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Verzuz – the Virtual DJ Battle

By Elijah Foster

Before March 2020, music artists were thriving on social media, no matter what the tier. Artists relied on social media in addition to live performances to maximize their earnings and their brands. Once Covid-19 hit, venues closed. Everything shut down and people were relegated to staying inside. Mindless scrolling online can only take one so far until two visionaries come up with a concept that is sweeping the internet. Verzuz, a music webcast series. Each event so far highlights a hip-hop or R&B musician, however the last two battles have featured groups.

The idea, according to Swiss Beatz, stemmed from something unexpected that happened during Hot 97’s Summer Jam Concert back in 2018 with a ‘producer clash’. It was almost eerily similar to what happened at Summer Jam in 2008, when Swiss Beatz went up against Kanye West.

It works like this. Two distinguished producers or singer/songwriters across all genres of music come together either remotely on Instagram live or, more recently, in the same venue. They compete to show off who has the best inventory. Each battle has 20 rounds, with each participant playing a song and the other counteracting with their own. Timbaland and Swiss Beatz did an interview with 105.1 radio show ‘The Breakfast Club’ to elaborate on what has the internet buzzing,“We see Verzuz as a win for the artists, and audiences because it’s just a chance sit back and forget about the ’bad news’ that’s transpired over the last year,” said Swiss Beatz

For the first official Verzuz battle, live via Instagram, Timbaland and Swiss Beatz went head to head with the rules being 20 songs vs 20 songs. The event went on for five hours and garnered an estimated 22,000 views. While it’s typically not supposed to be scored or judged, Billboard Magazine and social media take it upon themselves to score the events. In the same Breakfast Club interview, they explained how they envisioned ‘Verzuz’ playing out. They said it began as friendly competition.

Verzuz is an event that is not only well received in the music community but also in other aspects of entertainment as well. For example, major news networks such as CNN and ABC News have covered stories on what has social media in a frenzy. Notable well known figures have tuned in to Instagram such as Jamie Foxx, Ziggy Marley, and Bobby Brown. Steve Harvey hosted an event that featured Earth, Wind and Fire vs The Isley Brothers. Oprah Winfrey and Vice President Kamala Harris both came and wished performers good luck. Christina, who is 25, says her favorite Verzuz is Erykah Badu and Jill Scott because those are two artists that she genuinely listens to most. It has helped black culture as well as the music scene because Verzuz is a celebration of our legends.

According to verzuz.tv, on average every battle receives about 422,978 (.571428571429) apex views. For example, when Brandy and Monica were on in August 2020, they were the #1 Trending Topic & Various 2-30 Trends on Twitter. They generated more than 1 million tweets in the USA, which surpassed the Twitter coverage of the 2020 VMA’s. That, in addition to more than 1.9 million tweets globally.

Janelle Griffith of nbcnews.com highlighted the impact of one Verzuz event  on an artist. “On Sept. 1, a day after the singers Brandy and Monica battled on Verzuz, they had 30 out of 40 of the top songs on Apple Music’s Top 40 R&B & Soul Tracks chart, which has been attributed to the Verzuz effect,” wrote Griffith.

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