It comes as no secret that 2020 was a devastating year for the music industry. Cancelled performances, closed down venues, and shuttered music tours due to lockdown measures have brought this sector to its knees. From musicians to venue organisers to sound engineers, everyone has felt the impact of the current COVID crisis.
With the industry down to its last proverbial strings, live streaming is proving to be a viable option for musicians as they attempt to breathe new life into the sector. As new lockdown measures are implemented due to the start of the ‘second wave’, live streaming may become an even more critical component in the fight to save the music industry.
COVID Hits All The Wrong Notes
A recent in-depth study, commissioned by the South African Cultural Observatory, serves to highlight the extent of the damage that the live music sector has suffered as a result of the pandemic. This study is regarded as one of the largest of its kind, containing responses for individuals all over South Africa. The respondents all currently operate within the live music value chain.
A cursory reading of the findings is enough to make anyone weep. The report tells the tale of an industry bruised and battered by current events. Nearly half of all respondents have openly stated that they have contemplated quitting the live music scene permanently. More than 40% of musicians surveyed have reportedly sold off their music equipment and instruments to pay the bills. The report also brings numerous other issues to the fore:
- The findings of the report highlight the interdependency between the music industry and other sectors such as the food and beverage sector and the hospitality industry. Musicians often have standing contracts to perform at restaurants, bars and other venues where live entertainment is provided. With the litany of restrictions currently in place, many organisers have had to cancel these contracts and performances, due to lost revenue at their venues.
- The easing of restrictions hasn’t helped much. Many live music venues remain closed. Some have needed to shut down permanently. Restaurants and bars have been hesitant to reintroduce live music at their venues, due to restrictions on hours, admission limits, etc.
- Many in the music industry have been unable to apply for relief from the government. This is because the government requires formal documentation to consider any COVID relief payments. However, music-related work, especially within the South African context, is largely informal and predominantly contract-based, leaving many musicians unable to apply.
While these issues certainly raise alarms bells, many live music practitioners are still incredibly optimistic about the future of the industry. Provided they receive the necessary support, many feel that they will be able to recover.
The Live Streaming Life Jacket
As the music industry scrambles to find solutions to this very real problem, live streaming online has emerged as a popular option for musicians to start producing content and once again generate an income. Although still in its infant stages in South Africa, live streaming and virtual streaming offer great potential for monetising performances. Even after lockdowns and restrictions subside, this platform can still be used as a viable revenue-generating stream, in addition to the live-audience performances.
For the most part, the benefits of digital streaming are obvious. Musicians can produce content and perform for a global, online audience. Digital streaming eliminates borders, allowing people from across the world to enjoy the music. Individuals in Ghana can revel in a live performance from their favourite artist in the USA, right from their lounge. Live streaming can also save on costs such as venue hire, catering costs and event staff although this is often offset by the costs involved in marketing and producing the event.
As with any platform, the digital arena does present several challenges. High marketing costs, lack of financing, high data costs and lack of data all present barriers to a musician’s ability to effectively get his or her product out to the masses. However, as this digital space grows, these barriers will invariably be broken down.
Virtual Performances – The New Norm?
There are already several platforms that cater perfectly to live concerts online and other virtual streaming events. UBU’s streaming platform is ideally suited to musicians and bands, irrespective of their size. Musicians are not only able to stream their live performances through the UBU platform, they can also create live streaming events directly through the UBU network. UBU eliminates many of the problems associated with traditional live streaming. Marketing costs are kept to a minimum, there’s already a readymade customer base for artists to market to. All of the digital requirements for a seamless, high-quality production or event, are offered. We’ve also taken care of the issue of users passing around virtual event links. Anyone who wants to view the performance or event must purchase a ticket to do so.
UBU recently hosted a live-streamed concert by popular South African artist Francois Van Coke – Live and Ubplugged in Pretoria. While the performance took place at Loftus Park, many were unable to attend due to the restrictions on the number of people at an outdoor venue. As a result, many fans purchased tickets through the easy-to-use UBU app and enjoyed an incredible live performance, viewed in real-time across the world. Not only was the quality of the performance praised, but also the high quality and accessibility of the live stream. All round, a rocking success!
The Van Coke concert is a prime example of how musicians can use the live stream platform to reconnect with their audience and start monetising their performances again. Given the struggles presently facing the music industry, musicians and organisers would do well to step into the digital arena and make it work for them. Platforms like UBU International provide the lifeline that musicians need to survive this difficult period. Read more about how you too can deploy live streaming functionality for your events here.