Virtual experiences have gone mainstream, and they’re not going away anytime soon. Nonetheless, young people in Western Europe are looking forward to attending these events in-person…
For reasons we don’t have to explain, virtual events took over in 2020. With in-person events largely canceled or postponed, celebrities and brands alike found ways to reach their young fans digitally, and livestream went mainstream. While many hoped for a hot vax summer that would reinvigorate the live event industry, surging COVID-19 cases and the Delta variant halted in-person progress, and the live music industry, in particular, saw a whiplash as the grand return of festivals and concerts came crashing down—many cancelled for the second year in a row. Those that soldiered on didn’t always fare well, despite implementing safety protocols such as mask requirements, social distancing, and vaccine/negative tests mandates. Over the summer, an outdoor music festival in the Netherlands led to over 1000 COVID cases, and a recent festival in the U.K. has been linked to almost 5,000 cases, becoming one of the biggest superspreader events in the world.
In this landscape, it’s clear that the return of Gen Z and Millennials’ beloved live experiences is still rocky at best. And that means that livestreamed events will continue to trend. Already, millions have tuned in to watch their favorite artists in metaverses and other digital spaces, including gaming platforms from Fortnite to Minecraft to Roblox, which have found ways to adapt to the ongoing pandemic and keep live music performances alive by tapping musicians for virtual events. YPulse’s recent Future of Experience trend research shows that these methods are working: 59% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe tell YPulse they’ve attended an event through a livestream at home, and 54% are interested in attending a virtual event in the next 6 months.
But after 18 months of screentime, experience-driven young Europeans are craving the real live experiences of old: 21% say they are tired of attending events virtually, and 79% say they are interested in attending an in-person event in the next 6 months. Here are the events they want to attend most:
Young Europeans are ready to party. While music events are always a favorite among young people, two in five Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe are craving parties more than anything—and are more interested in attending them than any other type of in-person event. But small and large concerts and festivals take the second and third-place slots, followed by another favorite for young people in Western Europe: sporting events. All of these larger-scale events are starting to open back up across Western Europe, with the first match of soccer’s European Championship opening in Rome in June, marking a COVID turning point. The match brought together the biggest crowd in Italy since it went into a full lockdown last year, even with the stadium at 25% capacity. Around Western Europe, smaller matches have also started opening up, too, though YPulse’s recent COVID update survey found that just 17% of young Europeans currently feel comfortable attending a sporting event in-person.
Young Europeans are also highly interested in attending comedy shows and escape rooms, though their interest levels in these two kinds of events vary by generation:
Other than parties, 13-20-year-olds are most interested in getting lost in escape rooms IRL in the next six months, showing that the trend that rose before the pandemic is still going strong. In fact, before COVID hit, there were some 1500 escape rooms across the U.K., including branded rooms from beloved entertainment giants—Doctor Who rooms have opened in several cities across the U.K., and London has an official BBC Sherlock escape room, featuring original footage of the show’s stars. Interestingly, though, Gen Z are also down to visit virtual escape rooms—25% of 13-20-year-olds say they’re interested in attending an escape room virtually in the next six months. Millennials, on the other hand, are partial to in-person comedy shows, which comes a close second to parties for them—and is the top virtual event they want to attend.
Despite their willingness to attend most events virtually, too, young Europeans’ reasons for wanting to get back to in-person experiences is all about virtual-fatigue, as well as how live events make them feel:
Young Europeans say in-person experiences are more exciting and better quality—and they also just miss them. But beyond that, live experiences are a way for young people to feel connected—to others and to themselves. With around three in 10 13-39-year-olds say in-person events provide spaces to hang out with their friends and meet new people, 22% say that these experiences make them feel like their true, authentic selves. And after a year and a half of being cut off from that, young Europeans are looking forward to getting real IRL again.
YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full Future of Experience trend report and data here.
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