(Hypebot) — “The return of live music is just the beginning for remote gig watching – not the end,” writes Alex Brims of Lickd who says their long-term success depends on major innovation.
by Alex Brims, CTO at music for social media licensing platform Lickd
2020 was certainly a difficult year to be a music fan. Seeing every gig that I was meant to go to get delayed, delayed again, or even canceled entirely was a uniquely disappointing experience that I hope never to go through again. But that is nothing compared to what is happening on the other side, with the artists themselves. Being unable to go to a gig is bad, but nothing compared to having your whole livelihood thrown into jeopardy by circumstances far beyond your control.
Even now as we approach the halfway point of 2021, things are not back to normal. There’s a mixture of excitement and nervousness for the time ahead, with Live Nation having already booked twice as many shows in 2022 as they did in 2019 and having sold 170,000 tickets in 3 days for UK festivals. The optimism shown in the sales contrasts with a general attitude of “if it goes ahead”, and the fact that over a quarter of UK festivals over 5,000 capacity are now being canceled. But just because we’re all craving the return of live music doesn’t mean we shouldn’t appreciate the huge leaps forward that the industry has made in bringing live music to us at home.
While livestreaming events and bedroom concerts might have begun out of necessity at the beginning of lockdown, they represent an acceleration of an existing trend in how consumers engage with media in general. Namely, that streaming is the default way audiences consume music, film, TV and increasingly even video games.
“how much was their success came down to the limitations brought about by lockdown?”
Lewis Capaldi sold more tickets to his virtual gig in aid of charity CALM than his recent sold-out Wembley Arena show. Dua Lipa’s huge ‘Studio 2054’ live streamed show with an audience estimated to be around 5 million. Perhaps most interestingly, popular battle-royale shooter Fortnite has presented a series of in-game concerts including a psychedelic extravaganza with rap superstar Travis Scott, demonstrating the potentially huge implications for how music intersects with gaming.
Each of these events was certainly unique, but how much was their success came down to the limitations brought about by lockdown? Could we ever see these formats become not a replacement for, but a viable alternative to traditional live events?
“One of the most important parts of the live experience, the two-way engagement between artists and the crowd, is proving the most difficult to replicate.”
Most livestreams in the last 12 months have been a case of watching a video of an artist at home or in a studio, with the added knowledge that you are watching the performance happening live in real time. Things like Twitch’s chat function or live-tweeting along with the performance offer a facsimile of audience involvement, but there is no movement involved, no possibility of wandering past a stage and hearing something incredible that’s completely new and unexpected, and no sing-a-longs (at least not in my house). One of the most important parts of the live experience, the two-way engagement between artists and the crowd, is proving the most difficult to replicate.
Technology can help fill this gap, taking us beyond bedroom sets livestreams towards something closer to the traditional live experience. To pick a recent example, Tobacco Dock hosted a large-scale “virtual” club night, where the audience-controlled videogame-style avatars and can make them dance, move around the dancefloor, or from room-to-room. Similar to Fortnite’s concert concept, but with the key difference of it all taking place in a real venue, with the performers integrated into the virtual space. We’re seeing similar things emerge from MelodyVR and Tidal’s collaboration with Oculus, underlining the future potential for virtual reality to offer an alternative to attending live events rather than a replacement. As hardware costs continue to fall, VR has the potential to move towards mass adoption
While much of the focus so far has been on the superstar acts and their blockbuster shows, there are opportunities for acts at every level. Australian startup Blind Chihuahua is providing the ability for lesser-known acts to produce paid livestreams through their mobile studio that can bring the livestreaming capability to wherever the performer is, and next month will be launching an interactive “virtual concert” platform. Also providing improved revenue potential here is livestream platform Veeps, which aims to “facilitate enhanced engagement” and offer “intimate VIP experiences” to artists and audiences.
The pandemic has made huge changes to our lives and our futures, changes that nobody anticipated or prepared for. The new possibilities that have presented themselves in the last year show us new ways in which we can improve on the live experience, making it more accessible to audiences and more profitable for artists. While the return to normal is still a little way off, the lessons we have learned and the tools we have used in the last year will remain important long beyond the end of the pandemic, and we should look forward to a period of real innovation for the live music scene in the years ahead.