Live Event Streaming During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The music and theater industries have been hit hard by COVID-19, with many months of live performances cancelled around the world and no certainty as to when mid- to large-scale events will be able to return safely. While musicians and other performers can release recorded audio and video to audiences around the world in order to earn money and provide entertainment, these products don’t have the same energy and impact as live shows, and can’t make up for lost revenues and reduced employment opportunities for performers and crew. Because of this, numerous artists and groups have been exploring live event streaming services and platforms in order to hold both free and ticketed events for a global audience.
Performing Arts in 2020
The music industry had an excellent year in 2019 – its best in a decade – and 2020 was looking to continue the trend, with releases and events planned from several big artists. Both music streaming services and live music had a strong outlook at the start of the year, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on most plans. Even recorded music releases have faced setbacks with the temporary or permanent closure of recording studios and the need to adapt to social distancing and working from home.
Performing Arts and Live Streaming Market Statistics
- The global market for independent artists and performing art companies services was valued at $193 billion in 2019 by The Business Research Company
- Due to COVID-19’s impact, the market is expected to fall by close to $7 billion this year
- The US live concert industry stands to lose $9 billion by the end of 2020 if quarantine restrictions continue
- In contrast, live streaming is thriving this year with 99% growth in hours watched between April 2019 and April 2020 according to Stream Elements and Arsenal.gg
- Live streaming platform Twitch saw a 101% increase in hours watched, while YouTube grew by 65%
- While Facebook Live sits behind Twitch and YouTube in total hours watched, its growth was highest, at 238% over the past year
Artists and labels have continued to release music, albeit at a slower pace, and sometimes with different production values. An example is Taylor Swift’s latest album Folklore, which was written, produced, and released during the pandemic and has a different style and aesthetic from Swift’s normal releases. Despite this, the album broke several records when it launched. Theatre productions have also put out recorded content, making past shows available for online viewing. But while pre-recorded contend is easier to produce during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a different experience from a live performance, and artists and audiences alike are looking for ways to recapture that experience. That’s where live event streaming services come in.
Live Event Streaming Services
Video streaming Sites
|House Seats Live
|IBM Cloud Video (Ustream)
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Live Streams over Social Media
There are a range of options when it comes to live event streaming services, from social media sites that allow live streaming to companies that will host, produce, and broadcast events to multiple platforms. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (via Periscope), and even LinkedIn all allow performers to broadcast directly from a device to their social media followings, with minimal setup required. The Global Citizen Festival, an annual event that raises money to fight poverty, hosted a cross-platform, 8-hour concert in April that saw artists broadcasting from Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and other sites and apps. On a smaller scale, performers of all kinds are holding their own concerts and other events on social media, where they have an existing following and fans can interact with each other and the artists.
Top social media sites offering live streaming services:
- Twitter (Periscope)
Live Streaming Websites
Another set of platforms that offer live event streaming services are video and streaming sites such as Twitch and YouTube. Like social media platforms, these live streaming sites are well-known and easy for fans to join. They involve a somewhat larger learning curve for performers, but also allow for fancier setups, high-quality video and audio, and easy viewing and sharing outside of a specific app or webpage. In some cases, they also allow for private performances, making it possible to sell tickets and release a link to ticketholders only, helping artists and production companies to earn money directly from live performances.
Selling tickets to performances on these live streaming platforms is not without challenges, however. In the case of sites like YouTube, where users can follow a link to view a private broadcast, or Vimeo where users can be required to enter a password, success relies on no one leaking the information to allow viewers without tickets to watch the event, potentially hurting ticket sales and income. While one or two users sharing info may not have a big impact, widespread sharing on a public forum could result in significant losses.
Leading live video streaming sites:
- Vimeo (Livestream)
- IBM Cloud Video (Ustream)
To help remove this risk and consolidate both ticket selling and broadcasting, some performers have turned to virtual event venues. This type of live event streaming service sells tickets and hosts live shows, requiring viewers to log into the site in order to view the event. It allows artists to focus on the production end and hand off much of the logistics to a company that already has the needed infrastructure and expertise, much like they might do for in-person events.
Companies that fall under this category include sites like Eventcube, House Seats Live, and NoonChorus. While this is a relatively small and young sector of the market, these companies are already seeing success, with NoonChorus hitting $500,000 in sales from the start of the pandemic through to April. The virtual venue offers its services to artists free of charge, making its money from the fee it charges users when they purchase tickets. NoonChorus is also working with independent physical venues to allow them to broadcast online, helping cover losses incurred by operating at partial capacity during the pandemic.
Online venue sites:
- House Seats Live
Live Broadcasting Services Companies
Finally, for events with bigger budgets looking to recreate the feel of in-person events, there are production companies that can supply a combination of crew, equipment, broadcasting services, and sometimes even a physical venue. These live event streaming service providers allow performers to move from home quarantine setups to ones that can look and feel more like pre-coronavirus events. They can also broadcast live to multiple platforms, helping performers reach the biggest audience possible. Companies offering these live event streaming services include Driift, Flux Broadcast, Karma, and others.
Live streaming production companies:
- Flux Broadcast
No matter the budget or setup, there are numerous options for artists to hold live events online. Live event streaming services offer a range of features, services, and costs, allowing performers to connect with their audiences and bring live music and theater straight to their homes. Social media, live streaming sites, online venues, and broadcasting production companies all offer different features and levels of service, allowing performers and event managers to find the solution that best fits their needs.