“Necessity is the mother of invention”
We wouldn’t normally quote Plato here but the times we’re in are far from normal. With the day-to-day rhythms of life so severely disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, many people are facing a significant reduction in income. Musicians around the world are adapting to the current reality, using the internet and social media in new ways to maintain contact with their fans but also developing an important new income stream. Sally Maybury shares her experiences of the new phenomenum so far, and takes a glimpse into a possible future for touring artists…
For weeks now a vast proportion of the world has been thrown into lockdown because of the pandemic that we all know and love as Covid-19. For many this has also meant that going about our normal day to day jobs is near to impossible, and that of course impedes on income and finances.
Every singer and band out there has lost weeks, if not months of money from gigs, touring and merchandise sales. Concerts have been canceled due to restrictions on travel and the associated lock-down situation. Not content with simply being at home doing house renovations or gardening (we’ll all be living in show homes when it’s over!) many artists have turned to the power of social media to offer their fans live stream lockdown concerts. Sat in the comfort of their own homes, we’re being serenaded by a series of raw, stripped down, intimate performances. Three weeks into the lock-down here in the UK, it got me thinking.
When we all began to stay at home as per government guidelines, we had the choice of maybe a handful of artists to tune in to and watch them perform. I carefully started tracking those who were offering live streams. It soon became a full time job just keeping up with who was doing what and when, and on which media service. Add into that the time differences between the various countries and continents and it quickly became near to impossible to watch everything that was on offer.
An Over Saturated Market?
So, here was my first issue. Has it just become too saturated a market now? Arguably you could say that it’s no different to the music industry anyway, these artists are all out there selling records, and tickets for their gigs anyway, so what’s the difference?
Well, the difference is that pre-Coronavirus they were not all doing it once a week, or once every few days, or every day, direct into our homes.
Another issue is that it all has a danger of becoming a bit ‘samey’ (and in some cases I find they’re a bit too long). There doesn’t seem to be many that are standing out from the crowd. I’m no expert in live streaming, and I certainly don’t profess to know what everybody wants or needs, but something different every now and again would surely help? Take my favourite bit of live streaming so far. Charles Esten, an incredible artist to see live, we’ve written about him many a time on here. We know and have said how kick-ass he is on a stage, so to see him uncovered and raw is different to begin with. At the time of writing, Charles has only done two live stream ‘events’. The second one featured a collaboration with Lennon & Maisy Stella of a song from the ‘Nashville’ TV show. He followed the song with a mini interview with the girls too. Due to the current situation it was pre-recorded and edited together (technology isn’t so good that we can get a few artists together live – not yet at least) but even so it added a different dimension to the whole thing.
I’m far from complaining about it all. I’ve always wanted to see the likes of Dierks Bentley live and now I can tick him off my list, as such. But I have found as the time has gone on there are, dare I say it, too many. As the lock-down looks to be far from over I imagine there will be plenty more live stream sessions to come. So, moving on I guess it’s just a case of trying to be selective as to a) which ones I want to watch and b) how many I have the time to squeeze in around the rest of my life! I guess it’s not so much different if they were over doing a live show here. Except then I’d also have to factor in all the costs relating to it too, which leads me onto my next point.
What is the longevity of live streaming?
For many of these artists, they’re doing it not only to relive boredom but also to try and drag in some of the money they have lost, and will continue to lose whilst we’re all stuck indoors. Some are simply posting a link to donation sites like Paypal or Vinmo, others are streaming through services such as StageIt whereby you have to buy a ticket in order to access the live stream. Some have even created special merchandise which is linked to their online streaming sessions.
Love it or hate it, technology has for many of us become a lifeline in the current situation. It’s a way of keeping in touch with friends, family and loved ones. It’s also pretty amazing that I can sit on my couch in my pjs and watch my favourite artists singing from their couch, thousands of miles away in another country!
Record sales in general have seen a steady decline since the uptake of streaming services, and whilst the artist does receive some money from Spotify, iTunes, etc I don’t believe it’s a huge amount. For many artists live performances are now the main source of their income. However this comes at a cost to the artist, with time away from home and family being a large part of that cost. That’s always been the deal for a touring performer. Maybe we’re about to see that change? Could live streaming become a more permanent and potent tool in the future?
Nothing will ever replace the enjoyment and sheer excitement of seeing an artist live on stage, but right now live streaming is helping to bridge the gap. In the UK we might be lucky to see any particular artist from the USA performing over here once a year. Some only come every few years. Could live streaming help us to see more? Will artists continue to explore the potential for live streaming in the post-Coronavirus world? And will the audience still be there once the venues open up again, and people can look forward once more to spending the evening in a dark, smelly room buying overpriced drinks where half the people there seem only to want to talk over the act on stage?
I’d be interested to know your thoughts too, but for now, stay safe, stay home and we shall have one heck of a party when it’s all over!