Why High-End Livestreams Are Here To Stay
It feels like so long ago, doesn’t it? A time before All Of This, a time when going to the pub didn’t involve a risk assessment strategy, a time when seeing live music was just another event in your social calendar, and a time when livestreams seemed like a rather dull idea if we’re being brutally honest.
When you look back to the start of lockdown (almost six months ago, oh Christ), livestreams were in a very different position with musicians inviting us into their houses live on Instagram on Facebook, chatting to fans, performing music and generally having a bit of a laugh. No agenda, just fans and artists coming together as best as possible. We have to remember, before various governments shat the bed and delivered such bewildering lockdown advice, we were all stuck indoors with no human contact except for family Zoom quizzes and YouTube exercise videos. But, just as our own quarantine circumstances have changed, so have our viewing habits and barometers for what is worth investing our time in.
Which is why the quality of livestreams has had to increase, almost overnight. We’re all plugged into internet 24/7 and our brains can’t cope with actual thinking time; we need constant evolution and revolution on an hourly basis. Those YouTube videos of bands knocking out a cover over Zoom – while (sometimes) still entertaining – just aren’t quenching our thirst any more.
Code Orange were the first to really harness the power of livestream, arguably through being in the right place at the right time. Already scheduled to play an album release show for their knockout latest LP Underneath, when indoor crowds were no longer an option, they opted to play to an empty venue still with full production, filmed by hardcore historian hate5six.
Fast-forward a few months and we’re in the middle of a genuine livestream boom. Last month, Trivium livestreamed a full-production show live from Full Sail University in Florida, which was watched by thousands of fans around the world. And what’s more, it was ticketed. Whereas streams were once a throwaway novelty, they’re now a viable business for bands willing to put the effort in.
Last weekend, to mark the release of their sensational A Celebration Of Endings record, K! favourites Biffy Clyro performed the album in full on a special livestream from Glasgow’s iconic Barrowlands venue. It was a true feat of imagination, splitting the performance into Sides A and B, the production included a huge illuminated cube for the band to play in, a full string section, dancers, mannequins, and frontman Simon Neil even took a stroll out into the street during emphatic final number Cop Syrup. And fans paid for the privilege of watching it. Four streams took place – accounting for different timezones – with over 8,000 watching the UK-based stream when we checked. Not a bad little earner, especially with all touring plans booted out the window.
And when touring does return, that doesn’t mean livestreams will go away, they’re another medium in which artists can flex their creative muscles. In same vein as Biffy’s imaginarium or Code Orange’s recent MTV Unplugged-esque Under The Skin show, the power of technology is allowing rock and metal’s most ambitious musicians to expand on ideas previously prohibited by stage or setting: don’t be surprised if you see a fully CGI livestream any time soon – who wouldn’t want to watch, say, Gojira playing on a distant moon as their riffs crumble it to dust?
If fact, as we come to embrace our virtual fandom, a gig could just be the tip of the digital iceberg. In the same way Biffy’s show included a CD or vinyl copy of the album (depending on which tier you bought), we could see bands giving away exclusive merch or taking part in Q&As as part of the experience. In opposition to streaming replacing physical sales, these livestream events would complement the IRL gigs we’re so desperately craving. Where in the past bands have performed album-release shows to a smattering of hardcore fans who were quickest to click the buy ticket link, the celebratory show can be beamed into the homes of countless fans across the globe.
There are now entire businesses set up for ticketing livestream events now. Veeps, for example, has streamed paid-for events with All Time Low, Black Veil Brides, Good Charlotte and more. This will become the new normal. It won’t replace going to gigs (if anything, it might urge more people to see shows in real life), but if bands are smart enough and able to create something separate to emulating standing onstage in front of a black curtain, there’s an audience willing to pay for it. And in a time where bands are haemorrhaging cash and wondering how to survive, that could be a lifeline.
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