May28 , 2024

Live Streaming Services and the Future of Concerts and Festivals


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What exactly happens, though, when you take an entire industry built around live events and bring it to a complete halt? Although the live music scene experienced a small boom in the 1970s with the introduction of music videos on TV, up until late March 2020, there had never been a time when an artist had no concerts to promote and no shows to play. Music promotion and music consumption have been so closely tied to live events that it’s clearly an industry with no known alternative.

Artists, who were so accustomed to travelling the globe and performing up to four nights a week, had nothing left in the calendar. Music fans, who are sometimes so deeply ingrained in the live industry that they attend shows or festivals weekly, were also left with an empty schedule.

The coronavirus lockdown forced an unexpected and grisly reality on the world at the end of the first quarter of 2020. As governments announced strict confinement policies and the shutting down of all public events, it became evident that the music industry would be one of the hardest hit.

Benefits of Live Streaming Services for Concerts and Festivals

Live streaming services offer several benefits for both music fans and musicians alike through the accessibility of the internet. The most immediate impact is the ability for fans to enjoy live concerts and festival experiences from the comfort of their own home. This can be seen through live footage from the LIB festival which was streamed on YouTube in 2012. Viewers were able to witness performances from a variety of different artists across four different stages. The use of computer technology in performances is an aspect of festivals and concerts that is often overlooked, and yet it is a clear reflection of the current state of the music industry. Many artists make use of computer technology in their recordings to compensate for the lack of real instruments, and live bands are becoming an increasing rarity on the festival circuit. By providing a live streaming service, fans are able to witness performances from their favourite artists as they would on the recording, without different renditions ruined by lip syncing over the original track. This function is particularly beneficial for fans of electronic music where all the sounds are synthesized and performances with live instruments are rare.

Increased Accessibility for Global Audience

Though such modern conveniences may create the lazy festival goer, they undoubtedly provide a valuable service to those unable to attend an event in the physical sense. Elderly, disabled, or financially precarious music fans may struggle or find it impossible to journey to faraway concerts and festivals. For people in these groups, the gift of free and flexible access to live music events represents a quality of life improvement measured in days of joy. In the case of niche audiences, such as fans of classical, jazz, traditional, or world music, the option of live streaming may present an unprecedented chance to partake in something typically secluded to more popular genres. And with recent catastrophe in mind, live streaming services may be the only means for people affected by natural disasters and other such tragedies to experience the joy music can bring. In cases where demand for live streaming is found to be high, added streams from relief events could potentially provide some needed revenue for a good cause.

Live video streaming imbues traditional art forms with the contemporary spirit of access. As live streaming services offer online access to worldwide audiences, it effectively dissolves the barriers of time and space, allowing those not at an event in person to partake in the experience. In terms of concerts and festivals, the benefits of such access are clear. As proved by more than two billion views of various user-generated videos related to the festival and the strong success of the festival’s live broadcast around the world, live streaming services serve as a bridge to connect music lovers to the soul of a musical event. High-speed internet connections let fans experience the sights and sounds of faraway events—everything from the stage set to the sweat on the performer’s brow, to the skin and glow of the music goers’ faces—in ways not unlike being there in the flesh. All the while, said viewers can enjoy the sensory smorgasbord from the comfort of home. This is something that physically attending an event cannot offer, as the comfort of home tends to lose its charm in contrast to standing in a crowd amidst rain and mud.

Cost-Effective Alternative to Physical Events

Red Bull has done events on gaming, such as Red Bull United and Proving Ground. Both events were stated to be heavily funded and had artists from the underground scene. These types of events are perfect examples of ones that could easily be translated to a virtual event, and Red Bull would still profit due to the lesser costs involved.

For example, the Red Bull brand often hosts music events and their own music session festivals. They hold events worldwide and use different levels of artist popularity to attract as many people as possible. Money is no object for a company of this size; they will spend to gain.

Virtual concerts do not require any physical venue. This means that artists are able to save on costs of security, renting the venue, and even arranging it. Concerts and festivals alike often have to put a large portion of money into marketing. Virtual concerts can use social media marketing, which has the potential to cut costs significantly.

Potential for Higher Revenue Generation

A simple and obvious revenue stream for streaming a festival is to take a percentage of ticket sales. High traffic, ease of access, and not pressing a finger means more money is spent here than when advertising physical tickets. This, in turn, means people are more likely to impulse buy, which is the best-case scenario for ticket sales and for the fans. Advertising revenue from sponsors can also be higher when there are specific statistics for a company to look at regarding how many people saw their product being advertised. This is great for the sponsors themselves, as if they feel they are getting more custom. This can mean higher future offers to sponsor the festival, which can be a big factor in getting the festival off the ground. An affiliate marketing scheme using specific discount codes for a product, where a company can track how many sales were made using said code, and then give a percentage of those sales back to the festival, provides another great opportunity for more revenue.

