The first few months of any given year are usually slow, uneventful and a period where we assess our lives, set goals and look forward to executing going forward. That of course, does not apply to 2020. This is a year that will go down in history as the COVID-19 year, a time where the entire planet went on a full lockdown and life looked something out of a Hollywood post-apocalyptic script. The virus has changed our lives drastically and whilst its long-term effects still remain to be seen, it seems that some industries will have to surely adapt in order to survive. Let’s take music for example.
Overflowing stadiums and worldwide tours are, for obvious reasons, things of the past and it seems that just like the rest of the world, musicians will have to adapt to working from home. The music industry is going through a tough test as the unique nature of the virus does not allow for music to be enjoyed in crowded spaces. What does the future hold for music, and what are the pros and cons of this new reality?
We’ll Miss The Aura of a Live Event
The most obvious setback for music is the depreciation of the experience for the end-user. Attending a music festival or a concert is a ritual. The stage, the crowd, the energy, the connection between the performer and the audience are all components of a living organism. Whilst music is the sole reason for attending the event, what stays with us for years is the actual experience from beginning to end.
This entire ritual will forever be changed with things going digital. Whilst tech allows us to “attend” a virtual concert from our living room, from any point on the planet with a decent Internet connection, the reality is that the experience doesn’t compare. Take some time and listen to Adele’s performance at Royal Albert Hall or Robbie Williams’ performance at Knebworth and you’ll understand what we mean. The way people become a part of the performance, creates experiences that make your hair stand and send chills down your spine.
Much like theatre, live events have mechanics that are based on the presence of an audience. How do you recreate that in a digital manner?
Saying Goodbye to Iconic Venues
Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Stadium, Madison Square Garden, The Bowery Ballroom and so many more venues that hold an iconic status in the music industry will have to shut their doors. These venues have not only lent their premises for hosting concerts but have played their own in elevating the music experience. The architecture and acoustics of these buildings is such that helps sounds be heard clearer, with a certain depth and quality that is hard to match when performing from your living room or even studio.
Artists will have to find new, innovative ways of replicating the same atmosphere and acoustics provided by these iconic venues.
Adapt You Must, Adapt You Will
There is no life without music. Music is synonymous to culture and has a track record of adapting throughout the years. Genres evolve and give birth to new sounds whilst new eras draw inspiration from previous ones. Music has been through war, economic crisis and any other difficult period through mankind. We have no doubt that it will get through this challenge in flying colours, doing the one thing it knows best: unite and adapt.
What will that adaptation look like? Well, for starters, we will need to look at the positives. Not everything about this situation is negative. The digitalization of music might be opening doors that might otherwise be closed. We might be forced to forget the rituals of concert and festival-going, but some new rituals and new records might be on the horizon.
Online Performances Will Be The Norm
The use of social media and streaming platforms for online concerts, elevates the level of globalisation for music. Artists now have the opportunity to enter our houses no matter where we are on the planet. From Coldplay and John Legend to Justin Bieber and many more, artists are tapping into this new avenue of performance. Furthermore, performing becomes something more intimate as artists can give audiences a sneak peek of their home, their surroundings, their life. Whilst this is all very convenient, a characteristic that stands out in this digital scenario is interaction. Digital avenues give audiences the chance to comment during live performances, offering feedback, thoughts and preferences. This comes to direct contrast with the current scenario where all they can do is sing along and cheer for the person on stage.
For instance, Andrea Bocelli’s voice reached a livestreaming audience of 2.8 million in real time on Easter Sunday and collected 28 million views worldwide in the first 24 hours after it streamed, making it the biggest live-streamed classical music event in history. Set in the stunning Duomo of Milano, with the backdrop of empty streets, this event will forever be recorded in history:
On a different note, stars get together to celebrate and have fun online. As such, the 90th birthday of celebrated Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, was marked by the funny and relatable performance of the famous song, “Ladies Who Lunch”, by Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald. Besides enjoying the gorgeous performance, millions of people all over the world could relate to the reality of connecting with friends online, wearing a bathrobe, with a drink in hand.
Thanks to social media, such performances immediately go viral and become another characteristic of the changing era we live in.
Another piece of the music jigsaw puzzle that will undergo a significant change, is monetization. Artists will have to probably revert into a subscription/loyalty model instead of having managers deal with tours, booking venues and all the havoc that’s involved in today’s culture. The simplicity of the new monetization model will give artists more independence and control over their financials, putting them centerfield of the money-making process.
Tech has been a huge part of the modern music scene with studio and performance equipment being a critical part to an artist’s performance. The better the equipment, the better the quality of the end-result. This part of the industry will have to pivot as well, having to accommodate the new status-quo. Tech will now have to service indoor productions and performances, taking into consideration the acoustic implications that comes with that.
What the future holds, only the future knows but we’re curious to see what that might be for music. However this plays out, we will be here to evaluate, reflect and comment – and occasionally sing along – so stay tuned.