Live Music V.S. Covid-19

by James Hanley, April 2021

It is said that in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity. And with COVID-19 putting the kibosh on tours for a year and counting, the live streaming business has grabbed its chance to fill the void with both hands.

First though, a quick history lesson: livestream shows are nothing new. An obscure Californian band called Severe Tire Damage are believed to have pioneered the format 28 years ago, while The Rolling Stones became the first major rock act to perform on the internet the following year.

But there is no doubt that 2020 was the year livestreaming exploded into the mainstream. From the start of the first lockdown in March last year, the concept quickly evolved from free to air, no-frills, bedroom productions to increasingly ambitious pay-per-view extravaganzas, shot on location – providing a much-needed new revenue stream for artists reeling from the absence of touring. 

With the market still in its infancy, however, a number of specialist companies are vying for supremacy. Driift, founded by respected music managers Ric Salmon and Brian Message, has come flying out of the blocks, selling more than 250,000 tickets across a series of one-off livestreams such as Laura Marling from London’s Union Chapel, Dermot Kennedy from the Natural History Museum, a Biffy Clyro album launch from Glasgow Barrowlands, Kylie Minogue’s immersive Infinite Disco show and Niall Horan live from the Royal Albert Hall.  

Elsewhere, LIVENow has worked on behind-closed-doors concerts including Ellie Goulding’s Brightest Blue Experience from London’s V&A Museum, Gorillaz Song Machine Live and Dua Lipa’s groundbreaking Studio 2054, which reputedly attracted millions of viewers worldwide.

Other notable livestreams have included Liam Gallagher’s Down By The River Thames in conjunction with Melody VR and Billie Eilish’s Where Do We Go? from Los Angeles, which saw Maestro partner with Moment Factory and Lili Studios, while Dreamstage is presenting Sean Paul Live From Jamaica in May. In addition, the world’s biggest concert promoter Live Nation acquired a majority stake in livestream platform Veeps – created by Joel and Benji Madden of US rockers Good Charlotte – earlier this year. 

More recently, in one of the most high-profile announcements to date, Glastonbury organisers confirmed details of a five-hour livestream, Live At Worthy Farm, on May 22 after the festival was cancelled due to coronavirus for the second successive year. Held in partnership with Driift and BBC Studios Productions, the event will feature the likes of Coldplay, Damon Albarn, Haim, Wolf Alice and Kano, with tickets priced at £20.

As the live industry’s return to normality gathers pace, insiders remain confident livestreaming can coexist with, and even complement, traditional concerts – perhaps by enabling fans to watch sold-out shows virtually, or serving as an accompaniment to an album launch.  

The pandemic won’t last forever, but livestreaming is here to stay – and it doesn’t take a genius to tell you that. 

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