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Study assesses livestreaming’s rise and the future of virtual events

Livestreaming will become an “additive” revenue asset with hybrid concerts set to become more commonplace for live events companies and artists as the industry begins to reopen, according to a new white paper on the sector.

Midem and THELYNK have collaborated on a 46-page white paper, titled ‘Livestream and Virtual Live Experience,’ to analyse the state of livestreaming and virtual live experiences.

The paper, which is based on data analysis and conversations with different sources throughout the global music industry, highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted the live events industry in March 2020, created a shift in consumer behaviour.

It explains that the change happened “quite organically” on all the major social media and video platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitch, as well as on specific live music platforms like Bandsintown which quickly pivoted to become a playground for these new breeds of online live music experience.

“It goes without saying that we all miss the thrill of live concerts in packed venues and at festivals,” a Midem spokesperson said.

“An entire industry, the artist community and their fans are eagerly waiting for live concerts to resume. Moving forward through this unprecedented global pandemic, the future may not, however, involve a return to ‘normal’.

“A new normal is being bootstrapped and co-created as we speak by artists, consumers, start-ups, platforms and the whole music ecosystem, with livestreaming and virtual live experiences playing a key role.”

The music category on Twitch saw dramatic growth with a 550-per-cent year-on-year increase and the total number of broadcasters creating music content tripling between Q2 2019 to Q2 2020, according to Tracy Chan, Twitch’s vice president of music.

A Bandsintown fan survey showed that fewer than 30 per cent had watched a livestream performance before COVID-19. By the autumn, 73 per cent were watching a livestream event at least once a month. Fans’ willingness to pay also increased dramatically from around 60 per cent initially to 80 per cent today.

Andy Gensler, executive editor of Pollstar and VenuesNow (USA), explained in the white paper that it is a nascent market but it is seeing more six or seven figures grosses mostly for major acts, charities and fundraisers.

As the barrier for entry is not necessarily high and in-person performances were all but halted, the number of livestreaming platforms increased rapidly and there are more major live companies that are going to get into the market in the coming months.

Gensler said: “Likely, as with most business sectors, a few market leaders will emerge and dominate the space who can hit all the marks: quality audio-video, ease of monetisation, fan engagement ability, tools for marketing and promoter, ease of use, etc.

“Hybrid is the word we hear most about the future of livestreaming and again can be used in a variety of ways to promote tours, generate revenues, give added value, engage fans, sell merch, etc. As we transition in the coming months back to a safe live in-person market, which will likely be saturated with artists wanting to get back on the road and pent-up consumer demand, it is also likely most fans would rather use their money to see artists in person with their community than spend any more time at home on their laptop, smart phone or computer.”

He also points out that livestreaming and virtual experiences have been building for decades and their proliferation and adoption have been accelerated by temporary conditions. Gensler continued: “When these conditions recede, demand for livestreaming and virtual experiences will likely also recede—but in no way entirely.

“I don’t see these platforms’ recent rise as “game-changers” per se, but as something additive that going forward will be part of an artist’s repertoire of ways to perform, create, connect with fans, sell merch, advocate, fundraise, generate revenue, promote and more — much like TV and the web have been for decades.”

The paper also shows how video gaming took a leading role in the sector’s spectacular growth during the pandemic. The livestreaming industry grew by 91.8 per cent to 7.46 billion hours of content watched compared to 3.89 billion hours watched in Q3 2019, according to Streamlabs.

In-game concerts, occasionally trialled before the game changing year of 2020, became a phenomenon with festivals organised in Minecraft and live series in Fortnite. The LIL NAS X in-world concert experience in Roblox broke records, with the total number of visits exceeding 33 million.

The global video game industry generated an estimated $180bn in 2020, more than sports and movies worldwide. Video gaming is not only a new creative and interactive medium through which music artists can connect with new and existing fans, it is also a potential cross-sector market to be explored, the paper states.

Image: The Come Up Show / CC BY-ND 2.0 / Edited for size