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Live in lockdown: is live-streaming the future of music?

Life as we know it has been completely shaken up. Worldwide social distancing measures have led to all areas of living being digitalised, with live music being no exception. For now, gig-goers are unable to get their adrenaline fix from frantically refreshing Ticketmaster at 9am on a Friday morning to secure their seats. Instead, artists and music lovers alike have turned to online streaming to enjoy live music.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen a huge selection of different events being hosted online, from the Defected Virtual Festival featuring headliner Calvin Harris to Lady Gaga’s One World: Together at Home special. Big names such as Billie Eilish and Stevie Wonder appeared in this virtual concert which raised almost $128 for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Charity concerts bring people together and allow them to personally aid in the fight against coronavirus. A lot of artists are also providing free online concerts simply for the enjoyment of their fans. However, given that social distancing measures are not likely to be relaxed any time soon, we may need to rethink how online shows can continue to work.

Facebook has recently announced a new feature which will allow artists to charge a fee to access their live stream

If we want virtual concerts to be a feasible way forward, we cannot keep expecting complimentary performances. For larger artists with a cushion to fall back on, providing free online concerts may not come as much of a cost, just as their cancelled tour dates may not be the end of the world. For smaller names, losing out on a tour or festival date can be detrimental to their livelihoods.

Artists’ work will also be devalued if it is free. If we have the means to do so, tipping an artist for their live stream can be a brilliant way to support them and their work. Facebook has recently announced a new feature which will allow artists to charge a fee to access their live stream, allowing them to still make a living even from home. Although charity concerts are for the greater good, it may be necessary to consider alternative ways of streaming so creative work does not lose it’s worth.

No longer does the artist have to deal with costume changes, stage setups, and choreography; instead, its just us, them, and the music

Money aside, can the audience really get the same enjoyment out of a virtual gig? For myself, it’s not quite the same. Part of the gig-going experience comes from the anticipation of seeing the artist live on stage. I love feeling the booming of the speakers combined with the collective voice of the crowd as the singer offers up their microphone to the audience. During a concert, there is always a special feeling of knowing everyone in the room is connected by one thing: the love for the performer. 

However, there are still positives in this new way of consuming music. These gigs can still provide us with a personal connection to our favourite singers. Take a look at Lady Gaga’s performance for her One World special. No longer does the artist have to deal with costume changes, stage setups, and choreography: instead, its just us, them, and the music. We are invited into the home of performers and get to see a rawer version of their image than we would in a typical live show.

We also do not have to deal with the annoying things that come with the gig experience, such as the tall guy who stands directly in front of you, or the teenagers behind you pushing into your back in an attempt to get closer to the stage

Interactive streams also mean the artists can communicate and talk more with their audience, creating the type of connection many fans long for. We also do not have to deal with the annoying things that come with the gig experience, such as the tall guy who stands directly in front of you, or the teenagers behind you pushing into your back in an attempt to get closer to the stage. With a live show, I can get comfortable in my room with a glass of wine in hand and simply enjoy the music. 

We have to ask ourselves: if we do not use live-streaming services, what is the alternative for live music? Despite the downfalls of online gigs, we need distractions right now, and musicians still need to make money. With many summer events and celebrations cancelled, an evening concert can be a fun substitute for the real thing. Although a live-streamed gig can never quite compare with the real experience, I’ll happily take it for now.

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