animal-Lovers and Harry Potter Fans Alike Will Love These Owl Tattoo Ideas

Though your fondness for owls might be rooted in your love of all things Harry Potter (and we can’t blame you!), this bird has been idolized for centuries around the world. In ancient Egypt, the owl was not just a hieroglyph (its figure symbolizes the letter “m”), but was thought to protect spirits as they traveled from life to the afterworld. It was frequently depicted alongside the Greek goddess Athena, representing knowledge. And in medieval times, owls were believed to be witches and wizards in disguise.

Whether you’re paying tribute to Hedwig, your culture, or simply your adoration for this incredible nocturnal bird, it’s absolutely worth considering adding an owl tattoo to your body art collection. Ahead, we’ve found some cool ink inspiration from Instagram starring the noble creature, including watercolor designs, tiny tats, and more.

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Instagram Has Been Taken Over By Influencers Giving Away Free Pelotons. What's The Catch?

In the beginning of April, as the realities of quarantine were setting in, I grabbed my computer in a moment of desperation and furiously tried to figure out if I could feasibly afford a Peloton bike, and where I could fit it into my loft studio.

I’m not alone. Pelotons are the thing to have on social media during quarantine, with people all over the country showing off their bikes. However, as I’ve been told countless times, I don’t have to buy a bike (which costs a cool $2,200 at minimum) for myself. It seems that every time I scroll through my Instagram feed, I am being told to follow an influencer and a few of her “friends,” so they can bless me with the opportunity to win my very own bike, no strings attached. Some even throw in shoes, weights, a mat, and a six-month membership.

The proliferation of these giveaways is even becoming a thing on social media, with some women saying they can’t stop compulsively following influencer after influencer hoping to win.

After a few weeks of offering giveaways for just one Peloton, the influencers began to up the ante. Last week, Emerson Hannon, who blogs at Classy Clean Chic, teamed up with 21 other influencers to give away one Peloton per day for four days. Last month, influencer Caitlin Covington participated in a giveaway where her followers could enter to win one of eight Pelotons. EIGHT. That’s almost $18,000 worth of Pelotons.

According to Peloton, the proliferation of these giveaways is completely organic. A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News the company has nothing to do with the giveaways, nor are they offering any kickbacks to the bloggers through affiliate programs like rewardStyle. A spokesperson for rewardStyle and its app, LiketoKNOW.It, was tight-lipped about any involvement in the trend, saying only that sales are up 150% in the fitness category.

“Fitness has been a key category for us and the engagement has been through the roof post-COVID (mid-March),” spokesperson Isabel Lamb said.

So, if these giveaways aren’t being sponsored by Peloton, can we trust them? Are people actually winning a bike, free of charge? And if they aren’t getting paid by Peloton, why are so many influencers suddenly giving away these bikes?

To understand the answer to all these questions, you first need to understand what is known as a “loop giveaway” on Instagram. The basic premise is a popular blogger with a large following teams up with other influencers who produce similar content to help each other grow. Some loop giveaways are run through third-parties that take a cut, while some are organized by the bloggers themselves through private chats and groups. Each influencer offers their audience a big prize, like a Peloton, if they follow everyone involved. The thinking is, once someone follows you to try to win a big prize, they probably won’t unfollow you, at least not right away. Some may even become fans, and your audience will grow and grow. This is the format in which most of the Peloton giveaways are being held.

For some influencers, loop giveaways are a win-win, and worth the upfront investment of splitting the cost of the prize among all the participants. However, these sorts of giveaways are controversial in the blogging and influencer space, as many view it as a way to artificially grow your audience. Ad deals are often predicated on how big an influencer’s audience is (although many in the industry argue that a microinfluencer with an engaged audience is just as valuable as a huge, less-engaged one). Offering constant giveaways to gain followers and then leveraging said following to get endorsements is viewed by many in the industry as cheating.

So, the motivation behind these giveaways is not completely altruistic. It makes sense why, in the middle of a pandemic where the economy is cratering and Amazon is slashing affiliate-link rates, so many of these giveaways are popping up. Despite the hidden motivations, though, most of the giveaways do seem to be legit. Figuring out who wins is often hard to track, as many influencers hold multiple at once and only post about them in their stories, which vanish after 24 hours. However, the lucky followers who have won a bike say the whole process was seamless and winning such an expensive prize was super exciting.

