Tech Lessons From Monica & Brandy’s Epic Verzuz Battle

The epic battle between Monica and Brandy has been in the making for about two decades. So it should have broken the internet. It turns out the internet could take it. But, can our internet stand that much heat?


Here is a brief about the Verzuz Battle from Wikipedia. “Verzuz, also known as Verzuz TV, is a webcast series created by producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. It was conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic as a virtual DJ battle, with Timbaland and Swizz Beatz facing off in its first iteration through an Instagram Live broadcast in March 2020.”

Let’s dig in.

As I watched the Monica versus Brandy Verzuz battle, I was quite intrigued by the technical aspects of the whole setup. The number of viewers spiked to 1.2 million concurrent viewers who watched from an Instagram handle. Further stats are shown below.

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Here are a couple of my musings that I penned as I watched the show.

  • Was there a correlation to the number of songs searched on Google, Shazam and streaming platforms from Brandy and Monicas previous albums?
  • In addition, what was the translation of this to monetary gains of the songs as streamed from the various music streaming platforms? And are the gains better in comparison to a face to face concert? This is called The Verzuz Effect.
  • Internet stability; Perhaps we should have gotten to rate ISPs during the experience. It was a good time (3 am) for streaming in Kenya. Speed pipelines were not congested hence most people were able to access Verzuz without any challenges.
  • Brand equity and digital campaign of the Verzuz. This should be a case study in branding and leveraging individuals as brands to bring in the digital concert experience. It’s a simple concept. One that is well-articulated, and orchestrated.
  • Infrastructure scalability; for a minute here, think about it this way. 1.1 million users were logged in on Instagram. One handle live-streamed for two hours plus and no interruption from different locations globally. Not from sound, camera, internet or power, or interruptions from the platform. Think also about Instagram cloud build and its performance during this session.

Here are some stats Verzuz released after the show.

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I would like to pick on infrastructure stability here. To bring this closer to home, think about these scenarios.

  • At the beginning of each month especially when schools re-open, most banking systems keep going down. YIKES!
  • Filing of tax returns. Users encounter different variations of errors as the deadline approaches.
  • Email disaster. After sending an email to a recipient you receive an email indicating that their mailbox is FULL (and this is in 2020).
  • Small organisations. After-sale receipts are sometimes hard to come by with a system that is always down.
  • A closer comparison would be when we all watched OUR Kenyan Superhero, Eliud Kipchoge break the two-hour marathon barrier and Internet instability rocked the experience. Internet speeds dropped as the number of concurrent viewers from Kenya connected to watch.
  • Another comparison is how during this pandemic, local celebrities tried performing online. Some of the challenges they encountered were copyright issues, sound optimisation, lack of experience in digital experience curation, and financial resources.

Things are not always gloomy though. Here are a couple of much happier comparisons.

  • There are a couple of DJs who’ve mastered the art of live performances as well as monetisation over the Internet such as DJ Joe Mfalme. Working around the challenges seamlessly and garnering over 5,000 views.
  • In addition, local musicians such as Sauti Sol (over 30,000 views with 210,000 views 12 hours later), and Nyashinski (over 15,000 views on YT Live with 8,000 more on Instagram), aced their YouTube Live performances.
  • Multiple brands, influencers have taken over live features on multiple platforms including Zoom integration and have succeeded at different scales based on their targeted audience.

Going back to technology scalability, perhaps it’s time to redesign infrastructure needs to meet flexible demands at scale. This means conducting network audits and planning for flexible peak times and allocating resources accordingly. If you haven’t migrated to cloud, and you have resource demands, maybe its time to rethink the why. Cloud models allow for flexibility of usage of resources and optimisation of the same. Maybe it’s time to move your organisation to cloud to allow this kind demand-driven flexibility and scalability

The latest Verzuz took place on 13 September 2020 between musical greats Gladys Knight and Patti Labelle. And finally, if you haven’t experienced Verzuz yet, Wikipedia invites you to put on your Sunday best and join viewers like “former First Lady of the United States Michelle ObamaOprahPatti LaBelleZiggy MarleySteve HarveyBobby BrownJamie Foxx.” Major media outlets ABC News and CNN have covered what is being called a “social media phenomenon.” Also, who do you think won the Battle?

Mercy Njue is the founder and Data Strategist at Botlab Kenya.

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