Twenty or 30 years in the future, I bet that people are going to look back on the pandemic as a turning point in the history of popular music. Not because everything closed. But because venues started livestreaming.
Now that they have started, I believe, they are never going to stop.
Concert-producing giant Live Nation announced this week that it is equipping more than 60 concert venues across the country to offer turnkey livestreaming. The complete list isn’t available, and there are no New Jersey venues among those that have been confirmed. But some major venues are definitely participating, including the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, Calif; The Gorge Amphitheatre in Grant County, Wash.; Fillmore theaters in San Francisco and Philadelphia; House of Blues locations in Chicago and New Orleans; and The Wiltern in Los Angeles.
(The Wiltern, in fact, is ready to go and debuting its livestreams on May 7; visit thewilternseries.com.)
Live Nation is undertaking this initiative in partnership with Veeps, a company co-founded by Joel and Benji Madden of the band Good Charlotte. Basically, they are giving artists playing at any one of those venues an opportunity to livestream their shows, using equipment that is already in place.
A press release describes the project as the two companies “doubling down” on the livestreaming that has already started during the pandemic, “to help artists expand revenue on the road where they make a living while providing creative opportunities to connect with more fans … artists will be able to offer fans even more ways to enjoy live concerts, including virtual admission to sold out shows, access to events happening around the world, exclusive content, and things like backstage and front row viewing angles.”
Of course, no one knows how this will all work out. Some bands may opt out of the livestreaming option because it encourages people to stay home and not come to the show, or makes the concert experience less “special.” Or they may feel inhibited by having every performance captured on video, forever. But I think most will opt in, encouraged by the extra money they can generate and the extra exposure they can get.
Some not-so-obvious good things may come of it. Maybe ticket prices for live attendance will go down because bands are also receiving money from people throughout the world, watching virtually. Or maybe shows for major artists will get more intimate (meaning, utilizing smaller venues) because some of the audience won’t actually be there.
You might think livestreaming will benefit bands who put on an ornately visual show. But if shows become so thoroughly choreographed that there are no opportunities for variation from night to night, that will actually hurt livestreaming revenue: There won’t be many repeat customers for tours that feature basically the same show, over and over again. An ideal livestreaming band would seem to be an act where every show is truly unique. Think of how many people would have paid for the opportunity to see nightly livestreams of a classic Grateful Dead or Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band tour.
Some turning points in popular music history — like, say, the birth of hip-hop, or grunge — have to do with the music itself. Others — like the creation of MTV, or MP3s — are more about how the music is presented.
This would fall into the latter category. And don’t underestimate it. Now that we know it can be done, I can’t think of any reason why it won’t be done.
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.