Sarah, who lives in San Diego, won a bike after entering a giveaway hosted by Kathleen Barnes, who blogs at Carrie Bradshaw Lied, in April (Barnes declined to comment). She said she started following Barnes because she wanted some fashion inspiration, and a friend recommended her. When she first saw the loop giveaway for the Peloton, she “realized that all the girls I’d be following to enter are potentially the fashion blogger I need.” She also, of course, was intrigued by the prize.

“I decided to actually follow all the girls and enter on a whim. I think this was the first giveaway I’ve ever entered,” she said.

Once she won, Sarah said the process was “super smooth” and the bloggers were communicative about sending over all the information. Her bike is expected to arrive in June.

Samantha, an esthetician from Beaumont, California, won one of the bikes from the giveaway that Hannon and the others hosted last week. She said winning “really put me into shock.”

“I got so lucky to win such an amazing prize,” she said. “I’ve won giveaways multiple times, but they were little things, to win this big of a prize really made me appreciate these awesome influencers and what they do for their following and I feel so blessed to be one of the winners.”

Still, the chances that you will actually win a Peloton is a long-shot. Mayo said on average, about 10,000 to 20,000 people enter each giveaway she’s participated in, making the chances of actually winning the grand prize pretty minuscule. And with so many new Peloton giveaways popping up every day, the backlash is growing.

One influencer, Stephanie Ledda, posted over the weekend that she would no longer be participating in the giveaways because “everyone frickin hates them.”

“If you guys hate them, I don’t want to lose my followers who actually like me and not are following me just because they might win some free shit,” she said.

However, some of the influencers who have been giving away the bikes defended their choice to participate. Maddie Perry, a fashion and lifestyle blogger who participated in the giveaway with Hannon, said while it is true the giveaways help her “gain more following and exposure,” she also sees it as a way to give back to her audience. Perry said that she and the other women all split the cost of the bikes, and no third party was involved. They also select the winner through a random drawing, to comply with laws governing sweepstakes in the US.

“It’s no secret that all gyms and workout classes are closed due to the whole COVID-19 situation, so we thought it would be a great item to bless people with,” Perry said. “That way, they can get their workout on at home and stay both mentally and physically healthy.”

Mercedes Gonzalez Mayo, who blogs at Style It With Trix, also participated in the giveaway and hosted one of her own, a three-bike Peloton giveaway with fifteen influencers, a week prior. She said she wants to dispel the notion that “these giveaways are ‘rigged,’ ‘a scam,’ or that there are no actual winners, when that could not be further from the truth.”

“I would like my followers to know how much thought goes into these giveaways,” she said. “The prizes are always high quality, from reputable brands, and are items that we would actually use ourselves.”

Mayo acknowledged that there is controversy to the giveaways, but said she feels that not all of them are bad and cause artificial inflation in the industry.

“Through trial and error in hosting and partaking in giveaways, I have found that there are ways to leverage them into growing an authentic following,” she said. “The key is to be incredibly picky with which influencers you hitch your wagon to. You need to be thoroughly vetting all the other members of a giveaway to ensure that they have actively engaged, authentic followings that are compatible with your own.”

Perry agreed, saying she thinks the followers she gains through loop giveaways are not artificial and the events are “simply a form of marketing.”

“My social media pages are my brand and my full-time business, and I’m utilizing these marketing strategies to get my name out there and gain real, targeted followers, just like many other businesses do on a daily basis,” she said.

Loop giveaways on Instagram

  • Influencer Brands Are Staying (Scarily) Strong And Are Quickly Pivoting To Quarantine SponconTanya Chen · April 17, 2020
  • If There’s Any Constant In Life Anymore, It’s Influencers And Celebs Being Cringe OnlineTanya Chen · March 27, 2020

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Jill Duggar's Instagram Post About Her Son's Allergies Subtly Proves She Lets Her Kids Watch Modern TV

Those who follow the Duggars know the rules Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar enforced upon their household. The famous parents raised 19 kids, and many of their older children are now married with kids of their own. While the Duggars still believe in modesty and religion, there’s one Duggar woman who’s really going against the grain. And that’s Jill.

