I tuned in to listen to the AMP Music Summit at the beginning of this month and I wasn’t surprised to see Live Streaming as the main subject of many of the virtual panels and discussions. AMP Music Summit brought together a long list of notable names in the music industry. We saw the likes of music producers, festival managers, public relations gurus, entertainment company CEOs, and presidents, and WOW. Let me tell you, as someone who doesn’t produce festivals, music, or participates in any stage of the production side of music, I learned A LOT. I am merely someone who enjoys music on a deep level and I participate heavily in the culture associated with the Electronic Dance Music scene.
Ever since I virtually attended AMP Music Summit on May 6th I’ve started to view live streams in a different light. It’s become the one and only way for fans to experience live music as we continue living in a pandemic stricken world. Insomniac was one of the first big names to jump into the live streaming realm over the weekend of March 21st and 22nd with their Beyond Wonderland Virtual Rave-A-Thon. This live stream event replaced the canceled festival that crumbled in the face of COVID-19. It’s no wonder that one of the world’s largest production companies was able to pull off something spectacular in a short period of time. Insomniac has only continued to up its live stream game as the weeks have passed. They’ve featured a themed live stream every weekend since their Beyond Wonderland installment. Many other live stream festivals began popping up with Beatport joining in as well as the origin of Room Service Festival.
Our current age of “effortless streaming” sits atop roughly 25 years of failures, improvements, and innovations. The rise and success of live streaming is the result of the perfect storm between bandwidth increases and the pressure to optimize video for handheld devices as we grew more attached to our phones as a society. Historically, live shows just didn’t work, with repeated server crashes and viewer numbers overwhelming even the most ambitious forecasting leading to annoying buffering or a show simply failing altogether. The adoption of live streaming as an option on social media platforms was a huge turning point for the format in general. It finally became accessible to a wider audience of both content producers and viewers who were now able to broadcast without the need for a broadcast company. It was noted that the rise of the Millennial generation has fueled the need for live streaming to be more accessible as the generation as a whole tends to value experiences over material items. This is referred to as the experience economy and Millenials have grown it exponentially with Gen Z quickly following suit with their inclination to live content as well.
As both generations of artists are working to determine their niche, live streaming makes it possible for them to play exactly what they want and have their fans come to them. Artists are being given the opportunity to expand themselves artistically to other genres or even produce tribute specials and throwback sets that don’t usually fit into a tour setting organically. One panelist argued that offering one’s content through a live stream platform doesn’t cheapen what they have to offer, but rather, it stirs up more excitement for what’s to come and leads to the creation of super fans. Beyond that, live streaming brings to the surface valuable data for artists to refer to when they are making plans for the future. Looking into numbers related to your live stream can reveal not only how many people are tuning into your stream, but also how long they are staying and to what level are they engaging with your content. Being able to share a brand new song directly with your fans and receive immediate feedback on a large scale is going to fuel the creativity in the EDM community as we have never seen before.
It was a nearly seamless transition for the Electronic community to switch to a purely online format in response to COVID which is why we have seen the scene thrive. I have noticed most other genres are struggling to adapt to the new restrictions that are being put on the artistic community. Most recently I tuned into a live stream for one of my favorite rock bands and the production quality was so low that I was unable to enjoy the music. This is not even remotely an issue for the EDM community as all these artists excel in a strictly electronic world.
Someone who really caught my attention during these discussions was Reid Speed, a DJ who has about 25 years of experience in the scene. She expressed her issues with the way Facebook is handling the live streaming growing pains that are happening across their platform. Facebook will often end your live stream with no warning which can impact an artist’s livelihood if it was a monetized stream. Reid Speed was right when she said that these virtual platforms need to figure out a way to make an option for licensing just like an in-person venue would. She further stressed the need for the various social media platforms and live streaming options to get together and make the necessary moves to be recognized as legal venues in support of the artists that utilize and depend on their platforms. Some artists and also us viewers tend to forget that even though we are living through remarkable circumstances all music laws are still valid regardless of a physical venue or a virtual one. There is a selection of artists who go live on Facebook with the attitude of “stream till they cut me” which seems like an unsustainable option moving forward. Artists are having to figure out how to deliver their content without the Facebook algorithm policing their sets, even when their own licenses are valid. With a frustrating and confusing set of red tape, some artists are choosing to forego Facebook altogether as their main live streaming platform. They’re viewing Facebook as their gateway platform to grab their fans’ attention and funnel them to another more stable platform for their extended streams.
As a spectator, I’ve seen the production value increase rapidly when it comes to the selection of live streams out there. Some artists can afford multiple camera angles, LED screens, props, and overall stellar set design. There are entire remote teams working to pull off some of the most popular live streams that are happening right now. Just a few weeks ago Oliver Heldens did a live stream for Room Service Festival from a boat as he cruised down a canal in Amsterdam. He had roughly five camera angels and a deck set up that would make any producer jealous. He was able to focus completely on his music and wasn’t worried about the quality or integrity of his steam. This isn’t exactly the reality for most independent artists who rely largely on only themselves for the success of their work. Couple this with the confusing legal limitations that are happening across live-streaming platforms and this may be the unfortunate downfall of many independent artists during this pandemic period.
As the day went on I listened in on other sessions and panels that discussed other topics such as the daunting tasks that come with rescheduling or canceling a festival and others along those lines. It was the topic of live streaming that really drew me in as I had NO CLUE how intense things were on the back end for artists. When I’m watching a lot of live streams there are always the few people in the chat hating on some particular aspect of the stream without any knowledge of the effort, money, and talent that has to be coordinated to make a stream go off without a hitch. In this rare age where we have little to no options for in-person artistic stimulation, live streams have come as a godsend to keep us sane through these stressful times. I can only expect the extravagance and quality of the live streams available will continue to increase!
*Featured Image Via AMP Music Summit*