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New interest in livestreamed gigs looks likely to outlive COVID-19 shutdown, says UTA

By | Published on Thursday 30 April 2020


As many as 90% of regular concert-goers have sought to replace the live music experience online during the COVID-19 lockdown, and around 70% of those who have been newly accessing livestreamed shows say they plan to continue doing so even once the pandemic is over.

That’s according to a survey conducted in the US by the data and analytics unit at talent agency group UTA, which reckons that a positive of the COVID-19 crisis maybe new long-term opportunities in the streamed concert domain.

UTA teamed up with consumer research platform SightX to survey approximately 1110 American consumers about the kinds of entertainment they have been accessing since the COVID-19 lockdown began. The aim, the agency says, was “to inform our agents, clients, partners and the entertainment industry at large”.

“But we also sought to put numbers and facts behind what we believe inherently: that entertainment content emerges as a critical beacon in dark times”, UTA also says in a new report based on its survey. “It is indeed an ‘essential service’ when factoring the mental and emotional toll that social isolation has taken on nearly every American”.

Key stats related to music include that 90% of the concert-goers among the survey’s respondents had sought to replace the live music experience through online channels in recent weeks, including streaming services, social media, video platforms and livestreams.

Some have simply sought out their favourite artists’ catalogues on the streaming platforms, or watched archive concert footage on video and user-upload sites, or more proactively followed an artist’s activity on social media. But 46% of the surveyed music fans had also tuned in to a livestream of a music performance while on lockdown, and 28% said they had paid in some way to access such livestreams.

Obviously, it’s no secret that the livestreaming of musical performances has boomed since lockdown began – both in terms of the number of artists staging such streams and the number of fans tuning in. And while many livestreamed shows have been free to access, some artists have started to successfully monetise this activity.

Livestreaming isn’t new of course, but, prior to COVID-19, live music online had never really gone mainstream. Now that it has, to an extent, the big debate is whether that’s a temporary blip facilitated by these unusual times and the novelty value of watching artists performing from their living rooms, or whether something more permanent has begun.

UTA’s research suggests the latter, with approximately 70% of those who had tuned into a livestreamed concert during lockdown saying that they planned to do so again in the future even once lockdown is over.

Capitalising on that opportunity quickly could be important for the music industry, given that another finding in the UTA survey was that less than half of respondents said they planned to immediately rush back to the real world live music experience once lockdown restrictions are relaxed. That’s a finding that echoes concerns expressed by consumers in a recent Reuters poll that there could be resurgences of COVID-19 in the year ahead, and therefore it’s unwise to attend large-scale events until a vaccine has been developed.

UTA writes in its report: “Prior to COVID-19, the appetite for virtual concerts was limited. Now, optimising the virtual experience may be critical to the future of live music. Music tech companies have quickly begun to legitimise the livestream business through ticketing and offering community-based features that hope to replicate the shared experience of attending a live event”.

“The newfound appreciation for livestream and virtual music events reaches beyond just the frequent concert-goer”, it goes on. “Even before the star-studded [Lady Gaga-organised] ‘Together At Home’ livestream concert raked in more than 20 million viewers, six in ten consumers stated that they had participated or planned to participate in virtual or livestreamed music events during this period of social distancing”.

The report then notes a comment made by The Orchard founder and Warner Music Chief Innovation Officer Scott Cohen during a recent panel discussion organised by the Social Broadcasting Company: that COVID-19 could be the live sector’s “Napster moment”.

“Indeed, COVID-19 may be the live music business’s ‘Napster moment'”, UTA adds, “as the industry reconciles increased mainstream interest in virtual shows even as concert-goers crave a return to the ‘real live’ experience”.