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Technology for ticketed online shows is popping up. Should artists charge for their streams?

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by Startacus Admin

ticketing online music shows
As quarantine, social distancing and complete lack of opportunities to earn money off live music are stretching on, the question arises – can performers actually charge for online, live streamed concerts using technology? 
Mary Ivanova from 'music interaction ecosysytem' Show4me, shares all...

Just a few days ago Facebook announced they will be unveiling functionality to allow users to charge for their live streams.

Show4me has offered ticketed online shows at the beginning of April. With live streamed music events becoming more and more popular (and some even raising millions for charity), the question many are rising is – should musicians charge for their online music performances and if yes, how much?ticketing online music show

As the quarantine started to spread in the western hemisphere in March of 2020, people have experienced drastic changes to their everyday lives. Numerous live streams from beloved musicians, stars, celebrities have been the highlight of the hour for millions of people.

Some have been just 10-15 minute chats or Q&As, others turned into full-blown performances, like the one by Coldplay’s Chris Martin, hashtagged at #TogetherAtHome – a Global Citizen initiative, which is a series of virtual performances now counting dozens of celebrity appearances. It’s televised version raised money for the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Many popular performers have been doing shows to keep the spirits up among their fans and supporters, like the Friday Kitchen Discos from Sophie Ellis-Bextor on her IGTV – and there’ve been five excellent shows so far!

As the quarantine, social distancing and complete lack of opportunities to earn money off live music are stretching on, the question arises – can performers actually charge for their live streamed concerts?

Yes, an online show can never be what an in-person performance is.

ticketing online music showThe live concert is an experience that transcends just the music and thrives on human connection.

That said, it’s time to face, well, the music and realize that online performance format is not a temporary solution. It’s something that for one, is here for some time, and two – it can actually be developed into a genre of its own. With its own rules and upsides over in-person live shows.

When it comes to live online shows, it’s important to look at the strengths – after all, how prominent has television been in our lives for decades? Isn’t an online show an extension of that?

With all the successful transitions of shows like SNL, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, we can safely say that modern technology allows the skills of a TV crew to be at least partially transferred to online.

Just ask hundreds of uber successful YouTubers.

Now, the examples I’ve just listed all profit from ads, not direct viewer payments. Which brings me to the question of selling tickets to an online concert – is it appropriate and if yes, in which cases?

There are a few factors to consider.

First, most musicians are not lucky enough to have earned a living off their music big enough to work for free during this crisis. They need to either look for other sources of income, like tutoring or music sales, or charge for the work they do during their online shows.

One of the key discussions in the art world is whether an artist should ever work for free (or, as known more widely – “for exposure”). Most agree that building a career in this way is not sustainable for most.

On our blog earlier this year, we’ve talked about the perils of playing supporting gigs with musician Dan BG. He shared that the expectation was often that you play for free ticketing online music showjust to get to share the stage with a big band.

And this is not the only instance we’ve heard that. Yet bringing over your equipment, spending time and money getting to the gig and then the energy playing it – all require resources. If you are not getting paid for your work, how do you survive?

An online show might take a lesser toll on the musician’s resources, but it’s still work and should be paid for fairly. We do pay when we watch a standup show on Netflix, why not for an online music performance?

So performers need to be compensated for the work. But that does not negate the fact that viewers have to be willing to pay for their experience.

This is where quality comes in.

Let’s look at some of the criteria to consider when deciding if an event should have paid attendance. What is the production quality of the show? Is the video and sound of high enough quality? Are there props and does the “stage” design live up to what one might expect from a professional performance? Is the vibe and energy contributed to the show more than “I’ve just turned my webcam on on a whim and this is what I can throw together for you guys at a moment’s notice”?

Since we’ve introduced the functionality to presell tickets to a streamed online show and then stream it in the artist’s Show4me Artist club, we’ve also introduced this guide to making an online show an experience fans and supporters will enjoy as we understood that selling tickets to an online stream takes it to a different level of quality and has to live up to the viewers’ expectations.

When treated like a real gig, one that requires diligent preparation, rehearsals, and sound and video setup, online shows can turn into exciting, engaging, high-quality experiences that fans will be happy to pay for.

ticketing online music showAs musicians have been taking advantage of our ticketed online shows, we’ve also been inviting some of our favorites to our Friday quarantine live streams – Pale Moon, Jay Stansfield of All Hail Hyena, Manzee, Joel Pujol, Really Khalil, and the amount of effort we’ve seen performers put into their appearances has been unbelievable.

Not everybody has the skills, equipment or desire to put together a solid performance, but those musicians and bands who do deserve to be compensated for their efforts at some point, which is why it’s important to keep the conversation going on the acceptability of paying for an online show.

For example, music journalist Cherie Hu has recently held a poll on her Twitter asking people to share how many times they’ve paid for a music livestream. With little over one thousand votes, 83.2% of respondents answered they’ve never paid for a music livestream, 10.9% paid between one and five times, 4.6% paid more than ten times.

Monetization of the “stuff on the internet” has been a struggle for decades. Before Netflix and streaming, music and TV/movie piracy were abundant. The understanding is that once users have the tools to pay for the online content they consume (and the price is fair and something they can afford), they will be happy to pay.

This example, along with such giants as Facebook acknowledging the need for creators to charge for their music lives with their recent announcement, gives hope that paying for live streamed music shows will soon become the norm rather than an outlier. 

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Published on: 29th April 2020

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