New research suggests livestreamed concerts are here to stay
Livestreamed concerts started as a trickle last year and grew into a tsunami. But a new study from music industry analysts MIDiA suggests it will become enough of a force in 2021 to be regarded as an entirely new video format, and could eventually be bigger than the physical live market.
According to a Pollstar estimate, the lack of concerts last year saw worldwide ticket revenue tumble by about 75%, or US$8.9 billion. In the vacuum, livestreaming enjoyed explosive growth in the form of ticketed events, inspired by other verticals, especially gaming.
According to MIDiA’s Virtual Concerts: A New Video Format: “From June to November 2020, the share of livestreamed concert listings on [concert discovery site] Bandsintown grew from 1.9% to 40.7%, while the total ticketed revenue in December was up 292% from June.”
Bandsintown estimated 60,905 livestreams were carried out between March 25 and December 12, involving nearly 20,000 artists. Buzzing acts (those with 10,000 or fewer followers, or ‘trackers’) performed over 46,000 livestreams in 2020, or 77% of the total streams it tracked, while rising artists (those with between 10,001 – 250,000 trackers) made up 19.1% of the whole. Major artists (250,001 or more trackers) accounted for just 3.9%.
Additionally, Twitch Music experienced an increase in the hours of music content watched year-over-year by 550%.
NoCap, a virtual concert production company set up by singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter and Roxy Theatre co-owner Cisco Adler, and which made $5 million in its first six months after selling 350,000 tickets to 70 virtual concerts, reported 80% of its ticket holders buy merchandise, and 40% shell out for another show.
Notably, there was a strong shift in the second half of 2020 from free streams to more professionally produced, ticketed events. In June, ticketed livestreams accounted for fewer than 2% of daily broadcasts. In November, they accounted for over half.
Ticketed livestreamed concerts generated US$0.6 billion in 2020, said MIDiA. This is significant considering many countries are going through a nastier COVID-19 wave than their first, and 2021 promises to be another 12 months of disruption for the live sector.
The good news is that during the latter part of 2020, artists as diverse as Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber and Kiss came up with inventive spectacles. Lipa’s Studio 2054 cost US$1.5 million and took five months to put together. It reached 5 million viewers globally with two dozen dancers, massive Day-Glo hula hoops and glitter balls, a roller disco and appearances by Kylie Minogue, Miley Cyrus, Elton John and FKA Twigs.
As Dave Grohl quipped during the Foo Fighters’ virtual show in December, we’ve come a long way from people in pyjamas plonking away on pianos in their living rooms.
The outlook for virtual events will be defined by how they contribute to diversifying artist income, filling the small venue gap for emerging artists, delineating traditional artists from streaming artists, their format and business evolution, and new games models.
But livestreaming has a long way to go, warns MIDiA. The technology was hastily put together on the run, which is an issue to be resolved. Plus, livestreaming’s penetration is just 9% and audiences have an early adopter, younger male skew.
Says the report: “In many respects, livestreaming was not ready for primetime when COVID-19 hit.
“Unlike sectors such as video conferencing and home fitness tech, which had become well established before, music livestreaming was a bit of an industry backwater. A whole host of new entrants swept in to tap the new opportunity, while pre-existing ones that had been limping along pre-COVID, gave themselves a new lick of paint.”
It additionally pointed out: “The vendor landscape is complex and increasingly fragmented.
“But most importantly, it is characterised by companies wanting to own as much of the value chain as possible and trying to achieve as much as they can before the giants of the traditional live sector get back on their feet.”
Looking ahead at 2021, MIDiA concluded: “Live streaming has vast potential – not in some binary live music replacement equation, but instead as a new video format.
“In fact, live streaming could be to live music what pay-TV is to sports, creating in the long run a market that is even bigger than the core business. But between now and then there is a lot of hard work to be done.”
The sentiment was echoed by Rob Ellin, founder, chairman and CEO of livestreaming platform LiveXLive in Pollstar.
“This is the next generation music video. It’s driving audio sales. It’s going to drive ticket sales when live comes back,” he said.
“It’s not just about the livestream, it’s about the curation. It’s about delivering something unique.”