As it approaches the year anniversary of the first national lockdown in the UK, our writers reflect on the rise of the livestream.
In Criticism of Livestreams
2020 has certainly been the year where live acts have taken to foregrounding their online presence with streamed gigs over YouTube and Twitch… but I don’t necessarily see this as a good thing. For most of the year the news has been inundated with reports of live music venues struggling to remain open when forced to close during lockdown from big, well-known locations to the indie. In November, a list of 30 independent music venues across the UK that were in risk of closure was released, including The 1865 here in Southampton.
Just think for a moment how many people are at serious risk of losing their jobs if these venues close, how many small bands won’t get an opportunity to get their foot in the industry. We might not see the effects of them right away, but five, ten, twenty years down the line we might. And this does not even go into comedy, or theatre, or other acts which might rent out the spaces.
Nothing can take away the feeling of actually being at an in-person gig; the deafening cheers of the crowd when the act begins to play a fan favourite piece, the tens or hundreds or thousands or people united for five minutes of joy. It takes away a human element that makes gigs what they are. There is something special about being in the room than rewatching a limited perspective of a recording.
Livestreams may be more accessible for those unable to attend in-person events, but the snowball effect of cancelling and closing these locations hasn’t entirely been thought through. We must defend the arts, and livestreaming charity fundraisers are not a long-term solution that benefits everyone in the long run. – Louise Chase
In Defence of Livestreams
I must concede that livestreams are no substitute for concerts. The cultural relevance, visceral experience and downright appeal of the latter will endure long after recent technology is washed away and iterated upon. After the pandemic, it’s probably realistic to assume that we’ll be seeing a highly renewed interest in live music. Livestreams are certainly not a replacement for this.
That being said, the music industry must adapt. With many venues heartbreakingly on their last legs and many are out of work alike, something has to fill this spot. Livestreams are a worthy substitute until those involved can return to making a living on the road. Buying a digital ticket and sitting around the TV with family/friends and a few drinks to enjoy your favourite artist play an empty venue… well, it could be a much worse experience. In fact, having digested plenty of concert clips online over the years, it’s clear that live music being beamed into homes can be instrumental (sorry) for those who can’t travel or afford to see certain acts. I could never see Rush play an American stadium, but YouTube features a lifetime of Geddy, Alex and Neil on stage. To be able to consume and learn from performances in this way is truly a 21st-century honour, and giving fans and musicians the opportunity to see an artist play from their home — wherever they are — is valuable.
We also owe it to engage in the current livestream landscape, at least a little. Music and its industry gives us an awful lot; if this is the way it has to be for now, then it’s the way it has to be for now. We should embrace it. – Harry Geeves