For numerous artists, the principal aim behind organizing a concert or a music festival is to let the audience enjoy the music and, at the same time, to make as much money as possible. The business behind the scene has been a huge factor contributing to the change in many artists’ behaviors and has affected the music itself. Live streaming provides a fantastic opportunity to generate significant profits from a live event. The term Pay-Per-View (PPV) is well established as a large source of revenue in the sports industry, where fans have deeper pockets than the average festival goer. PPV has a stigma attached to it that it is not worth the money, especially on streams with low production quality. These are also often priced very highly, around $50. People are far happier to fork out $5-10 for a higher quality stream for an artist they enjoy than they are to spend much more to watch a PPV stream of questionable quality.

Challenges and Considerations in Implementing Live Streaming Services

Event organizers see this as an opportunity to access a wider audience and the ability to monetize on content that would otherwise date quickly. Live streaming has obvious benefits to international and long-distance fans. Evidently, there is a trend toward a market that will be more and more reliant on live streaming media, and thus with this research, now is an important time to assess the most effective ways to do this.

Live event streaming media has been referred to as the “next frontier for sports and entertainment companies looking to maximize the value of content delivery.” This statement comes from research which predicts that within the next two years, up to 50% of internet users in the United States will have viewed content from a live event and that live event content will represent 25% of all internet video viewing. This is significant because the aforementioned content value is largely monopolized by traditional broadcasting, and the migration to internet viewing is largely driven by on-demand media.

This section will use music concerts as an example to examine the current nature of live event streaming, to identify the deficits in comparison to traditional live event attendance, and to explore ways to maximize the effectiveness of streaming media for what is inevitably going to be a key application.

It is evident that not all aspects of live events can be replicated in streaming media, but the field continues to develop. Currently, a key driver in live streaming media is live events. A study found that 25% of internet users viewed simulcasted events, which is significant because the more of the audience that concentrates their viewing at the same time, the closer the experience is to traditional broadcasting. As this trend continues, it becomes more important to consider the challenges and opportunities in implementing streaming media of live events.

Ensuring High-Quality Audio and Video

Providing high-quality streams while maintaining reliability with a single stream will be the best solution, but also the most challenging. It cannot be expected that a live streaming service will provide a level of quality and reliability to match that of a studio recorded product, due to the unpredictable nature of the internet. But a good compromise can be made.

The easiest method of ensuring quality is to provide a number of alternative streams and stream rates for the viewer to choose from. Viewers with high-speed internet connections can enjoy a high-quality stream, while others can select a stream more suited to their connection. This does, of course, require additional resources and may not be possible for all event providers.

The second aspect to stream quality is reliability. Nothing annoys a viewer more than dropouts, jitters, and buffering caused by an unreliable stream. This level of reliability is tough to achieve over the internet with current technology, so careful consideration has to be given when defining acceptable levels of service.

When considering the successful implementation of live streaming services, it is imperative that the audio and visual aspects of the stream are of high quality. Low quality streams will instantly turn viewers away and may deter them from revisiting live streaming services in the future. The audience will expect the standard of the audio and video to be close to that of their modern televisions and home audio systems. Any degradation in quality will be criticized and put viewers off.

Addressing Copyright and Licensing Issues

As difficult as it is to establish universal quality guidelines, the issues of copyright and licensing vary significantly according to country. It has been argued that at present entry costs are so low for the average consumer that it is easier to pirate music than pay for it. This statement is not meant to condone piracy, but it is true that file-sharing is a common practice and that many people find it convenient to download music without considering the legal or ethical implications. And with an ever-increasing number of websites offering free streaming of music (both legal and illegal), the number of internet users accessing licensed music content has been in steady decline. With the rise in social media and user-created content, music licensing issues have become equally complex. Venues hosting concerts and festivals could be liable for copyright infringement if performing artists have not obtained a license for their music, even if the venue itself is not responsible for the audio being played. The implications of this for live streaming are that a service provider would need to assure that licensing agreements remain intact throughout the viewing period of an event, which could potentially involve monitoring whether individual music tracks are copyrighted and having to take down offending content. Given the complexity and potential risks, it is unclear whether some events would be financially viable for a streaming service.

Maintaining the Unique Atmosphere of Live Events

Event organizers would be remiss if they fail to capture an event’s festive atmosphere. Much of an event’s atmosphere is abstract and intangible. It is a tautological exercise to attempt to quantify “atmosphere”. At the very least, it would seem that an event’s atmosphere is bound up in its sounds and sights. This is no less true for minimalist events than it is for large concerts and festivals. For example, the review of a performance of six Bach sonatas played by Igor Kipnis states that “the essence of the music was beautifully evoked, and the atmosphere of a live concert nicely conveyed”. The author neglects to elaborate on what the atmosphere of a live concert is, but it is implicit that concert atmosphere is ubiquitous and that it is desirable to foster it, even in the context of a sparse event.

The Future of Live Streaming Services in the Concert and Festival Industry

The music industry wasn’t always this way. In the past, there was money in physical sales of CDs and records. Record labels used to seek out talent and promote through radio/advertising to try and get sales of the album. In 2017, you wouldn’t even need to sign a record label to get your music out. SoundCloud lets you upload your own music and gives the artist immediate feedback on the amount of plays and likes each song has received. Record labels have also been found to be cheating artists out of album sales revenue, so it ultimately makes more sense to not sign a deal and keep the profits for yourself. Hosting your own events and festivals are another great way to make money back after investing so much time and effort in creating a set of music. This brings music to be more commoditized as the event/festival host will be seeking the bigger artist to attract more fans and therefore more money.

