When lockdown started, artists around the world swiftly jumped onto platforms like Instagram and Twitch, in order to livestream from their homes. But, with social distancing restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, and no real sense of when live music could return, the idea that livestreams could help to partially offset the enormous losses in live income has grown in popularity.
Recently, Scott Cohen, chief innovation officer at Warner Music Group, called this the live industry’s “Napster moment” – meaning this period of huge disruption should be followed by incredible innovation. With all this in mind, we overview some of the platforms allowing artists to bring their live experience online.
Side Door is a startup that was supposed to present itself to the industry at this year’s SXSW, offering to facilitate Sofar Sounds-style “micro-performances” that can be booked in people’s homes and other unusual venues. The company quickly pivoted to helping artists host ticketed livestreams using various third-party services such as Zoom or BlueJeans.
For a 10% cut of the net ticket revenue, Side Door sells tickets to the online show and manages the payments. Though a simple solution, one of the strengths of the platform is the feeling of community it engenders during those livestreams, simply by allowing the performer and the guests to see each other in a shared Zoom livestream. Indeed, some performances have even ended in a virtual audience singalong, according to the company.
This is a different feeling from watching a one-way livestream on Facebook or Twitch, as the company claims, and is probably what can get closest to an actual live show in terms of social interaction.
It’s very straightforward to set up. You decide your own price and the cut that the platform takes is relatively small when compared to other solutions. Interestingly, venues have also started using the platform, with some of them offering a paid Zoom account so that the artist doesn’t have to absorb that cost while still being able to share some of the revenues, thereby helping to secure their future as well.
StageIt, a long-standing live streaming platform, takes a higher cut (of 20%), but it hosts performances on its own website, something that makes it slightly more premium, as well as offering chat and tipping functionalities.
Release Party is relatively new and positions itself as a self-serve platform geared towards independent artists, hosting livestreams and processing payments, with artists being able to set their own prices.
The average payout to the artist is 75-80% depending on the price of tickets and the number of tickets sold, although all of the shows currently listed are available for free.
All of these websites also function as a hub where fans can browse all available shows and potentially discover new artists.
Advanced ticketed livestreams
At the more complex end of the livestreaming sliding scale sits startup Maestro, which takes a very different approach to livestreaming. Rather than allowing artists to livestream on their own platform or a third-party application, it provides technology that allows artists to create and stream shows from their own websites and apps.
The platform powers Erykah Badu’s own live streaming destination and its clients include UMG, Coachella, The Grammys and Above & Beyond. Meanwhile, management and entertainment company Three Six Zero is listed as an investor. On its website, it lays out what it can offer to not just music but also other verticals such as fashion, esports and more.
Its monetisation options include call-to-action overlays to sell tickets and merchandise as well as receiving tips. The platform allows for email collection, as well as integrating custom or third-party authentication to augment the existing datasets that artist teams can use for remarketing purposes.
Beyond allowing artists to fully customise and own their live streaming experience, the big keyword for the platform is interactivity – which it highlights as “powerful two-way communication”. With polling, artists can allow viewers to influence the performance, the chat function lets the fan community interact with one another and in-stream giveaways can be used to reward an artist’s most engaged fans for their participation.
“You can give people exactly the experience you want, set the parameters for monetisation you need and own your audience data, creating opportunities to stay directly connected,” says CEO Ari Evans.
US startup Yoop, on the other hand, has created an exclusive eSpace where it hosts select events with musicians, sports stars and more. Debuting in June, its first musical performance will see the duo Sofi Tukker play in what it calls a “new immersive virtual venue designed to bring fans and artists closer together”.
If you’re keen to witness how immersive their technology is, this first gig should give a taste of what’s possible on the platform. Yoop comes with an app that lists upcoming shows in the eSpace.
When clicking on the Sofi Tukker event, you can find a biography and moving visuals from their live shows set to one of the band’s songs. Overall, this makes for an engaging event listing that gets fans excited for the show, with the venue being listed as eSpace.
When using Yoop eSpace to host a show, you will be able to make the events public or private, set a specific or unlimited capacity and tailor the format to your content. The platform can also be added to existing studios and venues while users will be able to pay on-demand as well as viewing for up to 24 hours after the performance.
This is a transition period, but we are already seeing a newfound understanding that, in order to make virtual live shows as engaging and as high-quality as possible, the production values and level of interactivity have to increase. As artists rise to the challenges and opportunities here, we are excited to see how the virtual live experience evolves.