This is the Coronavirus Case Studies series. Each post in this series will talk about how the coronavirus will affect different businesses for years to come. We’re all still processing this massive, life-changing event. This week, we talk about how coronavirus will affect the live music industry.
There is not a feeling in the world that I crave more than being at a concert. Last October, I am pretty sure I went to about twelve different shows, all over the south-east region. Heading into 2020, I had tickets to see some of my favorites bands throughout the year. Here we are, midway through October, and live music is still gone. Even scarier is the fact that I can’t see it starting up again until COVID-19 slows down.
The environment of a live show can be crowded, to say the least. Depending on where you are in a venue, you can be anywhere from a few feet away from someone to being knocked over by the forming mosh pit behind you. Concerts can be cramped, which is why almost all of the shows of this year are being canceled, or delayed. What does the future hold for live music?
COVID-19 and Live Music
The global music industry is worth over $50 billion, with two major income streams. First, live music makes up over 50% of the music industry’s total revenues. This revenue comes mainly from the sales of tickets to live performances.
Second, recorded music combines revenue from streaming, digital downloads, physical sales, and synchronization revenues. (Synchronization revenues cover licensing of music for movies, games, TV, and advertising). Recorded music today is close to the industry’s pre-piracy peak, a testament to the growing adoption of streaming services by both music labels and consumers. Streaming now makes up almost half of recorded music revenue.
The Music Industry Needs Live Performances
Consider this additional quote from The World Economic Forum:
As long as bans on large gatherings continue, live performance revenue is almost zero – effectively cutting the industry’s total revenue in half. Ticket and merchandise sales aside, a six-month shutdown is estimated to cost the industry more than $10bn in sponsorships, with longer delays being even more devastating. Besides, the post-pandemic outlook appears challenging and growth forecasts for live music are expected to be revised significantly. Rebuilding consumer confidence in the sector will be difficult: one survey shows that, without a proven vaccine, less than half of US consumers plan to go to concerts, movies, sports events and amusement parks when they reopen. This will affect artists hugely – they generate around 75% of their income from live shows, even as data shows that a growing share of live music revenue goes to the top 1% of performers (60% in 2019, versus 26% in 1982).
Yikes. So essentially, the current reality is no live music. This is leaving musicians in an interesting dilemma. Many are faced with the choice of holding off on releasing new music until they can tour again, or releasing the music knowing they can’t tour with it. This is a sticky situation, and I honestly do not know if there is a right way to approach it other than trying to take it day by day.
3 Predictions for Live Music Moving Forward
Like many other fields, there will be some major shifts in live music moving forward. We don’t know what will change yet, because the pandemic is still unfolding. That said, I have three predictions on what we can expect in the coming months.
1. We’ll see a continued interest in virtual performances.
NPR runs one of the most successful video series for music, Tiny Desk Concerts, and they exemplify making a successful pivot. Tiny Desk Concerts is a video series of live concerts hosted by NPR Music at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen in Washington, D.C. When COVID-19 started running through the US, NPR quickly made a switch from in-office performances to performances from the artist’s home, with a green screen background. Though it is a different environment, you still get the same Tiny Desk Concert feel. In addition to Tiny Desk Concerts, many artists have taken to streaming themselves putting on live performances and uploading them to social media or YouTube.
2. There will be no shows as we know it until after there is a vaccine.
If you didn’t see this one coming, I am sorry to burst your bubble. NOBODY wants live music back more than I do, that is why it actually pains me to say it…
With COVID-19 still as rampant as ever, the reality of going to a show and being in the pit seems very unlikely. Being in a close-quartered environment right now is simply not an option. Hopefully, if a vaccine comes out, things can slowly being to return to normal. Until then, I just don’t see shows going on how they were pre-COVID-19.
3. There will be different environments at concerts moving forward.
Like many other industries, when concerts open back up and start happening again, the environment will be different. I predict there to be more medical screenings in place before you are able to go into a venue, as well as venues disinfecting surfaces to the best of their ability to ensure guest’s safety. I could see many venues even putting more strict limits on capacity in place to reduce the number of people in a closed space.
Though things are changing and looking more and more different, we will keep moving forward. One day, we will be able to go to live shows without worrying about COVID-19. It just might be a while before we get there.
The coronavirus has affected almost everyone in some capacity. I truly hope that we are able to go back to shows sooner than I think. Until then, keep on streaming your favorite live performances on YouTube.