At the start of the pandemic, the live music industry had to scramble to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, with many opting to explore live streaming shows for the first time. This leap into online programming was welcomed by many disabled music fans, as offering the kind of accessibility they had been asking for without success for years. As the world starts to open up, we consider what the future of live music holds, and what positives we can bring with us into the future.
91% of people who had attended a live-stream since the beginning of 2020 said they would continue watching live-streams even as live music returns.
Live-streamed concerts earned $610 million last year on the virtual presentations- more money than made from downloads- and are likely to maintain a strong presence beyond 2021. This is supported by research from Mandolin, which found that 91% of people who had attended a live-stream since the beginning of 2020 said they would continue watching live-streams even as live music returns.
Many festival promoters were forced to realise the potential of online communities, and the fact that their audiences are keen to engage year round, rather than just the several days they may spend on site. Live streams, playlists and video content are great ways to engage diverse audiences and add value to connection.
While some will be feeling the fatigue of 18 months of online shows, many are keen to keep the option going, opting for a hybrid approach, offering both streamed and socially distant in person experiences. Adaptations of this nature will be welcomed by disability and deafness advocates, who are urging for accessibility to remain a top priority. This also removes geographical barriers, meaning that artists can reach a global audience more easily.
The creative potential of live streamed or recorded gigs is an exciting frontier for artists. While Amazon normally opt for a more traditional streamed show with live audience to celebrate their discount event, Prime Day, this year they created three lavish 25 minute musical films with big name artists H.E.R., Kid Cudi and Billie Eilish.
Amazon succeeded in creating an immersive digital experience and relevant cultural event.
The format allowed locations and effects that encapsulated the escapism and excitement that audiences currently long for, allowing them to travel to Paris, the past, and the Moon. Amazon succeeded in creating an immersive experience and cultural event relevant to the times. It will be interesting to see what approach they take next year, whether this will prove a one off, or set the tone for their trajectory.
Not all adapted events during the time of Covid have been so successful however. Glastonbury’s scaled down virtual replacement for the three day music festival was hit by technical problems, with fans left disappointed that they were unable to access the paid event and demanding refunds.
Covid restrictions have also fuelled the rapid innovation of virtual and augmented reality in live music, with the biggest concert of 2020 taking place inside a video game. More than 27 million people logged into Fortnite to watch a colossal animated version of rapper Travis Scott perform live. Players used their avatars to dance and explore a custom-designed psychedelic game world.
Other success stories include Dua Lipa’s ‘Studio 2054’ presentation, which garnered an impressive five million viewers, and South Korean boy band BTS’s ‘Bang Bang Con’ 2 day event that made an estimated $19.7 million in ticket sales.
Global promoter Live Nation announced in January that it had acquired a majority stake in livestreaming company Veeps Inc., which hosted close to 1,000 ticketed streaming shows in 2020, suggesting that the pandemic is only accelerating a trend toward virtual and streaming experiences.
So if you’re having Zoom fatigue, and can’t wait to get back to the intangible magic of live music in person, it looks like you may not have to wait too much longer. Sharing, discovering and revelling in live music is something we’ll never tire of. However, it is exciting that better accessibility and creative innovation are likely to be the legacy of this strange and unpredictable time. As with home working, a hybrid approach is likely to be the outcome. Event creators who make every decision with fans in mind will be rewarded with their loyalty.