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Archives for May 2020

Thoughts on Live Streams in the Age of COVID-19

by CPM Assistant Archivist Olivia Beaudry

While we are staying safe at home, there has been an explosion of live music streams.  I am a lover of live music, some great concerts I was looking forward to for months already have been postponed for months more.  So, like many, I was thrilled when some of my favorite artists started doing live performances through various outlets such as Facebook Live, Instagram Live, YouTube, StageIt, Periscope, Concert Window, and others.  In the beginning it seemed that smaller, lesser-known, or local artists started this “revolution” as a source of income.  I have a few friends that perform full-time but are not at a national level yet, who played for virtual tips as a means to buy food, pay the rent, etc. They tell me it was working pretty well, of course not like playing live, but it was something. Some worked with the venues they were scheduled to play and broadcast from their social media accounts.  I have had one friend tell me that their audience has grown because of this. People are finding new bands they like that they probably never would have discovered in the “real world.”Let’s turn to the biggies—the popular mainstream artists.  They caught onto this trend that the other lesser-known artists were already using, and most are now playing for free.  While we know job loss is at a new level around the world, the free Garth Brooks show was nice to brighten all our moods. Now Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood even broadcasted their informal performance on a major TV network. Again, I love this, as a strong believer that music does make things better and is often linked to positive memories that we can all use right now. But how do these high-profile, free events affect my friends and others who are asking for tips and/or using a format that charges ticket prices to view? How can they compete? The situation would be different if Garth were playing physically in your town and on the same night as that up-and-comer. In that scenario ticket prices would probably correlate directly to the performing act’s star power.

I see this as comparable to the effects of streaming music via sites like Spotify, YouTube, or Tidal. Why buy the record when you can stream it for free? Those at the level of Garth, don’t really notice the atrociously low $0.006 they earn per stream because of the massive number of plays they get. Smaller indie artists, struggling to get their music heard in a saturated market, really do notice how little they are getting for each hard-earned stream. While I read that the paid subscriptions to Spotify have grown since the stay-at-home orders started, they still are not paying more to these artist who had relied on streams to drive attendance at live shows, but are now out of work. Buying the record at your local record store through mail is not only supporting the local business, but better supports the artist, too. But there is a bit more effort involved, and paying $15 for a physical copy of one album vs. or $10 per month for unlimited steaming doesn’t strike most consumers as a very good deal.

As an archivist I find myself grappling with how to document streaming and other ephemeral digital products, the “new normal” in the world of music.  Social media activity has been [Read more…]

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