Verzuz’s plot is simple: two famous musicians face off in a hip-hop/R&B battle to highlight all of their biggest hits. Sounds like a new hit TV show, right?
Well, it probably would be - if it was on cable television.
Verzuz is a fully remote live-streamed webcast that airs on Instagram Live among other streaming platforms. Timbaland and SwizzBeatz were the first artists to face off at the beginning of Covid 19 pandemic when the show originally started.
Since the first episode, Verzuz has become one of the most popular shows on the internet. According to Billboard, Verzuz accounts for 8 of the top 10 most viewed Instagram Lives of 2020.
Why does this matter?
It matters because Verzuz proves that live streaming has the potential to be hugely impactful. Even from the onset of the show in 2020, there isn’t a single episode that didn’t immediately reach 1 million viewers.
While many of these battles are deemed to be “love fests” between two artists who respect one another’s work, the most popular episodes are the ones that feature two people who haven’t necessarily gotten along in the past. The Gucci Mane vs. Jeezy battle, in particular, drew in over 1.8 million concurrent viewers - all hip hop lovers tuning in to see two genuine rivals face off. Another similar episode is the one with Brandy vs. Monica, another two artists who have had many public disagreements in the past - they pulled in over 1.3 million viewers.
If that’s not enough proof that live streaming is widely successful, we don’t know what is.
And what that means is live streaming is a serious contender for leading the future of communication and entertainment. For the past year, many have viewed online events and live streaming as a means to an end - something that is done because we have no other choice during a pandemic.
Verzuz, along with many other popular live-streamed shows and events, proves that sentiment wrong. Live-streaming isn’t popular just because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic; it’s popular because it’s accessible, engaging, and easy to view.
What can we take away from this?
From Twitch streamers to Tik Tokers, there’s a lot we can learn from popular online creators. With these content creators pulling in millions of views daily, they’re obviously doing something right.
Timbaland and Swizzbeatz noticed the potential that live streaming had - especially in a time where concerts and music festivals were constantly getting canceled and postponed. Instagram Live requires no payment or monthly bill. Anyone with an account can watch and comment alongside millions of others. This kind of accessibility and engagement is only possible in a live-streaming format.
While live-tweeting and other forms of social engagement have existed for a while now, there really is no comparison to what it’s like to join the chatroom on a live stream. In these chat rooms, you get to communicate with people who share your same interests instantly, in real-time.
Another huge enticing factor that Verzuz has is the incentive for engagement. While a lot of stream chatrooms are often full of opinions, ideas, and emojis, Verzuz utilizes the chat in a much more meaningful way. All of the battle’s winners are decided by the live audience - which just so happens to be the millions of people watching from behind their screens.
Although there’s a debate on how reliable Instagram Live’s audience members are when deciding their Verzuz winner, it’s needless to say that people love to feel like they’re a part of something. People like to be engaged; they want to interact with one another virtually just like they would want to in person. This engagement incentivizes people not only to join in the live stream, but also to type in the chat and communicate with others.
If anything, we need to take away the things that people love about Verzuz - the interactivity, the content, and the accessibility.