Should Artists Charge for Live-Streamed Gigs?

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As lockdown began, it was clear that live gigs would be postponed indefinitely. There is still no information on when or if live tours can go ahead this year, so artists and musicians around the world have had to adopt new ways of delivering entertainment.

Evidently, the most common and effective means to do this is by livestreaming performances across platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitch. It took a bit of a while before some artists started to monetise their performances, but it seems to be the case that a lot of musicians are now charging entrance fees to these streams.

Monetisation does make sense, when thinking about the amount of revenue artists have lost this year with the lack of touring. Consequently, artists such as All Time Low have live-streamed shows (which include a performance and a Q&A), where all profits made go towards the band’s tour crew.

However, is it fair to make live-streams cost something? Theoretically, literally anybody with access to a social media account could put on a live-stream, whereas not everybody has access to a stage to perform in front of listeners. Therefore, monetising something that is already so accessible does seem rather dystopian.

Another problem with monetising live-streams is their unpredictability. What happens if viewers pay for the stream, but then are unable to attend due to connection issues? Or, what if the artist or musician themselves loses connection, has sound issues, or are faced with interruptions? Refunding viewers based on these issues is far more complicated than refunding live gigs, which underpins a strong argument against monetising live-streams

On the other hand, streaming services like Netflix all have a monthly charge and, while some complain that it’s overpriced, most people accept this payment to stream these films and shows. Is live-streaming gigs from home any different to this? After all, both are a form of entertainment. The only difference is the time that they were used most. Streaming services like Netflix have profited off viewers for years, whereas these live-streamed gigs are a still a very new concept.

The path which seems fairest right now is an optional donation within a live-stream. Rather than forcing an entrance fee for each viewer, artists could instead live-stream a performance with an optional donation throughout, such as Frank Turner’s Independent Venue Love series. This means that if the artist or the listeners face connection interruptions, no one loses out on any money. It is likely that artists who have a big following already do not need to rely on mandatory entrance fees too, and can instead rely on the dedication of their fanbase.

It is hard to make a conclusion, though, as this is such a new concept. The live music industry will undoubtedly be forced to continually adapt over the coming months and years, so only time will tell what comes of monestised live-streams.

Keep up to date with what live-stream gigs are occurring each week on our feature This Week in Live-Streams.

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Live Editor 2019/20 & second year English student. Can usually be found procrastinating my degree at a gig, or trying (and failing) to complete my Goodreads challenge

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