Live Nation bought a stake in Citi Group’s $20 billion credit facility in March 2016. It says in this article that the agreement goes for 364 days and can be extended, similar to what SoundCloud did with a $35 million credit line. Then, if SoundCloud doesn’t make the money back, it can convert the debt to equity in the company. The music world is at a stage where big business transactions like this will decide the fate of companies and decide how much power they have in the market. If customers choose Spotify over Apple due to a merger with record labels, then in the long run, there is a higher chance of young entrepreneurs seeking capital to start a company choosing to follow the same path as Spotify or Apple.

The music industry is making the move to streaming services. Spotify is worth $8.5 billion and made $1.3 billion in 2015, whereas Apple is worth $10.5 billion and made $719.2 million. The global value of the music industry is worth $17.4 billion, so when starting businesses, it makes total sense to focus on streaming. Even though streaming is very profitable for the companies, it’s ultimately the consumer who decides how successful it can be.

Integration of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Technologies

Augmented reality is also a potentially valuable tool for festival promotion. Many companies and event promoters have already begun to create AR apps that allow users to view festival layouts and stage setups on their smartphones. This can create a more informed consumer as well as provide people with a greater image of what the festivals have to offer. A more advanced use of AR could be the incorporation of holograms. As seen with the recent use of a Tupac hologram at Coachella, this technology is a real possibility for the future. As this is an expensive endeavor, it may be more suited for larger mainstream festivals.

Virtual reality creates an all-around immersive experience, which allows users to feel as if they’re actually at the festival. This can increase ticket sales for future events as individuals will be able to experience a festival firsthand, as opposed to a 2D live stream. Many artists have noticed the potential of VR and partnered with different companies to develop content. The mass appeal of VR has led to major companies creating platforms in which individuals are able to stream content. This has the potential to become a new revenue stream for festivals.

Concert and festival organizers are constantly searching for new technologies to implement into the festival experience. As people have become more interested in destination festivals and single day events, they’ve also sought out greater returns on their investment. One of the technologies that has been implemented into the festival scene is the use of virtual reality to enhance the experience for individuals who are unable to attend the physical event.

Interactive Features and Enhanced User Experience

An extreme case of an interactive experience would be the fully immersive one-on-one chat experience involving a unique avatar for the artist in a virtual world. An artist can somehow also integrate in-game cosmetics or even virtual concert tickets available only through a live stream to increase event participation. These kinds of experiences can generate a level of fan commitment and excitement that can greatly benefit the artist and event long term.

Using chat rooms to discuss their favorite acts is a popular attraction to many users. Similar to group viewing of streams on websites such as Twitch, users can watch a performance from different physical locations and still have a communal experience. Arguably, the most important interactive feature would be the artist/fan interaction. Studies showed that behind the scenes content is an impactful tool to get a user to invest in a product. User’s investment in this instance is specifically tuning in to watch a stream. This can manifest as something as simple as an Ask Me Anything stream involving an artist.

For starters, live streaming concerts and festivals offer interactive features which are only second to the benefits of being physically present. For a start, some performances can only be seen with special glasses, offering a 3D visual experience. Comparable to the multi-angle cameras, this feature can convince users to sample and potentially purchase the physical ticket to the actual event next year. Early user tests of this technology have been very positive.

Expansion of Online Communities and Fan Engagement

The wide-reaching nature of social media means that it is easier than ever for attendees to share their experiences of events with their peers. If an attendee is posting about an event and has media to show their friends who are fans of the music but didn’t attend the event, then they now have the means to directly involve said friends in their own experiences. Any implementation of interactive live music event media into social networking, such as a feed of recent streams/videos or notifications of when a band is live streaming an event, will grant yet more opportunities for fan engagement with the aforementioned content.

Thus, the expansion of such events into virtual worlds is likely to further boost these communities as the sense of ‘being there’ becomes almost tangible. People can discuss their experiences within the virtual world, and media from the events would be a hot topic for some time. If live streaming and VR technologies become advanced enough to mimic the experience of actually being at the event, then it is possible that some music enthusiasts may form league tables of events attended. This concept is ideal for providers of loyalty schemes and group promotions. This social factor provides a platform for the music event industry to engage its attendees in an entirely new way and also makes promotions more targetable.

Online communities for live music events already exist, such as the unofficial message boards for music festivals like Bonnaroo, unofficial fan-made sites for bands, or even chat rooms on the official sites of certain artists. These often come with enthusiastic fan bases willing to discuss the event and music in general. It is not uncommon for an attendee of a music festival to sign up for the forums beforehand to get a feel for the community. It’s almost a rite of passage for younger attendees of these events. This sense of community has always been important to music enthusiasts and is successfully being replicated as festivals expand online coverage of their events.