With life as we know it coming to a screeching halt this year - livestream concerts have turned out to be one of only a few ways the music industry has maintained some semblance of normalcy in 2020.
It’s exciting to see light at the end of the tunnel with COVID vaccines already in production. It has also been fun to see innovative new limited capacity live show concepts. And yes - by that I’m referring to The Flaming Lips’ “Space Bubble Concerts” - which I have a feeling might change the game for all of us.
“anyone that performs for a living needs to remember: it’s unrealistic to think 2021 will be a return to business as usual.”
For now though - anyone that performs for a living needs to remember: it’s unrealistic to think 2021 will be a return to business as usual. The good news is that we’ve seen from experience this year - livestreams have the potential to create up to 5 different layers of value for artists. Like with anything else it just takes some experimentation, hard work, and patience to figure out the formula for success.
What makes a great livestream?
I think it’s important to first address the elephant in the room. There haven’t been that many memorable livestreams this year. Not many music fans I know have mentioned a livestream show that I have to check out. Of course there are obvious challenges to pulling off a memorable livestream. The problem right now is deeper than that though. Most of what I’ve seen from artists all over the spectrum has been fairly predictable, formulaic, and uninspired. These shows make me feel like everyone is just buying time, going through the motions, and waiting for things to get back to normal.
Obviously there have been more than a few exceptions to that, though. My personal favorite livestream this year is probably Post Malone’s Nirvana Tribute Livestream (which at this point has raised over $7 million for the World Health Organization). To me this set checks all the boxes. It sounds great and it makes you feel like you’re watching greatness. There was obviously a ton of preparation and money that went into getting this right, but it’s still imperfect, spontaneous, and not overthought.
How can livestreams create value for you?
“When you do it right - one livestream show can create up to 5 different layers of value for you and your project.”
Knowing how to connect with fans virtually is not only a good tool in a pinch, but a great way to stay connected with fans when real-life touring doesn't make sense. It remains to be seen how remote-life will fundamentally change how we work and socialize beyond the pandemic. Rest assured though - having the ability to flip on a camera and reach fans all across the world from the comfort of your home will be an essential tool in your kit for years to come.
When you do it right - one livestream show can create up to 5 different layers of value for you and your project. Here’s a snapshot of the value-add we’ve seen so far this year:
1. Fan Connection
Aside from the obvious - the biggest loss of the pandemic has been the connection you create with your fans each night on stage. This fundamental human connection is what fuels the forward motion of your project, and without it you’re always slowly losing that momentum.
While livestreams aren’t a perfect replacement for the loss of fan connection this year. They can also give your fans something a typical live show can’t: a unique experience that gives a closer look behind the curtain. Take advantage of the fact that your livestream can provide fans a more unique personal experience than a typical live show.
2. Ticket Sales, Tips, & Donations
In our experience it doesn’t matter how many fans you have - most artists are actually able to make more money hosting a free event with tips than they are actually selling tickets. Of course that requires you to deliver an experience your fans think is valuable.
While it's important to be realistic when predicting how much money you hope to generate, odds are you’ll be surprised when you put on a great show how many people will go out of their way to support you financially.
3. Streams & Merch Sales
When you put on a great show it creates a lasting connection with your fans. It’s why your fans come up to the merch table in droves to buy merch after a great show. And why they listen to your music for weeks and months after your show.
If you actively promote your merch store before, during, and after your livestream shows you will notice a spike in sales.
4. Social Media & Advertising Content
Once you’ve filmed something great - your new live content can be repurposed in an infinite number of ways. But only if the sounds and/or production value are good enough.
When deciding whether or not to invest in making your livestream sound or look a little bit better - remember how valuable this content can and will be once you’ve filmed it.
5. Sync Licensing
Sure maybe Billie Eilish can license her livestream set, but can you? Absolutely. There are a surprising number of ways to license great live content once you’ve filmed it.
