Not to date myself, but my first concert was to see Nirvana in 1991, when I was 13. I had heard some songs on the radio, and loved Nevermind after I bought it, so was excited to see them live. As a 100-pound teenager thrown into a horde of raging moshers this was…not a good idea. I hung out in the back, almost too terrified to enjoy the show. But outside of concert films and maybe some clips on MTV, how else could you experience a band live?
That’s changed, of course. Now Radiohead can’t play “Creep” at a concert without it being uploaded dozens of times within minutes of the last chord. It’s about to get a lot more immediate and visceral, though. Instant video services, especially Facebook Live, are allowing musicians a chance to get a lot more interactive with their fans, making it the next step in music. It’ll let major acts become more accessible, and allow smaller up-and-comers to show their chops without making expensive tours. As the music industry adjusts to the digital sphere, and we lose the tactile feel of records, we can still use the next level of video conferencing technology and live apps to get closer than ever to the sounds.
The Changing Economics of the Music Industry Create New Opportunities for Up-and-Comers
Like my Nirvana experience, the way we experienced music for years was radio-album-concert, if they came into town. Concerts were a good way to hear music you already liked, not to discover new acts. That’s changing now. Concerts, especially large multi-band events, are increasingly the biggest money-maker in the musical world. About 42% of money spent on music last year was for major concerts or festivals, with 10% to see small shows or DJs. This means that, for the first time since people have been recording, concerts are the way the industry is making the most money.
That creates a bit of a paradox for smaller bands. Ticket prices are skyrocketing, and the average price is nearly $50, with tickets for major acts going into the triple digits. After all, with people buying less music, musicians need to raise ticket prices to be profitable. But for smaller acts who don’t have large built-in fan bases and can’t charge that much, touring can mean losing money.
This is where the new technology comes in. Say you’re in a band with 50,000 Facebook followers, spread out over the country. It’s impractical and even impossible to go on tour where they all can see it. You might have a handful of fans in dozens of cities, and you can’t make it to all of them. But with Facebook Live, you could put on a concert in your garage, and invite everyone.
A band might build a much larger fan base this way, by providing great live music that is accessible to everyone. The concert can be passed around through other social media, and with any luck, you’ll have enough to justify a real tour. This is a paradigm shift for smaller acts.
New technology will only help improve the live experience. We already have amazing teleconference technology that allows for crystal-clear communication across the globe. Using this tech with Facebook Live (or other live video streaming applications) will allow you to avoid the fuzz and blur that characterize a lot of non-professionally filmed live acts. You’ll have the clear and powerful sound you need to unite a growing fan base.
Live Streaming for Established Musicians
Needless to say, this isn’t just for up-and-comers. The rise of social media has allowed (and in some ways forced) even major acts to establish a more personal connection with fans. That means upping the ante on interacting with your fans, and one way to do that is with live impromptu shows that aren’t just for people who happen to be in the area, like the Beatles on the rooftop in 1969.
When country legend and outlaw superstar Merle Haggard died earlier this year, modern country star Jake Owens did a little tribute concert from his own kitchen, putting it on Facebook Live. It was sad and sweet and very intimate–he even said he had to play quietly so as to not wake his daughter, which gave people an immediate personal connection with him. Over 10,000 listened. And he was able to interact with them.
Facebook Live lets viewers comment on moments in the video in real time, letting the broadcaster interact with watchers by responding to comments live on camera, even by mentioning the commenter’s name for an interaction that feels almost like a Skype chat. Viewers can also interact with each other by exchanging comments, and can ‘like’ moments in the video and use emoticons to show other viewers their reactions over the course of the video.
This ability to interact is what makes the difference for bands using Facebook Live or other live video apps. They can bring fans backstage with them before the show, and show them the final prep work that needs to be done. Days before the concert, they can live stream practice sessions, even asking fans to make suggestions. After the concert is over, they can virtually take fans to the after party. These interactions are valuable even for established musicians, because they can take fans from lukewarm to dedicated by giving them a sense of ownership, making them feel invested in the band and its success.
Music is all about making a true connection, and playing shows for fans spread out over the globe is the best way to do it. We can’t all be at a concert, overpaying for beer and parking and being sweat on by bouncing fanboys. Some of us may just have to get the full aural and visual experience from the comfort of our homes.