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How Live Streams Are Changing The Narrative

Words By Yeli Kourouma
Art by Julianna Montenegro

“Quarantine! Quarantine! Quarantine!”


Famous singer and rapper Tory Lanez was inching closer to breaking the record for most views on an Instagram Live with "Quarantine Radio", where he invited famous guests to talk and chill. Tory was jumping in front of the camera, hyped as ever, in his Toronto high-rise as music blared from his speakers. With a condensed speaker in hand, he told everyone to prepare themselves as Drake accepted his request to join the live stream.


“Yo, that's wild!” I said while watching the comments go crazy with Tory’s announcement. As soon as Drake joined, it was like a switch had turned on. The numbers started climbing every second, from 230k up to 310k viewers! Once the live stream reached its peak, Tory started blasting iconic hip-hop horns from his speakers. Drake laughed, in awe of the feat they had just reached. The two have just broken the record for most views on an Instagram Live—amassing over 310,000 viewers—and became the #1 trending topic on Twitter. That was on March 31, just the beginning of music taking over our screens to connect us during the COVID-19 quarantine.

tory lanez.jpg

Tory Lanez is a Canadian artist and the host of "Quarantine Radio
," an informal show on
his Instagram Live to lend levity to these scary times.

The rise of COVID-19 caught us all by surprise. It was a crazy whirlwind, from the first reported cases of Coronavirus last December 31, 2019, to its categorization as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11th. Suddenly, social-distancing, quarantine, and curfews were not just something we read about in our favorite dystopian novels but a looming reality. For many, that meant no more going out with friends, no more school, no eating out, and in some cases, not even going to the store. Despite the dystopian-esque rules that now dictate everyone’s lives, virtual events like Quarantine Radio found a way to reinvigorate our new reality and connect us all from our homes. 


Just as fast as the pandemic took over our lives, virtual live concerts acted as our new form of collective entertainment. Everybody jumped onto Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook live streams, causing viewership records to break left and right. The world’s biggest stars were seen enjoying the events, and famous musicians started revealing their song making process. DJ-D Nice’s 9-hour Club Quarantine attracted big names like Michelle Obama, Oprah, and Rihanna. Famous “bedroom pop” artist Clairo dropped her newest tracks on Youtube Live. Even Metropolitan Opera and famous cellist YoYo Ma got in the mix by performing his best works. Live streamed virtual concerts became so prevalent that Billboard and the Grammys created running lists of quarantine concerts to look out for. 


Though the long list of quarantine live concerts helped uplift low spirits, the reality still remained—we were still in a global pandemic. Numbers of contracted cases were still rising. not enough people were social distancing, millions were losing their jobs, and hospitals were running out of equipment to contain the virus. The fight was far from over. But in the madness that became our normal lives, music once again found a way to change the narrative. 


Global Citizen, the World Health Organization, and Lady Gaga (who would’ve expected that?) banded together to create the One World: Together at Home Concert. It presented more than a hundred musical artists who performed in an eight-hour concert extravaganza featuring big names like Billie Eilish, Elton John, John Legend, and Shawn Mendes. The Together at Home concert was essentially the ultimate livestream. Dozens of the world’s biggest artists recorded themselves in their homes to broadcast to millions of TV, phone, and tablet screens across the globe. Music of all genres from folk to hip-hop to rock were put on the biggest stage quarantine could offer. 

By the end of the 8-hour music marathon, the performance broke two Guinness World Records for most musical acts performed and most money raised for charity at a remote musical festival. Most impressive of all, the performance raised more than $127 million for COVID-19 Relief. Now, that is definitely how to change a narrative. 


Though stuck at home with minimal social interaction, music reminded us what it means to feel human. When students stressed over online classes, watching an Instagram live with their favorite artists helped them positively cope. When people couldn’t leave their houses to go to the club, they tuned into a virtual quarantine party with their favorite DJ. When essential workers needed donations, people watched humanitarian concerts like Together at Home to help out. 


Though unexpectedly, music changed the story of our quarantine by recreating a live human experience during a time when humanity felt lost.

JULY 1, 2020

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