Jill Duggar’s husband, Derick Dillard, has spoken out against the Duggars since the end of 2019. And he made it clear that they’re on the outs with Jill’s family. Since then, we’ve seen a huge change in Jill’s behavior over time. She recently created an Instagram post about her son’s allergies — but she also subtly proved that she’s allowing her kids to live a more modern life. Here’s why.

The Duggars didn’t consume modern media growing up

Not only did Jim Bob and Michelle require their kids to abide by a dress code, but the Duggar kids also didn’t watch modern television or listen to music.

Jim Bob talked to The Huffington Post about why he and Michelle decided to ditch the TV altogether. During the couple’s first year of marriage, he claimed they “lived on love” rather than entertainment. But after someone gave them a TV, they were “glued to it.”

“Communications dropped off, we weren’t talking as much and we couldn’t believe the content on TV we didn’t think was appropriate,” Jim Bob added. “This is detrimental to our marriage. We prayed about it and felt we had to pull it out of our house, which we did.”

The Duggars did have a TV in the house when their kids were growing up, but the kids were only allowed to watch parent-approved DVDs. “We are very selective about what we watch. We actually don’t watch broadcast TV,” Jim Bob noted.

Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard don’t have a TV in their home

Jill may be on the outs with some of her family, but it looks like she’s also not a huge fan of owning a TV. She’s done virtual house tours in the past, and fans wondered if she owned one. And Jill admitted that she and Derick choose to watch programs on their laptops rather than having a TV in the house.

“We just watched online on our laptop,” Jill told a fan of hers who asked on social media. “My hubby says he read something about it becoming more common for millennials to not have TVs.”

While Jill doesn’t physically have a television, it seems she still watches shows. This differs greatly from a few of her siblings. Joy-Anna’s home tour also proves she doesn’t have a TV. But it seems she does indulge in a few programs she was likely allowed to watch in her youth, like I Love Lucy.

Jill’s Instagram post proves her sons are watching current shows

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🐻 Stuffies in the freezer! We recently found out Sam has strong allergies to dust! 😳 Both of the boys love their stuffies…so when the allergist mentioned they could be contributing to collection of dust it made total sense! . . 💦 In addition to being better at washing bedding and vacuuming at least once a week (I know…we still have carpet 😬), the allergist recommended freezing anything that’s tough to wash at least once a month for 48-72 hrs. to hopefully kill the dust mites! I usually bag them up to keep moisture off of them and contain them a little. 🤗 . . Do your kids have favorite stuffies or a lot of them? Do your kids have allergies? What have you done to help? ⬇️ Comment below ⬇️

A post shared by Jill Dillard (@jillmdillard) on

It looks like Jill’s allowing her sons, Israel and Samuel, to watch some modern-day television. On April 29, she posted a photo showing her sons’ stuffed toys in the freezer. “We recently found out Sam has strong allergies to dust!” Jill captioned her post. “Both of the boys love their stuffies…so when the allergist mentioned they could be contributing to collection of dust it made total sense!”

One stuffed toy in the freezer is clearly from the children’s cartoon Paw Patrol. The show is about rescue dogs who mimic the careers of firefighters, police officers, and construction workers, among others.

Reddit users noticed this as well.

“I think its pretty cool that the kids have paw patrol… they do seem to be getting a lot of secular entertainment,” one commented.

We’re excited to see how Jill continues to step away from the rules she had to abide by as a child with each new Instagram post she publishes!

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Britney Spears Says She Accidentally Burned Down Her Home Gym

This wasn’t the kind of burn Britney Spears strives for in her workouts.

The “Toxic” singer said on Instagram Wednesday that she accidentally torched her home gym, leaving just two pieces of equipment unscathed. No one was hurt. (See the video post below.)

“Hey, guys! I’m in my gym right now. I haven’t been in here for, like, six months, because I burned my gym down unfortunately,” she said in the clip. “I had two candles, and yeah, one thing led to another, and I burned it down.”

“But it could be much worse so I’m grateful,” she wrote in the caption.

The pop star then transitioned into an outside workout involving dumbbells, pushups and yoga.

