The music industry has been rocked by the coronavirus. The impact on the music industry was swift, with the postponement of famous music festivals SXSW, Coachella, and Stagecoach, the suspension of shows by AEG and Live Nation, and arenas and clubs throughout the world quickly shuttering.
Live shows and festivals are not the only part of the music industry affected. The coronavirus is changing the entire music industry as it struggles to overcome this crisis.
Every Aspect of the Music Industry is Affected
With most states issuing stay-at-home orders and people being urged to stay inside and practice social distancing, the way fans are interacting with the music is changing. Everyone in the industry including independent artists, popular artists, record labels, venues, security personnel, promoters, booking agencies, streaming services, etc. are affected by the shockwave caused by COVID-19.
Live music and concerts are a major part of the music industry. Many fans crave the concert experience, standing in a crowd of thousands of others while watching their favorite artists perform. While many fans are itching for concerts and music festivals to be rescheduled, the reality is that it’s unlikely to happen this year. Many music executives are indicating that it will likely be at least the second half of 2021 before live music has a semblance of what it once was.
When live music does return, it’s going to be different. Rather than large arenas, fans are going to find smaller, open-air venues with fewer tickets to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Drive-in concerts may become popular, as well as virtual tours and paid live streams. However, the industry will be pushing to get back to the traditional crowd-packed concerts and festivals once there is a vaccine and public-health officials deem large gatherings safe again.
The key to staying popular as an artist is to stay connected with fans. With concerts and festivals canceled or postponed, this has become a challenge to artists of all sizes. Since people are staying at home more, the way they consume content has changed dramatically since the coronavirus has started. To reach fans, artists are having to expand their efforts to connect with their fanbase.
Most content that fans are consuming is online. This means that more people are streaming content from their favorite artists and discovering new artists online. When the coronavirus first started, streaming and online downloads initially declined. But, the future is bright as streaming has been steadily increasing since the last week of April. Streaming platforms are developing systems to help artists with their online marketing through better analytics that will help both the artist and the platform.
Streaming is also leading to several artists opting to release new songs and albums virtually. Some record labels are even encouraging artists to release work by temporarily foregoing their cut of online sales. On the other hand, those artists that are choosing to postpone their records are not necessarily doing so because they want physical sales, but rather they are concerned about timing and appearing tone-deaf to the coronavirus pandemic.
We are also seeing an increasing number of independent artists upload and distribute new work. Sites like Ditto, TuneCore, and Sounddrop are seeing a dramatic increase in users and uploads during this pandemic. It’s uncertain as to how long this trend of uploading and selling new music online will continue but it is a viable means of continuing to generate income since touring is currently at a standstill.
Live streaming is being picked up by artists of all sizes from popular artists to indie artists. Live streaming allows performers to continue performing and connecting with fans. While it certainly isn’t the same thing as a real, live concert, it is a close second for many performers.
We’re also seeing an increase in live streaming across multiple platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitch. By the end of March, Twitch had seen a 31% increase in viewership across all categories. Likewise, Instagram Live experienced a huge increase in use in the US alone between March and April. Regardless of platform, these live streams are a way for artists to connect with their fans directly.
Will the Changes Be Long-Lasting?
The coronavirus has brought the music industry to a screeching halt. Artists and record labels are looking for any stop-gap measure they can find to hedge the loss that this crisis will bring. Some of the changes we are seeing will be short-lived, lasting only until there is a vaccine and public-health officials deem large gatherings safe again.
However, many of these changes may fundamentally mold the music industry into something new, such as having a greater focus on live streaming, virtual tours, and digital uploads of new songs and albums. No one truly knows how bad the impact of the coronavirus is going to be on the industry; but, the music industry is resilient and will come back reformed and stronger than before.