The New Paradigm for Live Musical Performance
Arts & Entertainment,
From Issue 902
By: Matt deHeus
17th September, 2020
Those of a certain age will remember when MTV announced that video had done in the radio star, as the visual art took on an increased importance throughout the music industry in the 1980s.
In some ways, 2020 may be remembered as the year that video replaced the live performance.
Here are a few thoughts on a world that was suddenly forced to adapt to a situation where the bread and butter of the trade – gigs – are replaced with “virtual” performances.
- Social media has always been important to the gigging musician. Over the Spring and Summer, it has also turned into a virtual venue, with artists turning to a mix of live streams and “Brady Bunch” videos, where musicians collaborate at a distance, recording their part independently and mixing them into the now familiar forma
- The 2020 Review Music Awards provided a preview of things to come, as its virtual presentation of pre-recorded live performances replaced the annual live awards show. The slick production set a bar for what is possible for visual and sound quality on a music video event. Many annual festivals and events followed suit, with a variety of online performance formats standing in the stead of their traditional gatherings.
- To be sure, the quality of the quality of live casts has varied drastically as musicians got themselves up and running. Ranging from camera phones and tablets to elaborate multi-camera set ups and sound processing, musicians have offered a more intimate look at the art and an opportunity to contribute directly to the artists they follow the Venmo, PayPal or other cash apps.
- Just about all of the musicians in question will tell you this method of getting paid pales in comparison to the traditional live gig. The economics of this new world are still getting sorted out.
- For those that have original recordings, the professionally produced music video has made a return. As an artist who was lucky enough to have some music “in the can” when this mess broke out, I can attest to the fact that a video will do wonders for the exposure of your song. My videos for “Gone” and “Never” have resulted in thousands of streams across Youtube, Spotify and other platforms that would have never happened on the basis of audio tracks alone.
- For those that are inclined, all of the digital distribution platforms offer tools to analyze who streams your material and their basic demographics. These are very useful marketing tools that can help define and refine your audience and sharpen your appeal to them.
- Some artists that wish to get into live casting video or improve their ability to provide a quality live stream have run into one small market impediment: As many industries moved in the short term to “work from home,” office workers were suddenly snapping up the same microphones, interfaces and webcams that musicians use in their productions. With some, many of these products emanating from offshore sources, the supply chain was empty on many product categories until just recently.
- Watch for one possible phenomenon in the wake of the white collar world going back to in-person work: They are back at the office, but the equipment they bought is still at home and becomes the domain of their kids. Given inputs like quarantines, online communities and success stories like Billie and Fineas Eilish and their bedroom-produced Grammy-winning LP, there is very likely to be a generation who has a vision much different from previous eras, when the goal was to form a cool band.
Independent musicians are by nature entrepreneurs and some of the most interested observers as society changes. The move to online performance has been a drastic change for most in the trade, but one that could create new opportunities to gain and hold an audience.
This bears watching – even if that watching happens to be a webcast, rather than a live performance.