opinion Opinion October 9, 2020

Get ready for the return of live music [op ed]

CEO & Co-Founder
Get ready for the return of live music [op ed]

’s Jeremiah Siemianow provides a sneak peek of what the scene will look like for artists, venues and punters in the months ahead, and what it will take to get there. Strap in, the rollercoaster’s just getting going. 

COVID-19 is like the rollercoaster we wish we never went on. And now that we’re on it, we wish we’d read the height restrictions so it didn’t fling us out into the free-fall that we’ve experienced since. We know our industry is hurting; artists are experiencing lower than ever incomes, venues are wondering if they’ll be able to keep their doors open and entertainment and hospitality seem like a distant memory.

But this isn’t a piece about our bruises, this is a piece of hope about what we think the industry will look like once those bruises begin to fade, one that sheds some light on what we can expect and what we should do to give rise to the resurgence of what we love – live music.

The industry post COVID

The virtual office (our Slack channel) is full of chat about the post-pandemic live environment. We all have different opinions, but unanimously we believe the following:

Gigs will return to the pub and ‘the local’ will rise. Somewhere within the combination of the new work-from-home era, differing restrictions in areas around the country, and the desire to help the community around us, hyper-locality will create a strong pulling force drawing people to their ‘local’ more than ever.

We believe that in order to be COVID-Safe sooner, gigs will return to their birthplace; the pub. Artists will start playing smaller shows in local spots and connect with fans on another level in the same fashion that many greats began to cut their teeth ‘back in the day’.

Seated gigs are the new black. It’s pretty safe to say that mosh pits are taking a hiatus. In its place come seated gigs and after speaking to Pixie Weyland (owner of The Zoo in Brisbane) they sound like they could actually be something great. Pixie has noted that since The Zoo started putting on seated gigs, more people are attending shows earlier to see the opening acts, appear to stay more engaged and she’s seen punters of all ages turn up to listen to a range of different genres.

The usual gig format will change. I, for one, am excited to see how venues and artists work together to experiment with the gig format and how they substitute the energy of bustling crowds with the experience of intimacy between artist and seated audience. Gigs will become more experiential and intimate and we’ll likely continue to see back-to-back shows in the same night.

Venues will offer multiple gigs for artists over a night or weekend for more door sales. A reduction in crowd sizes will mean that musicians will need to play multiple gigs to make the same revenue as they did pre-COVID. To us this is an ode to the palladium-style gigs, where there would be a matinee and evening show. For artists this will be a new experience, one that will help to quickly refine their live craft.

Artists will find more creative revenue streams in order to survive. To account for lost revenue and justify higher ticket prices, artists may need to get creative and offer new experiences. Speaking to Jaddan Comerford, founder of the UNIFIED Music Group, on The Muso Podcast, he mentioned the crazy and amazing ways musicians are making money from VR to telethons to creating coffee brands. We’re excited to see what artists continue to do. We believe there will be a burst in creativity.

There will be a renaissance. We know that once things return to ‘normality’ there will be a surge in demand for live music. Everyone’s struggling right now, from burn-out at work, boredom from being at home, writer’s block from zero inspiration and most of all, from being socially starved. Live music is food for your soul and sometimes it takes something being taken away for people to realise how important it really is. When live music is back, expect it to be BACK.

We know we can rely on the punters to do their bit. Even in the face of rising ticket prices, I’m sure we’ll be able to count on them to keep their favourite venues alive. After all, it’s hard to put a price on experience.

What we’re doing to prepare

We as an industry have to band together and do our bit to recover what’s been lost, and lead us into the new world. We’ve been focussing on the full half of the glass as much as possible, knowing there is productivity and opportunity to unlock within the crisis if we simply do our bit and provide support where we can, which for us has taken many forms:

Artist Support and Accountability Groups, ‘Muso Mates’. Our Muso Mates groups run weekly and act as a support network through these tough times, but also as accountability groups to help artists encourage and motivate each other to continue producing projects which will further their careers.

Built a community around the artist. Through various initiatives including Muso Mates and a series of support interviews, we found that many artists were interested in taking the time to upskill, or learn about certain forces within the industry. The Muso Side Stage was birthed and much of what we’d heard from artists about their aspirations informed who we invited onto our new podcast.

Free subscriptions to help venues. Our mission is to create more live music. The fewer barriers to venues joining the live music ecosystem, the more likely we are to see gig opportunities flooding to artists more quickly.

Public marketplace and free shareable, centralised profiles for artists. We built new artist profiles for musicians to get booked faster and more efficiently. Artists can upload music, photos and personal biographies for venue owners to view. That way when live music is back, artists have a way to be recognised, shared and booked as quickly as possible.

Made the product easier for new-to-live-music venues. We spent a tonne of time working on tools which allow venues that have never booked live music before to start booking easily, such as pre-saved event templates and drag-and-drop options for putting a booking directly into your calendar. We want to increase the amount of venues booking live music when things return, by making it fast and simple. We hope that by doing this we see new venues joining the live music scene.

Venue groups that can track their spending will be more confident investing in live music. We wanted to create efficiencies in venue groups by creating a product that centralised their operations and tracked their finances. Venue groups should see the positive effect hosting live music has on their offering and thus be incentivised to host more. Over the past few months we’ve built a new enterprise product that focuses entirely on the venue group experience and adding significant value to the business.

No one said it was going to be easy

It’s been a tough ride so far. We know it’s not necessarily getting easier in the immediate term, but we’re beginning to see positive signs that the live music resurgence has started.

Live music has long been a significant contributor to the economic growth of our country, drawing crowds larger than packed sports stadiums. It should be recognised for the benefit it brings, so the government will play a key role in ensuring it remains as such through continued funding.

The next phase is a very important one – some might argue it’s the most important in live music’s colourful history. We’re at the cusp of a new era, one that will reshape the industry and push it into a whole new dimension (with the right support).

An exciting opportunity exists here – for artists, for venues and for the punters – an opportunity that will truly liven up the local and bring live music back to its stomping ground, but it requires the positive involvement of all of its incumbents and that of the government so we can do the industry and the scene justice in it’s revival.

We want more live music, in as many places as possible. This is the toughest modern period our industry has ever faced, but we’re focusing on the potential positives this will bring and doing everything we can to amplify them. Right now, it’s tough, but we’re confident that we will return bigger than ever, because live music and the human experience collectively shared is too important to lose.

Jeremiah Siemianow is CEO and one of the co-founders of Muso – a tech platform focused on connecting hirers and musicians to book gigs.

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