It could be argued that conferences and businesses events suit the move to a virtual world. Expert speakers, well-polished slides and a quiet audience who might not even be heard. There’s a lot to be gained by moving these kinds of events online. Once the technology is in place, the format can be replicated and events can reach an even larger audience.
On the other hand, live entertainment tends to be more of a loud, creative celebration. It has more to lose if it can’t achieve the same personal, fun atmosphere of a physical event if and when it moves online.
Indeed, the live music industry has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic:
More than £900 million is expected to be wiped from the £1.1 billion the live music sector was expected to contribute to the domestic economy this year
A total of £21 million of work had been lost since the beginning of the lockdown on 23rd March (this included touring and teaching work)
82% of grassroots music venues (more than 550) are at immediate risk of closure
92% of members of the Association Of Independent Festivals face collapse
Sources: euronews and Music Week
The industry faces an uncertain future. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The lockdown resulted in changes to how people consume music and entertainment. For example, Spotify noted how changes to consumers’ routines (mainly no time spent commuting) meant that listening habits were similar to weekend consumption during the lockdown. More listeners were searching for relaxing genres too.
Musicians and performers are also able to go direct to their fans from home with services like Instagram TV, providing they have the equipment needed. But to make money from live streaming platforms, artists have to get creative. For example, they could think about providing early or exclusive access, or allowing for digital ‘tips’ during live streams.
The longer the industry experiences disruption because of the pandemic, the more common these tactics will be and the more likely audiences will be to seek out music and entertainment from new channels. There have already been some huge events – Fortnite hosted a live in-game concert featuring Travis Scott and nearly 12 million people logged in to watch. But it’s arguably much easier for bigger names with access to technology and marketing.
Going forward, social distancing will cause problems – no big concerts, festivals or any performance with a large audience can take place any time soon. As the rules begin to ease, smaller musicians and performers may find themselves performing once again. But those who make use of popular digital platforms, including live performances, will have a real advantage.
However, there will always be demand for live events, entertainment and performances. And with restaurants, hotels and other venues forced into becoming quite sterile and impersonal places – with limited interaction, plastic screens and one way systems – now more than ever, they might need the atmosphere that live entertainment can deliver. We mustn’t forget the value of the emotional experiences created by music and entertainment.