As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the live festival, concert, and event sectors of the music industry, it is more important than ever that artists take advantage of new revenue streams to help offset current economic losses and facilitate fan engagement without the necessity of traditional live touring. To this end, streaming has provided resourceful, tech-savvy artists with new opportunities to generate revenue while staying connected to fans, often in unconventional ways. Let’s take a look at a number of ways that artists have approached these opportunities.
With the suspension of live touring, many artists are finding it difficult to stay connected with their fans in a meaningful way. This is a serious problem for most artists, since the ability to keep fans engaged (not to mention attract new fans) with past, present and future content is essential to their success. A number of A-list and legacy artists have found online concerts and events that are live-streamed for free on various social media platforms (often from home) to be a viable way to connect. Chris Martin, John Legend, Lady Gaga and other celebrities have hosted the Global Citizen’s “At Home Together” concert series. Keith Urban performed a live Instagram concert, with his wife, Nicole Kidman, dancing alongside. Miley Cyrus even hosted a live talk show on Instagram called “Bright Minded: Live with Miley,” where she discussed topics of current interest with various celebrities and prominent professionals. While these types of online concerts and events definitely provide a simple and effective way for artists to stay connected with their fans (what marketers might call “promoting brand awareness”), they do little to nothing to help artists recover lost touring income.
Since most artists still need to earn a living, fan engagement absents some type of commercial activity is somewhat pointless. It is, after all, the music business. In 2019, the top artists on Billboard’s Money Makers list earned between 75-90% of their yearly income from live performances and appearances. When deprived of the ability to perform live, the business of music becomes much more challenging for many artists. Some have attempted to offset losses by performing online pay-per-view concerts, in which viewers pay a fee to watch an artist or band (either together or in separate locations) perform live music streamed at a specific time through a digital platform on various online and mobile devices. In 2020, Bandsintown estimated 60,905 livestreams took place between March 25 and December 12. Streams with 10,000 or fewer ‘trackers’ accounted for 46,000 (roughly 75%) of the live streams, streams with between 10,001–250,000 trackers accounted for 19.1%, and major artist streams with 250,000 or more ‘trackers’ accounted for 3.9%. One example of a successful pay-per-view virtual live concert was superstar Korean boy band BTS’ “Map of the Soul ON:E” concert, which was reportedly viewed simultaneously by over a million fans worldwide. However, while there seems to be a viable audience for online pay-per-view concerts, it remains uncertain whether and to what extent fans are willing to pay a fee (or ticket price) to view them. I would assume that for most artists, revenues derived from online pay-per-view concerts to date have not come close to offsetting lost touring income.
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