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Is live streaming temporary or here to stay?

Words by Annie-Mei Forster.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the music industry, it’s also seen a number of live streaming performances popping up online. When this is over though, and our lives go back to (somewhat) normal – will musicians and artists continue to live stream?

 

Live streaming has brought a sense of community despite distance. It allows music fans to chat and feel less isolated while they’re stuck at home. Artists such as Chris Martin, John Legend and Keith Urban have played virtual concerts on social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

With more people becoming famous through TikTok and YouTube, who is to say that live streaming isn’t the new music frontier?

 

Benefits of live streaming


The environment

Coldplay refused to tour their new album until it was environmentally beneficial so instead they chose to livestream performances from Jordan. Touring can be a carbon-intensive process especially for world tours. Stage structures need to be trucked between cities or shipped between countries, the band and crew need to be flown and bussed around and large venues require a lot of energy to power them. Plus let’s not forget about the food and plastic waste.

 

Then there’s the music fans. Even if you like to do your part for the environment, we’re all part of the problem and travel of fans to venues is the second-highest source of emissions for a smaller-scale show.

                                 

In June 2019, Australians musicians including members of Midnight Oil and Regurgitator came together to form FEAT, a platform that allows musicians to invest in solar farms to offset their carbon emissions.

 

Shy performers

It’s daunting getting up in front of a crowd of people you don’t know and hoping that they’ll get into your music. Especially bands or artists starting out, they’ll often be supporting bigger acts who have a loyal fan base. Everyone is there to see the main act, so how do you compete with that?

 

Live streaming offers a way for shy performers to play their music online. While the internet can be a cruel place, at least performing from your living room provides a barrier to you and the crowd. It’s much easier for people who do get stage fright to engage with their audience with less pressure involved.

 

Live streaming is already some musicians’ main income

For American pop singer Megan Lenius, live streaming is her primary source of income. She’s been partnered with Twitch for nearly three years. If you’re unfamiliar with Twitch, it’s like Facebook meets YouTube on crack. It’s a site that allows users to watch or broadcast live streaming or pre-recorded video of the broadcaster's video game gameplay. Apart from gaming there’s comedy, music, sports and a bunch of other things. Check it out if you’re bored!

 

While live streaming may not earn musicians the big bucks that touring does, it’s steady income that hasn’t been shaken during this coronavirus crisis.

 

UK pop singer Emma McGann was set to embark on a North American tour but had to be postponed so she turned to live streaming to replace the live tour dates with virtual ones. For every US tour date, McGann will live stream a performance with fans able to purchase a ‘virtual tour pass’ of USD$24 so they don’t miss out on a show and other perks like discounted merchandise.

 

No queues for drinks or dealing with annoying punters

Don’t you hate it when you’ve finally found a good spot where you can actually see the stage and then some moron behind you talks (or worse) and sings through the whole show? I don’t know about you but the older I get, the more easily annoyed I get by other people’s behaviour.

 

While I’m all for socialising and supporting live music, I don’t enjoy paying $14 for a beer or having multiple drinks spilled on me when the show hasn’t even started. People say it’s ‘all part of the fun’, which I may have agreed with when I was in my late teens but not any more.

 

I can see the benefits of enjoying a concert from the comfort of my home with a glass of wine in my hand, my cat in my lap and a good sound system to make me feel like I’m there. If you ask me – I’m all for live streaming music and I’d be happy to pay for it.

 

What are the disadvantages of live streaming?


Price of tickets

The experience of going to a gig can never be replaced by live streaming which is why live concert tickets will always make more money. The amount of effort that goes into sound equipment, lights, staff and sometimes even fireworks costs a lot of money. To get the same experience in your living room is impossible (at the present time).

 

Bandwidth

Live streaming requires a substantial amount of bandwidth as audio and video data is transmitted in real time over the Internet. People will excuse lagging or glitches for free live streaming gigs but if you are charging people to watch you perform, they won’t be too happy if the quality is awful and will want their money back.

 

Keeping the audience interested

Although phones can be distracting at live music events, for the most part people have their full undivided attention on the band or artist onstage. Live streaming is a whole other kettle of fish as your viewer may have 10 tabs open on their browser. What are you going to do to hold their attention so they don’t start watching Netflix or listen to music on Spotify? Live streaming may seem easy, but it requires as much planning as a live gig. 


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