We’ll spare you the 2020 clichés. If there’s anything more tiresome than the last 8 or so months, it’s the trend of complaining about it.
The romantic nihilism has run its course and it’s now time to look forward. To hell with ‘uncertainty’. From this point forward, it is certain that some areas of life will never return to their pre-2020 form. One of those areas is live entertainment.
Free, livestreamed events worked to stem the bleeding, for both musicians and their fans, offering a creative outlet and an escape respectively. But it’s ticketed livestreamed events that will keep many bands afloat. It’s important to accept ticket livestreams not as a restriction of access based on purchasing power, but as an investment in the future of the culture.
The considerable pushback at the mere mention of such events defies belief. Why, all of a sudden, are our favourite bands no longer worth our hard-earned cash?
If you truly believe that ‘exposure’ is a usable currency, go tell your landlord that this month you’ll tell all your friends how sick their property management services are rather than paying rent – see what happens.
Whatever your personal take may be, livestreamed events are the tangible future. Unless you’re willing to trudge through an unfiltered mess that hit us like a tidal wave of creative diarrhoea at the start of the pandemic, we’re going to need to pay for them. You needn’t look much further than all the social work that musicians have done for the public in the past 8 months to see that livestreamed performances aren’t simply something we should tolerate; the idea that our favourite musicians have found a sustainable way to maintain a line of sight to income is something that we should be thrilled about.
It’s a trend that music/tech expert Cherie Hu has already clocked as a fascinating pivot and once more bands behold the effectiveness of direct-to-fan channels as a way to subsidise lost revenue, more will hitch their wagon to it.
“Why, all of a sudden, are our favourite bands no longer worth our hard-earned cash?”
After all, BTS’s Bang Bang Con generated $20 million in a single show last month. And while such eye-watering figures are largely reserved for, well, the BTS’s of the world, take for instance the recent PPV livestream from In Hearts Wake, or the upcoming PPV event for Northlane scheduled for Friday, 21st August through Saturday, 22nd August and featuring their iconic home ground headline performance from 2019; these are largely the first opportunities for the bands to recoup since the start of the year.
Before our eyes, the traditional systems that supported live entertainment have failed, many beyond repair. Venues will close, bands will break up and touring companies will collapse. If the top dogs like Live Nation are struggling, with that particular touring titan recording a 98% drop in revenue, what does that mean for the low to mid-tier operators?
The reality, and largely unspoken truth, is that live music will likely never return to what it was until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine, and until said vaccine is effectively distributed and administered. And to be fair, nor should we want it to return a moment sooner. Even the most optimistic perspective puts that at least 12 months away.
With live income – both ticket sales and merch takings – picking up a lot of the slack left behind by plunging album sales and streaming figures, which by some estimates have dropped around 30% globally in the rock genres (around 10% just in the US) since the start of the pandemic, that sounds the death knell for musicians.
Streaming aside, digital sales didn’t fair much better, dropping 10.7% in the US, the biggest decline in digital single sales since Alpha Data began monitoring them, per Rolling Stone.
These same musicians who, since the horrific Australian bushfires in January, have been sacrificing their income for the greater good; all of whom saw that moment as their civil duty rather than some contra agreement.
Whether it was donating a percentage of their merch sales to the fearless and criminally underfunded firefighters and victims, or waiving their performance fee in the good name of charity events, there’s no possible way to overstate the role the entertainment sector played.
While it was the Celeste’s and Coldplay’s of the world that brought in the big bucks, it was also the Amity Affliction’s, Northlane’s, Trophy Eyes’, Camp Copes’ and their fellow contemporaries all over the world that operate within a razor thin profit margin yet contributed immensely.
To put it frankly, we should be tripping over ourselves to buy tickets to Northlane’s upcoming pay-per-view livestream. It’s literally the least we can do.