Business News Digital

Facebook to let artists charge for access to online gigs

By | Published on Tuesday 28 April 2020


Facebook looks set to allow artists to charge for access to their live streams on the platform, although the specifics of how that will work and when it will go live are currently unclear.

The boom in live music streaming since the COVID-19 lockdown began has posed various questions around monetisation and copyright. Which is to say, how can artists make money from their virtual gigs? And if they are performing other people’s songs or playing other people’s recordings, how do those people get paid? Actually, technically, even if an artist performs their own songs, a licence from collecting society PRS (or its equivalent in other countries) is usually required.

Of course, live streaming isn’t new, but it’s as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown that live streamed music has really gone mainstream, which is why many questions about charging for access and sorting out copyright remain unanswered. The longer lockdown runs for – or if the increased interest in live streamed gigs can be maintained post-COVID-19 – the more important it is for monetisation and licensing to be properly cracked.

Facebook made a flurry of announcements last week about planned developments across its platforms – including Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram – most of it relating to the increased interest in video chat and live streaming as a result of lockdown.

In among those announcements, it stated that soon “you’ll be able to mark Facebook Events as online only and, in the coming weeks, integrate Facebook Live so you can broadcast to your guests. To support creators and small businesses, we plan to add the ability for Pages to charge for access to events with Live videos on Facebook – anything from online performances to classes to professional conferences”.

So, interesting developments. Although – as you see – without much detail so far. Of course, once big platforms like Facebook start allowing people to charge to access live streamed music events, the monetisation and licensing conversations merge.

If an artist charges a virtual ticket price for a virtual gig via Facebook, does the social network pass a small percentage of that money over to PRS for the song rights, as happens on a real world ticket for a real world gig?

Questions, questions. And what’s the betting all those questions will be answered just as lockdown ends and – with everyone tiring of online gigs – the whole thing becomes irrelevant again?