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BOLD OPINION: We Need Concerts

A crowd at a rock and roll concert

Since March of this year, many aspects of our lives have changed. Some have changed for the better. For instance, many of us have found a passion for cooking. Other have taken this moment in time to explore new career and educational pursuits. But others have been rather hard to swallow. The absence of live music concerts has been one of them. The shared social and emotional connection among music lovers and musicians that take place at a live event is priceless. For the millions who attend such live music concerts each year, the pain is real. And many of us are struggling to find a replacement.

Of course, just because COVID-19 has put a cramp in our style doesn’t mean musicians have accepted defeat. Many artists offer live streaming concerts as an alternative. But this has been a learning curve for both bands and concert lovers alike. What began as an Indie showcase in someone’s living room is evolving into something more. And despite the limitations of these virtual encounters, audiences are actually attending these sessions in large numbers. Because of this, it’s worth exploring whether live streaming concerts can ever suffice in meeting our needs.

“It feels like you’re screaming into the void but then afterward, my roommate showed me all of the people who had been listening and what they had been saying and suddenly this medium that feels so sterile was this amazing beacon of communication.” – Sarah Darling, Violinist with A Far Cry Orchestra

Making the Transition to Live Streaming Concerts

Seemingly overnight, live music concerts were canceled. Tickets were refunded, venues closed, and musicians awarded ample time to ponder the situation. With a large part of the country’s workforce embracing videoconferencing and working from home, the answer seemed clear. Live streaming concerts and solo acts offered a quick transition. While some artists began writing and recording music, many others decided to give live streaming concerts a try. At first, the level of excitement to try something new was high. But unfortunately, this seemed to fade quickly.

A person having some sort of concert over Zoom
Live streaming concerts are certainly safer than live music concerts with huge crowds – but we definitely need the latter.

Low-fidelity home systems, shotty video cameras, and unexpected interruptions deterred many from attending these live music concert. Latency problems that inevitably occur from band members who are not in the same place also plagued early streams. But mostly, it was the inherent chemistry between fans and musicians who are in the same space that was lacking. No applause or audience feedback. No concert buzz and anticipation as the venue fills with a crowd. Just a scrolling chat reaction from viewers that often did more to distract than enhance the experience.

“I’m a whiner by nature, so every week, after the first couple, I was like, oh, I’ve got to get down there. But it gave me something to do and kept me connected to music.” – Bill Janovitz, Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist with Buffalo Tom

New Tricks of the Trade

Over the last couple of months, tremendous progress has been made in live streaming concerts. For one, bands have been able to effectively socially distance while still being in the same space. This has occurred in recording studios, outdoor venues, and even empty music clubs. Places like Red Rocks amphitheater in Denver and even Fenway park in Boston have allowed bands to perform. Despite fans seeing performances remotely, these live music concerts allow greater chemistry and synchrony. And likewise, these virtual venues are incorporating innovative special effects to better engage audiences.

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Understanding this, a number of platforms for live streaming concerts have emerged. Many artists have used YouTube Live and Instagram Livestream as sites to host their concerts. Others use Twitch including BandsInTown, which is an artist centric app for streaming live music concerts. Key is another recent startup launched in 2019 that uses an artist sharing model to attract live streaming events. And LiveXLive is perhaps the most successful offering major pay-per-view and on-demand concerts globally. Since January, LiveXLive has promoted nearly 60 live music concerts online representing a 300 percent growth. And many of these events are selling out quickly, including their Monsta X pay-per-view event from Seoul. It’s been these changes that have rekindled the attention of concert lovers throughout the world.

“To the credit of the arts world as a whole, there was a really fast pivot online and that was good…But the shininess of it wore off and [many] organizations have not invested in digital projects. Living room performances were okay for a short period of time but that and archival, point-and-shoot cameras at the back of the hall does not enriching content make.” – Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director of the Center for Innovative Leadership, San Francisco Conservatory of Music

 The Show Must Go On

The return of live music concerts in-person is a given once the pandemic subsides and/or a coronavirus vaccine is developed. No matter how awesome live streaming concerts become, in-person venues offer something they cannot. The ambience, enthusiasm, and experience of live musicians performing their craft is special. In fact, the production and performances of live musicians is a work of art in itself. There is simply something magical and power in these events that extends beyond their “live” nature. It’s the totality of the live music concert experience that we truly crave and want.

Understanding this, what is most amazing in this current time of crisis is our insistence that live music concerts survive. Fans and musicians alike are willing to suffer through some growing pains for the sake of these experiences. We understand the connections cannot be the same, but we accept this and strive to do our best. As companies and artists put their talents together, better live streaming concerts will emerge. And increasingly, fans will attend as the experience approaches something that more resembles a truly live, in-person performance. All of this proves one simple fact. Live music concerts have become engrained in our psyche and our culture. And for this reason, these shows must go on.

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