TMZ threw water on Spears’ characterization of the fire. The gossip outlet, citing “people in Brit’s world,” said it was told there was a candle incident, but it was “nothing as disastrous” as she described.

At least she appears recovered from her broken foot.

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Demi Moore And Bruce Willis Quarantine Together In Matching Pajamas

Exes Demi Moore and Bruce Willis are a matched pair again ― in their choice of pajamas.

In a photo shared on Instagram Monday, the famous former spouses were wearing adorable striped PJs in an apparent coronavirus quarantine with daughter Scout and her boyfriend, director Dillon Buss.

“Chaotic neutral,” another daughter, Tallulah, wrote in the caption.

Moore and Willis, who divorced in 2000 but remain friendly, reunited for self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, a source told People.

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Willis’ current wife, Emma Heming Willis, with whom he shares two young daughters, commented her approval. “Not many can pull that color off! 😂 Lookin good squad 💚💚💚💚.”

Another picture, which Tallulah posted to Instagram story, revealed a more extended striped sequestering.


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Demi Lovato Accidentally Makes It Instagram Official With Rumored New Boyfriend

Nothing screams 2020 more than Demi Lovato accidentally crashing her rumored boyfriend’s Instagram Live during quarantine. 

The only silver lining to everybody going live on social media to keep sane amid coronavirus is celebrities slipping up and revealing a bit more than planned (or more than we ever wanted to know) about their innermost thoughts and private lives. 

Enter the “I Love Me” singer, who’s been linked to former “Young and the Restless” actor Max Ehrich over the past week, with multiple reports claiming that the two are indeed an item. 

But it was all mostly speculation until Lovato popped up on screen while Ehrich was recently performing for fans during an Instagram Live.

In the clip, Ehrich looks offscreen while seated at the piano, as an unaware Lovato enters the frame, snuggled up in a blanket.

“I’m on live! I’m on live,” he tells her in a whisper, before she puts the pieces together, realizing she’s on camera. 

Lovato and Ehrich clearly intended on keeping their romance under wraps, with the singer almost immediately covering her face with the blanket, as they break out into giggles. 

Her exit, however, wasn’t quick enough for fans to miss her appearance.

While neither Lovato or Ehrich have spoken about the rumors, they’ve been leaving flirty comments on each other’s social media posts.

Look no further than Ehrich’s shirtless black-and-white Instagram pic from earlier this week, which he captioned, “when u realize u should’ve packed more for your quarantine stay 😅🤦‍♂️ have a blessed Monday filled with health, happiness, safety, joy, love, & laughter <3”

“Fine by me,” Lovato quipped in the comments section. 

Ehrich also somewhat cryptically captioned another video “4D” with a rose and heart emoji, leading fans to believe he was referring to the pop star. 

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A post shared by MaxEhrich (@maxehrich) on

Lovato and Ehrich “have been quarantining together at Demi’s house and it’s going really well,” an unnamed source told E! News. 

“Max is very into music and health, and he doesn’t like to party,” the source continued. “He is a good influence on Demi and they have a lot in common. They have a few mutual friends in common, but Demi has been introducing Max to her closest friends via FaceTime since being quarantined.”

Since her hospitalization and break from the public eye last year, Lovato has laid low when it comes to romance, except for a brief fling with model Austin Wilson.

And she seemed intent on staying single at least for the time being, addressing her relationship status during an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” earlier this month. 

“I was on dating apps for a while but as I’ve spent some time with myself over the past couple months, I realized that I am the type of person that will find any way to regulate when I’m sad or lonely or whatever,” Lovato said. “I have to fight those battles on my own and I can’t let somebody come in and fix those issues for me. So right now, I’m single and spending my Saturday nights by myself.”


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VidCon Cancellation Means $60 Million-Plus Loss for Anaheim, Content Creators

How Congress ‘Dramatically Improved’ Movie Theaters’ Chances of Surviving Coronavirus

Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

VidCon Cancellation Means More Than $60 Million Loss for Anaheim and Content Creators

“The cancellation is a big hit for the talent,” Kevin Herrera, CEO of management firm TheMachine, says

VidCon, the global event that gathers online video stars and their fans, could cost Anaheim at least $60 million — and millions more for content creators and affiliated businesses — if it’s not rescheduled.

