Investigating the monetisation of live streams of musical performances in the wake of COVID-19

Lead Research Organisation: Middlesex University
Department Name: Faculty of Arts & Creative Industries


Live performances are a vital income source for over 80% of musicians.[1] The COVID19 lockdown put a temporary stop to performances in concert venues, while social distancing measures are likely to restrict audiences for months to come, with regular attenders deciding to stay at home and venues having to reduce capacity to adhere to government regulations. The result is a severe loss of income for musicians.

Lockdown saw a number of musicians turn to streaming performances live from their homes and some continue to do so. However, while having the potential to make up for loss of earnings from other sources, these live streams are rarely being monetised. A shift in thinking about the value of live streaming performances needs to be instigated. Musicians expect adequate remuneration for the streaming of recordings (on platforms such as Spotify) and attach high value to live performances in physical spaces. Live performances in the digital sphere, however, do not, as yet, seem to carry such value for musicians.

COVID19 has the potential to be the catalyst for 'creative destruction', bringing into question traditional music industry business models while offering new ones. This research project will investigate optimum ways of monetising live streamed performances. The outcome of the research is an Open Access report for musicians, featuring best practice guidelines and focusing on the staging of virtual concerts; technical requirements; streaming platforms; methods of generating income; collaborations with venues; and online audience engagement.

The report will equip musicians with knowledge that they need to quickly and efficiently access new income sources from live streaming performances.

Key findings from the report will be disseminated to over 50,000 UK musicians by the project's partner organisations, including the Musicians' Union, the Incorporated Society of Musicians, and the Music Venue Trust, while the full report will be downloadable from a project-specific website.

[1] Musicians' Union, The Working Musician report, 2012


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Description 1 Livestreaming makes live music widely accessible
A large market has emerged of audiences that are not able or reluctant to visit concerts in physical venues. The lower cost of 'attending' a livestreamed performance and the ability to attend without having to travel means that live music fans can now access live music concerts that they weren't able to experience otherwise. Individuals benefitting from this include parents with young children/single parents, disabled or elderly people, people with little disposable income, people living far from a city with music venue, and people suffering from claustrophobia or social anxiety. Crucially, this means that livestreaming concerts accesses audiences that are not reached by live concerts in physical venues.

2 Emotional engagement matters
Both audiences and musicians highly value the emotional engagement that occurs during live performance. Livestream viewers that feel connected to the performer(s) and fellow viewers watch more livestreams, while those that don't feel connected watch fewer. As it is difficult to replicate the type of communication in physical venues, new ways of engaging emotionally during livestreams are emerging. Online audience communities are forming around regularly livestreaming musicians across all genres, with community members providing emotional support to each other.

3 Audiences are willing to pay
The practice of livestreaming performances is still in its infancy and the value of livestreams is still under consideration. Tickets to livestreamed performances were seen as less valuable than tickets to performances in physical venues. However, audiences broadly agreed that livestreams should not be free to access and felt that the cost of accessing livestreams behind paywalls (i.e. those that can only be accessed through payment) didn't constitute a barrier to watching livestreams. There was particular willingness to pay for livestreams of good audio and video quality, for livestreams from locations that would otherwise be out of reach, and for livestreams that made viewers feel more connected with the performer and other viewers.

4 Musicians are dissatisfied with income generated so far
Musicians' biggest concern about livestreaming was not being able to earn enough income to make it worthwhile, particularly in the light of initially having to invest in technical knowledge and equipment. While musicians with a large following are able to monetise livestreamed performances through ticket sales relatively easily, the majority of participating musicians were dissatisfied with the income they generated through livestreaming during the pandemic year. Livestreaming does have the potential to generate income for musicians, however, it needs to be seen as an additional rather than the main income source.

5 Livestreaming is here to stay
A large percentage of musicians and attenders broadly agreed that once venues are safely open again, livestreaming will be a significant part of the music sector's landscape. There was also agreement from both groups that livestreaming will be a successful tool for reaching new audiences from geographical locations the artist has not toured to and for reaching new audiences that might be reluctant or unable to visit physical venues. Questions remain about how livestreamed concerts will be used within the music industry's ecosystem but there is little doubt that the format is here to stay.
Exploitation Route Recommendations

1 Musicians
• Musicians need to develop their livestreamed performance practice, engaging with attenders in ways the new format allows.
• Musicians need to livestream regularly, at least weekly to allow for a gradual increase in attenders.
• A shift in thinking about the value of livestreams and a move away from offering livestreamed concerts without any monetisation is required.
• Musicians need to invest in technical equipment and knowledge, ideally enabled by government grants.
• Rather than attempting to replicate the situation of live concerts in physical venues, musicians would do well in exploring the new possibilities.

2 Government
• A grant scheme is needed, enabling musicians and music organisations to buy technical equipment and for acquiring technical knowledge.
• An international livestreaming licensing review is needed.
• Following on from COVID and Brexit, a government-funded livestreaming platform would enable UK musicians to showcase themselves to an international.

3 Industry
• Venues and rehearsal studios would do well to invest in livestreaming equipment.
• Technological innovation is needed to further develop real-time online communication during livestreams.

4 Academia
• Research is needed to establish needs and expectations of musicians operating in specific genres.
• Research into how communities are formed around livestreams is needed.
• Once live music venues are fully open again, further research is needed into how livestreaming concerts fare in a post-pandemic world.
Sectors Creative Economy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Report information was circulated by three partner organisations, the Musicians Union, the Incorporated Society of Musicians, and the Music Venue Trust, therefore bringing highly relevant findings to a range of UK musicians. The dissemination of the report has led to a change of practice for a range of musicians, with them using the information from the report to start, improve or monetise their livestreaming practice. However, further research if needed to gather evidence for a widespread change of practice.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Creative Economy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Economic