The music industry is dying. Then again, critics have been saying the same thing for the past 50 years. From the onset of FM radio, MTV, MP3s and streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, all new innovations have always been met as the harbinger of the end of the music industry as we know it. The good news? We’re still here, with almost 40,000 new singles added to Spotify daily. Sure, the pay isn’t as good as the old days, but at least we’re still creating for fans. How do we adapt to an ongoing pandemic, though?
With hundreds of thousands of people tragically dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone, we’ve seen music venues as the first to close, yet they’ll be the last to open. As touring musicians can attest, the majority of their income is deeply rooted in ticket sales and VIP packaging vs. royalties from a song stream (earning between $0.00331 and $0.00437 per stream on Spotify in 2019). With such an apocalyptic landscape for the music industry, where will the dust settle? What will the future of live music look like for an already struggling touring musician?
Many have speculated on the future landscape of live concerts, from people in bubbles to drive-in concerts to even hotel balcony shows. While these sound like creative options, the most realistic is to return to concerts with a diminished capacity in 2021. With all venues (especially locally owned) shuttered almost indefinitely, how many can survive until 2021? According to Pollstar, independent venues are forecast to lose up to $8.9 billion of revenue in 2020, with some legendary indie venues already closing permanently.
With a potential diminished venue capacity, how would this affect band and venue/promoters’ profit? To answer my question, I reached out to CEO Trevor Swenson of Dynamic Talent International for an exclusive remark. “I think ticketing will be about the same, but I see the profitability structure drastically changing for the bands and the promoters,” he says.
To counteract a potentially limited capacity concert, one possible solution would be multiple showings in a day like a Broadway play. “Bands may have to rely on multiple shows per market or even per day just to get all the ticket-buying fans to see the shows,” Swenson says. What this essentially means is that touring musicians might have to play two to three times as many performances to make the same amount of money as a single pre-COVID-19 show. Broken down in early, moderate and late shows, the concept might work provided fans have the flexibility as well.
One thing that might not be as flexible in the future of COVID-era concerts is guest list passes. Traditionally, photographers, press and friends of an artist would get access to concerts with the overly requested “guest list” pass. These requests would sometimes be so outlandish that a concert ends up populated by more free guests than paying attendees. With that being said, in a post-COVID world, lower attendance landscape guest lists are sure to be affected as well. Do you want money or to see your third cousin who just wants to slam free beer?
However, the music industry is starting to adapt as a post-COVID live concert landscape starts to develop in real time. Bands and venues are carrying the brunt. They are clawing to make a profit to survive from what previously was already a slim margin to begin with. The sad truth is many independent venues might not survive. The good news is that you can help. For more information on how to keep your favorite local venues open, visit NIVA. Tell your local legislator the importance of music in your community and ask them to #SAVEOURSTAGES.