Music Progression

Live Concert Streaming: Is It Worth Staying Home?

The prevalence of the internet allows us to transport virtually every aspect of life to the digital space. It’s now possible to tackle everyday tasks, keep tabs on what friends are doing, and more recently, stream an entire live concert, all without leaving your desk chair. Potential prolonged inactivity issues aside, all of that sounds pretty convenient, yet perhaps in a culture obsessed with this luxury, convenience just might be the very problem, which leads us to the latest music progression—streaming. For the uninitiated, that term sounds no different than any other strange craze, but it’s roots actually lie much deeper. In fact, the future of the music industry depends on its success. Regrettably, success tends to be subjective. While some equate it with nice ideas like artist exposure and fan-base interaction, all of us normal red-blooded, engine revving Americans are saying: “show me the money.”

There’s no denying streaming has made quite an impact, even without looking at any revenue figures. Services like Spotify and Rdio offer millions of songs instantly available at the click of a mouse, and if you’re willing to put up with a few repetitive ads in between tracks, it’s all free. While these companies have become the norm in recorded music content, streaming has broken through the world of live music as well. Live concert streaming is a relatively new phenomenon, and it’s gained a lot of momentum of late. Household name festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Lollapalooza all live-streamed their events to millions of viewers around the world, and other streaming campaigns like the American Express Unstaged series attract huge acts like Kings of Leon and Vampire Weekend. As with the aforementioned music services, however, these events were offered for free. Sure, there are brand partnership opportunities and all that good stuff, but again, where’s the cash for the artists?

Vampire Weekend live-streaming concert promo.

The industry’s primary dilemma is that nobody seems to know the best way to monetize music anymore (thanks a lot, Napster). What we do know is that there’s still a tremendous market for music, and there always will be. Major artists are doing just fine thanks to their sheer marketability, but what about those baby bands we all know and love; the artists who don’t have their own fragrance line? Remember them? There’s simply no way they can sustain being full-time musicians while making fractions of a penny per play with business models like Spotify. Just ask Radiohead front-man and lovable agitator, Thom Yorke. Last month, he took to Twitter (shown below) to announce the removal of much of his music from Spotify, and in turn, offered the ability to stream his concerts on a pretty neat new app called SoundHalo. His band, Atoms For Peace, exclusively offers concert footage on a pay-per-song basis for the app, in protest of Spotify’s inability to pay artists what they deserve. Unfortunately, I’m afraid what a musician “deserves” to be paid proves an incredibly conjectural idea nowadays.

The fundamental problem goes back to our obsession with convenience. It fuels every digital recourse we love. Naturally, music piracy and convenience became intertwined, to the point where consumers demand anything music related to be free of charge, rendering music itself as something lacking any discernible value. It’s disposable and unlimited for now.

The overarching question of whether concert streaming will become truly viable leaves me a little more optimistic, though. While streaming concerts serve as a decent alternative if they can properly support artists, it still seems nothing compares to the real thing. In a culture dependent on convenience, live music is anything but that. There’s swarming crowds, muddy fields, beating sun, and long bathroom lines possibly awaiting any concertgoer, yet ticket sales are booming.

Live music actually serves as the escape from our neat and tidy digital lives, and the chaos in that fact alone is what makes it such a cathartic and communal experience. Concerts have a way of simplifying things. There’s no longer a middle-man, be it Spotify or a live-streaming video; it’s just you and the artist sharing the experience of music together, and that’s a unique connection that can never be digitized.

Article by Nicolas White


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