In the beginning of the pandemic, everyone from mainstream artists such as Coldplay, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus to indie bands such as Sea Girls, DMA’s or Bombay Bicycle Club did livestreams for free. Over the summer, the interest in such live streamed shows dwindled and they were slowly replaced by new initiatives, such as socially distanced festivals or drive-in gigs, to offer fans a Corona-conform live music experience. With autumn having arrived and the infection rates rising once more in multiple cities in the UK, Europe and the US, the live stream concert may be experiencing a renaissance. However, more and more artists are charging fans for live streamed concerts and events – often of the same kind as they offered for free mere months ago. Are this streams worth the money?
The livestream as a business model
For artists, bookers and venues the pandemic has been catastrophic. Being stripped of their main source of income, many struggle to keep their business afloat. It stands to reason then, to monetise their online experiences. However, as so often it is the ones already being in a better financial position who are making the real money here.
For the big players in the industry, the livestream is an almost unlimited opportunity. K-Pop boy band BTS have made no less than 44 million USD with one million tickets sold. Billie Eilish sells her immersive live stream experience tickets for 30$ each while acts such as Nothing But Thieves, The Midnight or Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes start at 13£.
In the beginning of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, the focus was on urging people to stay at home using the hashtag #togetherathome. Now, the livestream has become a new business model and opportunity. Ticketing services such as Ticketmaster have started selling tickets for livestreams while Dice.fm has started hosting their own paid shows. The streaming platform NoonChorus was founded in the midst of the lockdown while existing providers such as Stageit or Maestro have certainly profited from the artists’ need to monetise their performances.
Whereas venues have a maximum capacity, the internet knows no such boundaries. Recently, Glass Animals have sold over 10.000 tickets for their “Live In The Internet” performance, writing on their facebook page:
For smaller independent and DIY artists and venues, on the other hand, there is often more limit than opportunity. Professional sound and video equipment cost money and ticket vendors or streaming platforms will also ask for their share (usually a fee that is included in the final ticket price). Without a major label and marketing campaigns to back them and a smaller fanbase, indie bands and artists have a much harder time offering their fans a virtual performance that is actually worth their money.
To support local venues, some artists have therefore played donation based shows. First and foremost Frank Turner who played for several UK venues on his “Local Venue Love” series asking fans to donate.
Proceeds of Billie Eilish’s ticket sales do not go to charity but ticket holders are eligible for exclusive merchandise of which proceeds from select items will go towards Crew Nation, a charitable fund created by Livenation to help support the countless crew members affected by events and concert cancelations. So how about a 60$ hoodie on top of the 30$ ticket?
A map of UK Venues that you can support via donations
Should you pay for a livestream concert?
The internet has everything and most of it comes for free. So why would you pay for what is essentially a live video of your favourite band? Other than the wish to support your favourite artists and venues, there doesn’t seem to be a lot in it for you. To be fair, a livestream will never be able to replace live music which is exactly why the nature of the stream needs to be reconsidered.
Some artists, like Glass Animals, The Weeknd or IDLES, are already making new approaches to the medium, offering chat rooms, meet and greets and other interactions for and with their fans. But even so, for many the livestream will remain nothing more than a nice addition to listening to their favourite artists via their preferred medium. With live music unlikely to come back any time soon, the livestream could be an opportunity for fans to support their favourite artists and venues and also to connect with one another in a way that is in line with social distancing.