Viacom earlier this week announced the cancellation of the video industry conference due to the coronavirus pandemic, but VidCon General Manager Jim Louderback said in a statement that the conference is aiming to reschedule in the fall and will provide more details around June 15.

“In a normal year, the show’s broadest measure of economic impact is $60 million,” said Mike Lyster, chief communications officer for the city of Anaheim, which hosts the annual gathering at the Anaheim Convention Center. “We certainly respect VidCon’s decision, which was taken out of an abundance of caution and some uncertainty from where we are today.”

Lyster added that the direct loss to the city or the convention center has yet to be accounted for, but said that surrounding venues like restaurants and hotels will definitely feel the blow, as some have shuttered temporarily as a result of the pandemic.

“The lease of a show of this size is about $450,000,” Lyster said, noting that those funds might not be lost entirely if VidCon reschedules.

Around 75,000 people attended VidCon last year, and its representative told TheWrap that “all tickets and pre-ordered merchandise that have been purchased for the June 17-20 event will be refunded in full by April 15. This will include all fees for previously canceled tickets.”

Viacom took over VidCon operations in February 2018. More than 120 brands and 250 content creators from social media sites including Snap, TikTok, Instagram, Twitch and YouTube attended last year’s event. Content creators who planned to attend in June stand to lose revenue from merchandise and content marketing opportunities.

“We are working hard to bring you a VidCon U.S. experience this fall, and will keep you posted as those details come together,” Louderback said. “Don’t worry; it will still be an amazing event that you won’t want to miss.”

For creators, VidCon allows them a chance to sell merchandise in-person and gain more followers — which is valuable on sites like YouTube, which selects channels and videos to monetize with ad content based on their followers and view counts. The more viewers you have, the more cash you stand to make.

Fans are also able to meet some of their favorite online celebrities at the conference, and such social events are rare in an increasingly disparate — and global — online video ecosystem.

“As the largest community-driven convention for YouTubers, their fans will definitely feel a sense of loss given all of the rare in-person opportunities like meet-and-greets, panels, and exclusive merchandise,” Doron Nir, chief executive of StreamElements, said.

Broadcasting on YouTube is often a pretty solitary gig, and the rare instance of an in-person event or meet-and-greet are often hotly anticipated.

“Being a content creator can be a lonely game, and the togetherness these big events bring, the feeling of inclusivity is a positive one,” Kevin Herrera, chief executive of Beverly Hills-based talent management and marketing firm TheMachine, said. “The cancellation is a big hit for the talent. Our clients that are content creators enjoy being together with others working in the same field.”

VidCon also is a vital business opportunity, Herrera said.

“Business-wise, VidCon is the event that we advise those learning about the entertainment and advertising ecosystem to attend,” Herrera said. “Going to VidCon for those who have not attended before is always eye opening, attending is definitely a crash course.”

A flurry of ad buying usually takes place at the convention, and industry professionals looking to do that are now forced to postpone their plans or make their deals virtually.

“Content creators are seen as a huge driver of purchasing decisions, so an influencer-driven event like VidCon is perfect for those who want to strengthen their knowledge of the space, such as attending industry-geared panels,” Nir said.

As top creators (and would-be VidCon attendees) like YouTubers Gigi Gorgeous, Hannah Hart and Joey Graceffa continue to expand their followings, advertisers don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to partner with them on marketing deals.

While some creators just do ad breaks before or during videos, others go the slightly more discreet route and engage in the timeless tactic of “branded integration,” where the creators use or plug a product or service in their videos. It’s not a new tactic, but it’s well-suited to YouTube, especially as product reveal and “unboxing” videos become more popular.

“Branded integrations and influencer marketing continues to push forward. It’s quickly becoming the new normal,” Herrera said.

Industry experts agree that next to ticket sales, the biggest loss will be felt in the merchandise department. Content creators and brands that are able to quickly transition to conducting their sales online will likely stand to benefit.

Nir said that StreamElements released tools last month to help content creators on major platforms including YouTube to open their own virtual storefronts — and according to Nir, the number of merch stores is rapidly growing “by the thousands.”

Samson Amore