Now at home, people bring their offline passions online with YouTube

Gina Shalavi, Yiğit Yücel / June 2020

For many months, we've been exploring how people around the world look to online video to adjust to life during a pandemic. From finding new ways to connect with people while social distancing to learning how to replicate activities they would normally outsource, we’ve seen people gravitate to YouTube to cope with and adapt to life at home.

With the world a few more months into the COVID-19 crisis, we continue to see new at-home behaviors emerge that go beyond simply addressing daily essentials. From concerts to live streams to religious ceremonies, people are discovering new and unique ways to bring their offline passions online, and using YouTube as that bridge.

Here are three ways we’re seeing people turn to online video to experience things they love during the pandemic.

Indulging in the arts

This year’s music festival season was either canceled or postponed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Almost immediately, live streams emerged across Asia as a digital replacement to alleviate fan disappointment, boost morale, and give people a way to continue enjoying their favorite music.

However, some artists went a step further, using YouTube and their art to raise funds for people most affected by the pandemic. On April 30, hundreds of thousands of live viewers in India tuned in to One Nation India, an online event that brought together renowned YouTube creators, musicians, sportspeople, and entertainers to help raise funds for PM CARES, a public charitable trust aimed at COVID-19 relief. The 11.5-hour marathon show featured singing, dancing, and cooking, reaching 18.4 million views. Similar online concerts aimed at raising funds and awareness emerged across Asia, including One Love Asia and Asia Rising Forever.

Live streaming has become the default solution to help people pursue their passions online and virtually attend events while social distancing, whether it’s music, theater, or film. In South Korea, MBC — one of the largest broadcasters in the country — prepared an at-home concert featuring the artist, ZICO.

Similarly, fans were given the chance to experience BTS’s concerts online, called “Bang Bang Con,” in place of the postponed tour. The online concerts were streamed on the same dates as their canceled Seoul show, and fans could also stream previous BTS concerts for free on YouTube. The two-day online concert amassed over 50 million views.

In Japan, film studio Shochiku, which owns a kabuki theater (a form of traditional Japanese drama), has released filmed kabuki acts without an audience for the first time — with a limited run on YouTube. In lieu of live audience connections, the theater introduced “Kabuki Talk Sessions” with the artists to provide a more in-depth viewing experience for those watching from home. Even events have moved online through live streaming, with one of the most prestigious movie awards in Asia, the Hong Kong Film Awards, live streaming its 39th edition. Away from entertainment, ABC in Australia commemorated ANZAC Day online with live-streamed services for people to pay their respects from home.

And it isn’t just prominent institutions making live music and performing arts available virtually. Since March 15, more than 1,500 videos with “virtual choir” in the title have been uploaded to YouTube, earning over 9 million views.1 Take Voices of Singapore as proof. Their rendition of Singapore’s most well-loved song, “Home,” was brought to life by filming more than 900 people across 26 countries, singing together online. Similarly, creators across India celebrated World Dance Day by filming themselves dancing in their own houses to the same song and editing the footage together to form a four-minute video, generating over 2.5 million views.

Keeping the faith

Restrictions around mass gatherings have also had a significant impact on how and where people worship and practice their spirituality. As churches, temples, and mosques around the world closed, many religious leaders took their services online as a way to continue to connect with the faithful while limiting physical interaction — and the faithful have embraced this new digital approach.

During March, for example, when Pope Francis began live streaming Mass from the Vatican, the Catholic TV Broadcasting Corporation of South Korea live streamed the ceremonies in Korean, generating over 400,000 views. In the Philippines, people around the country attended Easter Sunday Mass online. Similarly, in Thailand, Buddhist prayers were live streamed to help people pray as a community while maintaining social distancing.

In April, Ramadan brought a renewed interest of people looking online for spiritual community. In India, people shared their Ramadan routine during COVID-19, with videos of breaking fast and eating dinner with friends proving popular in Indonesia. In Malaysia, the National Mosque (Masjid Negara) broadcasted the nightly prayer, allowing people to pray together even while at home. And as the month of fasting ended, artists in India celebrated with an original song that was viewed over 2 million times.

Connecting over shared interests

The opportunity to venture out and connect with others who share our interests — whether it’s a book club, a cooking class, or cafe culture — has all but vanished during this pandemic. As a result, we’ve seen an uptick in viewers turning to YouTube for a temporary alternative.

One way people are connecting with like-minded communities is through “Day in the Life” videos, which allow everyone from college students, celebrities, and even pensioners to share what a typical day is like for them. Uploads for this genre have increased more than 85% since March 15, compared with the start of the year.2 Since social distancing restrictions have been in place, we’ve seen a subgenre emerge that exposes daily behavior under quarantine; videos with “day in the life” and “quarantine” in the title crossed a milestone of 100 daily uploads on March 21.3

As we’ve adapted the way we live and how we do the things we love, online video has emerged as a resource for keeping passions alive. Whether enjoying a virtual choir performance, sharing a meal together, or connecting virtually for daily prayers, video is helping a world under lockdown feel a little less restricted.

5 ways people are turning to YouTube to cope while social distancing