The coronavirus pandemic continues to force cancellations of live concerts, but to get by musicians have turned to the power of live-streaming in order to get their live shows to the fans. It's not an option that artists have really used previously beyond a novelty, which poses the question of whether it's a last resort now, or simply something that artists haven't wanted to use for a myriad of reasons.
The live-stream is both more and less personal than a live concert - we're seeing artists in their most comfortable settings, but without the face-to-face interaction that many enjoy about going to a live concert - you're in the same space as the artist/s, even if just for a night. However, the live-stream allows artists to perform to a worldwide audience all at once, rather than having to travel, which is looking like it won't be possible for at least a little while.
James Blake tweeted recently after a live-stream that the stream was "the most people I’ve ever played to and I didn’t even have any shoes on". Will live streaming become a way for artists who might not otherwise be able to tour to reach their fans in a live setting, or is it simply set to be a temporary solution to (what is hopefully) a temporary problem?
More and more artists are even announcing "tours" through live-streaming - which might be more of an option than simply putting on a one-off live stream. Part of the appeal of a live gig is the production value, which can be lost when a musician is sitting on their couch strumming an acoustic guitar. Pop newcomer L Devine recently told Radio 1 Newsbeat that she'll be going on an "online tour" where "social media sites are different venues".
"We're going to have the full band in the studio for the next one, so it's more like the shows you would go and see normally. I also don't think my mum would be happy about having the whole band in the living room every time." Rather than being a mundane event, L Devine is committed to presenting a comparable experience to fans, even if they can't physically be in the same room.
It's not just live performances that artists are using the change in conditions for, though, with many artists instead choosing to collaborate to present themselves in a setting that fans might not otherwise get to see. Charli XCX has been chatting to Christine And The Queens and working out with Diplo - finding a way to make the most of her current isolation, while also bringing other artists along for the ride. Diplo has been someone making the most of what's going on around him - streaming DJ sets that might otherwise only exist in the minds of concert-goers. Locally, young producer Perto is jumping online to play live DJ sets too.
PSA: i’m going live all week! ??tomorrow morning i’ll be being personally trained by @diplo aka THE BODY (kidding - no one calls him that - they should??) at 10am LA time. Bruhhh, it’s gonna totally be rad ???? can’t wait 2 get ripped w my bro GTL 4 LYF M8 (no but seriously plz help me im gonna fucking dieeee ??)
This seems to be one of the biggest benefits of live-streaming - it gives fans an instant way to hear and see their favourite artists, in a way that even social media can't provide in terms of its traditional format. This, at least at this early stage, seems to be the way that live-streaming will continue to have an impact on the music industry beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
More established/traditional artists are using the live-streaming format to explore aspects of their discography that might not otherwise be performed live, due to the fact that when on tour, there's an inherent pressure to play the most current/popular music that artists have put out. Ben Gibbard has been live-streaming daily, playing both solo songs, as well as rare Death Cab For Cutie tracks that may not have been played live before - a huge win for diehard fans and new fans who get to experience another aspect of an artist's discography.
Platforms based around live music have had to adapt to the changes, too, with Bandsintown adding live stream alerts to their traditional concert alerts, allowing fans to keep up with which of their favourite artists are going live. But this begs the question, will fans struggle to keep up with all their favourite artists putting on concerts? The convenience for artists wanting to put on live-streams means that there could become an over-abundance of content being made available, leaving fans with a dilemma - who do they pay attention to, and how do they continue to keep up with their favourite artists as they make themselves continually available to their audience?
Already, we're seeing artists organising their live-streaming schedules to include a multitude of other artists, so that rather than have similar fanbases having to decide between streams, they can experience both interacting. Miley Cyrus, for example, has provided an extra level of production value to her streams - proving that it's not just the DIY content that many associate with live-streaming that fans will experience, but also something comparable. She's roped in the likes of Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha and more for her streams.
Live-streaming is set to give artists the ability to make money from home and keep themselves visible to their fans, as people continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, as well as return a sense of normalcy to people's lives, even if only for a moment. It might not be a perfect replication of the setting of a live gig - but hey, there's nothing wrong with moshing in your living room (as long as no-one's watching).