One of our clients - Nashville-based The Foxies - recently recouped their $5,000 investment in a livestream show Live at Exit/In by licensing their set to a Japanese TV show.
Invest in the experience
All of us are starved for entertainment right now - we’re in a collective rut looking for things to watch and do, and as an entertainer you have the power to do something about it. Yes, it’s true sometimes you have to spend money to make money, but you also don’t need to over complicate your livestream concept to the point where the entire idea becomes a pipedream.
Billie Eilish raised the bar for livestream production in October with her ”Where Do We Go?” livestream, and while we can’t all aim for that level of production - it’s fun to see artists on this level embracing concept and investing in an experience.
“Over the summer we helped one of our clients generate over $100,000 broadcasting livestream shows from their guest bedroom. “
Entertainment value is relative though. Sometimes the only baseline you need is to make sure your livestream sounds great. If setting up in a spare room in your house is all you’re able to pull off - then own it. Over the summer we helped one of our clients - an independent band with no label support - generate over $100,000 broadcasting livestream shows from their guest bedroom.
Challenge yourself to be different and to create an experience your fans will remember, but don’t overcomplicate your plan to the point where it doesn’t come to fruition. Nothing is worse than doing nothing at all.
Embrace the awkwardness
More often than not - we find the awkwardness that comes with doing a livestream is the biggest hurdle to overcome for most musicians. While it’s easy for someone like me to say it’s not so hard, let’s be honest - if you’re already playing in front of hundreds or potentially thousands of people live on stage, pulling off a livestream can and should be easy.
“You’re like: ‘I feel like an idiot. I’m just playing in my house, talking to myself.’ It’s very weird.”
There will be awkward moments during your livestream. Especially if you’re not actually getting feedback from your audience in real-time. The same rules will apply as with any public appearance. If you panic - the people watching you will panic. But if you just trust yourself, embrace whatever happens, and enjoy the moment - your fans will too.
Once you go live - do your best to forget about your image of perfection. Don’t be so concerned about pulling off the perfect livestream you can’t actually lose yourself in the moment. Your fans like imperfection - it reminds them that you’re human. And remember - this year we’ve all had to get used to the awkwardness that comes with Zoom chats. Don’t overthink it - this is just another opportunity to connect with your fans.
YouTube content is King
Once you’ve got your plan and have made peace with the impending awkwardness, you’ll need to pick a platform to broadcast your livestream. There are a number of robust and customer service-heavy livestream services out there like StageIt, Crowdcast, VEEPS, and Topeka. However most of these services cater to more established projects with teams that are looking for ways to make things simple and seamless. Most of the tools you need to actually stream are already at your fingertips.
[YouTube says] “More than 50% of logged-in viewers [2 billion users] who consume music content - consume more than 10 minutes of music content in a day.
YouTube offers a free and easy to use live streaming platform. If you need help, they also offer simple video tutorials that help you get started. Most importantly though - YouTube is the platform your fans are already using to stream videos every day. Don’t underestimate the hassle and technical challenge that sometimes comes with asking your fans to join your livestream.
Be organized, be smart, protect yourself & others
When producing a bigger livestream event that involves a band and crew - you can still create a legitimate livestream experience while safely protecting yourself and others from COVID. You just need to be organized, be smart, and over-communicate safety protocols with your team.
In my experience over the years - musicians and their teams tend to be insanely resourceful and tech savvy. I am constantly impressed by the sometimes secondary skills the people we work with have. Point being - sometimes between your producer, tour manager, photographer or friend you already have enough of a crew to pull off even a high-concept livestream.
I’ll be the first to admit - livestreams are never going to completely replace the real intangible connection that happens between people at a normal show. In a normal world it was also a lot harder to argue for the importance of livestreams. But now - when there’s literally no other way to perform in front of people, at a time when most of us in the music industry could use some extra income - creating a unique and captivating livestream experience is essential.
Plus just think… If you can learn to entertain a muted virtual audience - imagine what you’ll be capable of once you can be on stage in front of people again?