Quarantine has led to the proliferation of livestreamed concerts, confirming the need for music in uncertain times. I’d guess that many more people are checking out livestreams than regularly went to shows before the pandemic. And like every other change that’s occurred in quarantine’s wake, there’s a lot of thought on how livestreaming might remain established once things normalize (fingers crossed). Before COVID-19, there were suggestions that virtual touring might gain popularity as a means to offset the environmental toll of actual touring. Current events have pushed the prospect to the forefront for entirely different reasons.
It seems there are two main categories of livestreamed concerts. First, there’s the streamed band performance, like a concert movie with the artists playing a straightforward set from a stage. And, secondly, the intimate live-from-home show, where band members — individually or together — perform casual, stripped-down versions of songs. The nature of live-streaming changes the dynamics of performance through its limitations, but, for the most part, it’s an imitation of an in-person performance. Here’s Cherie Hu in Pitchfork:
Recreating such emotions in livestreaming requires taking advantage of the medium, which often means getting rid of the superfluous spectacle you might otherwise see in normal stage setups. From the fan’s perspective, the “stage” in a livestream is just the screen, and the audience is the chat room. There’s a diminished sense of hierarchy between artist and the fan, leading to interactions that can be much more social, interactive, and intimate.
There’s a lot for the artist to lean into here. The trick is emphasizing the unique aspects of livestreaming — the loss of hierarchy, the ability to interact with fans (and for them to interact with each other), the flat screen — rather than relying on what’s lost. The platforms that win are the ones that build features that could only exist in a digitally livestreamed ecosystem. And the artists fully exploring and exploiting these features will have the upper hand, too.
Creating experiences that are exclusive to a live-streaming format — you won’t get this in clubs! — also adds possibilities for monetization. The key is giving something special, not found elsewhere. Free streams of concerts are found all over YouTube, and, to offer a high-profile example, Coachella livestreamed the last few festivals without any fee. As DJs are also finding out with their DJ sets, years of offering performances for free makes monetization of similar content difficult. Getting creative and thinking far outside of what happens in a club environment is a must.
Another note: if, after COVID-19, live-streaming remains an established part of a band’s marketing and income toolbox, then I see an opportunity for studio spaces and music venues. Many cities could have brick-and-mortar ‘livestream studios’ where bands could perform. These spaces would have the technology and infrastructure to stream performances and make each one distinct and tailored to the act. The interactive and livestream-exclusive features I mention above are built-in, with each studio offering a different specialty or feature set. Engineers and staff are on hand to manage technical as well as online (e.g., chatroom and social media) tasks. The artist would book a date, plan the details of the performance, show up, and play. The business could be stand-alone, or part of a live music venue, a recording studio, or even a co-working space. And it’s not just for bands — theatrical plays, author readings, performance art, and academic talks are some of the other potential client use cases. If live-streaming continues its path to normalization and you’re an entrepreneur looking for a future business idea, this might be something to consider.