Music events as a live stream – does it work?
In 2020, out of necessity, an attempt was made to establish events as a live stream on the Internet. Is this a real alternative?
At the beginning of 2020, the Corona pandemic suddenly forced all organizers and event locations to establish new digital event formats. Traditional presence events were forbidden overnight and in a very short time the otherwise rather conservative industry experimented with new concepts. At the top of the list of possible solutions: live streaming on the Internet. Concerts and even festivals were announced as livestreams and most were made available for free on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. We too, of course, have followed this development very closely. In the meantime, we have come to the conclusion, both from a private and professional point of view, that the transfer of cultural events to the Internet can be forgotten. At least that applies to a large part of the events. The German director Christian Petzold goes even further and referred to digital festivals as “methadone programs”.
Now, as a company that specializes in digital services such as event streaming, we should actually encourage the implementation of previous events simply digitally. That is what we are doing. However, only for the B2B sector – i.e. the classic business events. Because it is mainly the content that matters, while emotions are in the foreground at music events.
In short, for live streaming: “Gala is fine – rock ‘n’ roll rather no”. With one exception: live streams can work as a complement to live events. But in turn.
Why do people attend live events?
To get to the bottom of this phenomenon, we’ve looked a little bit at why people actually attend events. Because pure content like podcasts, readings and music can now be obtained through apps like Spotify and co. streamed to his phone in real time. So there has to be something else behind it.
In order to get to concerts, people end up with costs and effort. Concert tickets usually cost more than one recording and often the concert visit is connected with a trip to the respective city in which the respective concert takes place. In order to find out what makes live events so appealing, musicologist Martin Pfleiderer has evaluated several studies.
This started with the music events of the 19th century, when urbanization drove people to the cities. In the pubs there was always singing, but of course they became too tight at some point. So music and dance halls were created and the idea of today’s event halls was born. This made it possible to do something like touring. And, as we all know, this trend continues to this day.
But events such as live concerts are not just just the pure presentation on stage. Martin Pfleiderer mentions the following aspects that influence the live experience. Let’s see what is lost on the way to the Internet.
|Property||Presence event||Online event|
|Atmosphere of the venue||✓||X|
|Size of the venue||✓||X|
|Composition of the audience||✓||X|
|Costs of admission||✓||✓|
|Awareness of the artists||✓||✓|
|Behaviour of the audience||✓||X|
Sure – everything that has to do with the event location is by the wayside. And, of course, the entire part of the audience. What is only one point in the table is, of course, much more in real life. At live events you want to dance, sing and laugh together. And this also with strangers, to whom you are no longer so foreign at such an event – after all, you enjoy the same music.
Of course, you can invite friends for the online concert at home. But unlike a TV night with a live recording on DVD, it probably won’t be. The live atmosphere, the group experience and also the interaction between the artists with the audience cannot be transmitted. Just think of the classical concert rituals such as clapping, trampling, screaming or – loved and hated – the inevitable panning of lighters in the calmer tones.
Online concerts are most similar to the pub concerts, where you are mainly busy with your beer and the table round and the music rather lifts the mood by the way.
So are online concerts generally nonsensical?
No, they are not. Live streams will certainly never be able to replace real live concerts. However, there is quite a willingness to watch a live event on the Internet as well. This is interesting, for example, for people who are simply too far away, who have too little time to travel and, of course, people who cannot attend the event for health or financial reasons. In other words, as an additional offer, live streams are a good thing. There are already established formats on television, such as the WDR Rockpalast, which has been a permanent institution for live broadcast and recorded concerts since the 1970s. According to an older GfK study from 2007, 10% of concert-goers under the age of 20 watched live concerts on the Internet on a regular basis. And just under 3% said they were willing to pay for it. It can be assumed that these figures are much higher today, about 13 years later.
For bands, parallel live streams are also a good opportunity to reach a larger audience and thus increase awareness – regardless of the capacity of the booked locations. And even with sold-out shows, it is a consolation for disappointed fans to be able to watch the concert at least on the internet.
What is the relevance of music events?
To put it briefly, it is very relevant. According to the market research institute GfK, about one third of all Germans over the age of ten attend at least one music event a year. Assuming the average ticket price is around 30 – 35 EUR, one can only guess the financial significance of live events. Within the entertainment sector, Germans spend more money only on books (€1,972 million) than on live events (€1,444 million). Compared to phonograms, even double the amount is spent on live events. This, of course, also shows how important such events are for the musicians. While sales of phonograms, favored by the spread of streaming services, continue to decline, the enthusiasm for live events continues to decline. And one more fact must not be forgotten in this context: per concert-goer, approximately 17,00 EUR is invested in merchandise – in addition to the ticket price.
Who is particularly affected by the pandemic of concert cancellations?
If one follows the evaluations of Martin Pfleiderer one can say, on the part of the audience it is almost all age groups. Because the enthusiasm for music events is unbroken from 19 to 50 years. Sure, the type of concerts is different but overall people seem to be getting a little quieter and don’t attend events as regularly. On the side of the artists and organizers, however, it is above all the open-air festivals, musicals and rock and pop concerts. Because these events inspire all age groups and make up the majority of live events. This part of the entertainment sector has been hit particularly hard by the lack of events in 2020. This is also shown by the fact that there were most attempts to create replacements with a live stream. Since there seemed to be great uncertainty as to whether one can also take “entry” for such a virtual event, a donation option was mostly avoided.
The bottom line remains: Live broadcasts on the Internet are not a substitute for the audience or for the organisers. In the future, however, the now tried and tested online formats could work well as a nice addition to normal events. This is called hybrid events, in which people who cannot or do not want to participate in the actual event for a variety of reasons can also take part.
(Source: “Live events of popular music and its reception” / Martin Pfleiderer / published in the book “Music Reception, Music Distribution and Music Production” by the publishing house “Gabler Edition Wissenschaft” and the studies contained in the text)
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