AWS for M&E Blog

Headliner reimagines the virtual concert experience with Amazon IVS


While most music is accessible today via streaming services, the allure of experiencing performances live remains strong as fans seek out concerts and festivals. When the global pandemic halted large gatherings, artists began exploring alternate ways to continue performing, typically via live streams ranging from intimate and low-fi setups to clones of stage shows in empty halls. Inspired to help deliver a more dynamic virtual concert experience, Headliner Founder and CEO Matt Smolin began building a new way for artists to connect with fans. Leveraging Amazon Interactive Video Service (Amazon IVS) for ultra-low latency streaming, Headliner established a new medium for performers to host live, interactive virtual concert events.

Initially built to democratize ticket sales, Headliner quickly evolved to fill a pandemic-era gap. “When the world went into lockdown, in-person concerts were cancelled, and we saw a lot of band-aid solutions arise, none of which really stood out,” Smolin explained. “Artists are used to performing on a stage, which is a necessity for live audiences. However, it’s inherently restricting, so if the audience is virtual, there’s no reason to be tied down to a specific venue or limit the performance space. In that respect, Headliner doesn’t replicate or replace a traditional concert, but instead allows artists to create a totally new experience from whatever location fits their vision.”

Diplo, DUCKWRTH, Lil Yachty, Melanie Martinez, Madison Beer and UPSAHL represent just some acts that have leveraged Headliner, with production prep running the gamut from a day to a month or more. Comprising prolific music video creators and skilled software engineers, the team behind the platform works together behind the scenes to help artists dream up and implement each experience. Headliner events boast the high production value of pre-recorded content, but a majority are executed live, which means video latency is crucial.

“Achieving high-quality, low latency video streams is an important part of what we do, because we want fans to have a great, real-time experience, and a lot of that comes down to interactivity. With Amazon IVS powering our video, there’s never a concern about quality or latency. Headliner artists are able to keep the audience energized and engaged, which not only helps boost the performance and overall experience, but also helps drive merchandise sales, which is also done through Headliner,” noted Smolin.


Even as artists start easing back into tours, Headliner provides a concert-going complement, allowing performers to flex their creativity and reach fans that they may not have otherwise been able to. Rising singer-song writer UPSAHL’s application of the platform for a virtual EP release is a testament to what’s possible with Headliner. Filmed cinematically with three camera feeds inside multiple locations at a hotel, the high production value initially led some viewers to speculate whether the show was actually prerecorded in the chat window, that was until UPSAHL began addressing comments in real-time and the audience was able weigh in on choices that directly impacted the experience.

“What we’re able to provide with Headliner using Amazon IVS is unlike anything a fan would be able to experience in the real world, because of the way the video is shot and the set pieces involved. It’s far more personal, and gives artists direct access to their fans at low cost,” said Smolin. “Not only was UPSAHL’s Headliner event an exciting live experience, but it was also recorded so that content could be repurposed for music videos or other formats.”

Along with using Amazon IVS for live streaming video, Headliner relies on a range of solutions from Amazon Web Services (AWS). Headliner has already seen 50,000 concurrent viewers for its largest audience, which is expected to grow as more artists, labels and festivals consider Headliner’s unique ground-breaking approach to virtual performances.

Looking to the future, while initially designed for the music industry, Smolin anticipates Headliner will be useful for other applications. He concluded, “Headliner can be used as an efficient and effective means to engage a global audience in almost any way imaginable.”

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James Murphy

James Murphy

James worked in the broadcast industry right out of college and specialized in shooting, video editing and writing. In 2001, he transitioned to working with broadcast gear manufacturers, first with Fast Multimedia with stops along the way at Pinnacle Systems, Avid, Telestream and Elemental Technologies. James is an AWS Elemental Sr Sales Specialist.