Music has always played a strong role, developing with humankind as time went on. And, passing from LPs to cassettes to CDs to minidiscs to downloadable and then streamable file formats, all in well under a century, it has clearly accelerated alongside the technological revolution of recent years. But what does this mean for the music industry of the future? And, with vast quantities of media so readily available to access from our homes, what impact is it having and will it have on live shows? We’ve compiled the stats and what we uncovered comes with a surprising twist.
It’s not just music
To begin, we need to look at music (and access to music) within the wider context of the mammoth changes facing all forms of media. Quartz cites a recent study that uncovered adults in the US spend an average of 11 hours a day watching or listening to media. This includes the more ‘traditional’ forms of audiovisual entertainment, such as TV and radio but it’s impossible to avoid the huge changes that the internet has wrought even on these: radio and TV station apps allow us to catch up on our favorite shows outside of a rigid schedule; meanwhile, the US is home to well over 56 million Netflix subscribers alone. That figure speaks for itself, without even beginning to look at the stats for other streaming platforms.
Yet that’s not all that’s moved online. Other pastimes, such as casinos, have also made themselves available to a larger audience by establishing a web presence. While land casinos still outstrip the online realm in terms of market revenue, online gambling has been booming – and is expected to continue to do so. This is for a number of reasons, but the freebie business model has not hurt at all. For example, online casino Betway offers bonuses of up to £1000 to new customers, in order to establish a greater player base. This is similar to both Netflix and Spotify with their new-customer trials, showing that online entertainment has greater scope for offering deals and convenience.
How did music get online?
Which brings us to our next point: music’s somewhat tumultuous journey from hard copy to downloads, a story of questionable peer-to-peer sharing that quickly saw the rise of host platforms. It was only natural – for that same convenience factor – that the advent of the download would appeal to a vast music-loving audience. And as more legal and financially viable options for downloading and streaming music became available, illegal downloads fell. There are also a number of artists releasing free downloads, either to raise awareness for charity, like Fedde le Grand, or for social reasons (pay-what-you-want pricing strategies arguably do the same for music as open source software does for technology), suggesting technology has enhanced the spread of music to the masses… when they’re at home.
So what does this mean for live shows?
Well, to summarize it nicely: the industry is worth over $17.2 billion and over half that revenue comes from live concerts, according to Digital Music News – whether that’s ticket sales or sponsorship. But let’s look into this in more detail. For one thing, we believe strongly that the artists’ own experiences matter as much as the fans’ and just take a glance at the sheer excitement of LIVE when we interviewed them about their shows for 2018 – bands like this wanting to play live gigs has to say something about the survival instinct of live music?
One form of live music, at least, is taking the world by storm – the festival. Time Magazine equates the festival scene to a “cash machine for the industry” and the UK saw 30.9 million music fans attend festivals in 2016, which included a whopping 823,000 people flocking to the island to camp out and see their favorite artists. This phenomenon is being dubbed “music tourism” (akin to cross-state traveling to Coachella in the US) and shows live music is not just surviving but thriving.
But the internet’s not all bad
The online world hasn’t left gigs untouched either, though. In addition to the benefits of selling online (wider audience for advertising gigs, easier ticket sales and so on), Vents Magazine adds a new advantage – the ability to attend a festival from the comfort of your own home. Frame by Sound has run a couple of these events over the last couple of years and, although there is a focus on film, there are awards for soundtrack composers and the ceremony features live artist performances. We told you there was a twist.
Veteran metal legends Metallica are also using technological developments in music to their – and their fans’ – advantage. With Spotify, you can discover the popularity of certain songs by region, information the band is using to tailor-make their shows, changing their setlists according to the preferences their fans have shown by way of their listening habits. So while many argue that streaming and downloads has bestowed an impersonal character on the music industry, it seems technology can be used to increase the personal touch.
So, the question is not necessarily whether music consumption has moved online but whether that is such a bad thing after all. It’s true that this major part of our lives has accompanied the other entertainment sectors in nurturing an online presence but, in many respects, technology is creating new ways for the music industry to flourish and truly get to know its supporters. And, in any case, just going to the theater, gambling in a casino or just going to a bar for a drink, there are aspects that cannot be replaced by accessing them through the web. The festival boom and the eagerness of artists to perform prove live music remains alive. It’s doubtful our need to experience music socially is going away any time soon.