Digital Concerts Livestreaming YouTube

Fact-Checking 7 Prospections About Concert Livestreaming from the Extraordinary 2020 (Part II)

We reviewed some prospections about digital concerts and livestreams made by major technology magazines in 2020. Are anecdotes and history supporting them? Are the developments really THAT historic? In the second part of our myth-checking we focus on the monetization and professionalization of livestreaming and the importance of niche artists.

This is the continuation of our first fact-checking publication.

Myth #3: [P]eople being willing to open their wallets and pay for these kinds of events (The Rolling Stone, 2020)

We’ve seen it in all kinds of shapes and (literal) dimensions: ticketed livestreams. Despite some troubles regarding the right pricing, they’ve become a thing for sure. Is this an effect of people wanting to support their favourite musicians through a crisis? Does it show appreciation for virtual experiences during lockdown? Is it the bridge between the previous era of free internet content and piracy to the proliferated use of paid premium services?

In fact, paid livestreaming is not a new trend. In 2015, for example, a Forbes article reported that several platforms had already been able to monetize livestreams quite well. Anyhow, the text doesn’t make a clear point if monetization is easy or not:

“Artists such as U2 have embraced applications like Meerkat and Periscope to broadcast their concerts to wider audiences, but these efforts have not been easily monetizable. […] If done right, however, music live-streaming is easily monetizable. […] Even more striking is the consumer data from these platforms, which demonstrates superfans’ growing willingness to pay.”

Hu in Forbes (2015)

This circling around the right method to monetize livestreams was taking place long before Corona happened and there’s no reason why it would end, once we get back to normal. The outcome of monetization efforts are and will stay rather uncertain. But keep calm: music live-streaming is easily monetizable, if done right ;-).

Myth #4: Scarcity and premium VIP experiences can keep demand high, regardless of price (The Rolling Stone, 2020)

This myth is an extension of the general question about monetization of streams. While it’s true that scarcity and premium experiences have been paid for by fans during the pandemic, the concept isn’t new either. In the past 20 years, it has been a reoccuring topic in the press. At least, everybody kinda agress that the hypothesis is true: you should be creating a special experience, indeed. Take a look at older publications to get some ideas of what different professionals deemed important throughout the years:

  • “the artist should be performing and interacting with the online audience” (Hu in Forbes, 2015)
  • “The key is participation in live events. […] Scarpa has been experimenting with pulling live video from showgoers’ cellphones and incorporating that into the webcast, and he plans to let the remote audience collaborate musically with bands, contributing riffs or mixes that play over the venue’s sound system.” (van Buskirk in Wired, 2009)
  • “‘There are no bad seats, the sound quality is great and the audience has a good time because they are so close to the stage. If we can bring that to the Web, we’ll be all right.'” (King in Wired, 2000)

Myth #5: Expect[] the system to be more sophisticated as it develops in the coming months (The Rolling Stone, 2020)

The chance this myth will be true is pretty much 50/50. Sure, many actors in the music industry were pressured to join the livestreaming system and adapt quickly. Sure, we’ve seen new ideas, extraordinary videos, and many new platforms rising up. So, yes, in terms of systems, institutions, and professionalization a new level will be reached. However, there are still roadblocks that had been criticized in the past too and that will still slow down major developments:

“[G]atekeepers such as record labels and managers may oppose the technology due to a lack of understanding about how it can serve as an effective source of monetization […]”

Hu in Forbes (2015)

“Licensing issues delay rollout on the scale of the music video. There’s no standard deal for getting the rights to stream a live show. Each one-off production requires extensive negotiation involving just about everyone attached to the songs and the venue.

van Buskirk in Wired (2009)

“Parienti said the rights-clearance process for a music webcast usually takes weeks. Even worse, webcasters must clear rights worldwide to cover their global audiences. […] [M]ajor labels — especially EMI and Universal — have become more amenable to live streaming in the past year.”

van Buskirk in Wired (2007)

Myth #6: “It’s going to be a whole field. A whole ‘nother music industry.” (The Rolling Stone, 2020)

This myth is already true considering all the funding rounds for streaming platforms and the news about various acquisitions by labels. The question is, how many of these startups will survive, especially once the pandemic is over and people will flock to concert venues. Are they profitable? Are they paying fair wages to artists? Will they be able to handle downtime phases when fans prefer to go out to festivals?

In theory, much looks promising, but it doesn’t quite support the theory of a whole new field. First, there is an industry around livestreaming already and second, developments in the audiovisual presentation of music have seldomly been so disruptive that you could separate between ‘the traditional music industry’ and ‘the other, new music industry’. (Besides from the day MTV went live, maybe.)

The innovation is there, but it’s been rather iterative, so it’s integrating into the existing music industry rather than establishing a new world order:

“[M]usic festival live-streams in the past have drawn as many as 10 million viewers. […] rather than expanding concerts’ reach, what Stageit and Huzza are doing are creating microcosms of the conventional live concert space.

Hu in Forbes (2015)

“YouTube webcast its first-ever live full-length concert last Sunday: U2 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. It brought in 10 million viewers worldwide. Music webcasting has shown promise for over a decade, but the stage is being set now for an online live-music renaissance. […] [T]he internet will soon realize its live music potential.

van Buskirk in Wired (2009)

The music industry and the music livestreaming business rather go hand in hand. You can’t practice livestreaming without the favour of the music industry.

Myth #7: Any music can reach broad audiences (, 2020)

Last but not least, anecdotal evidence is telling us: niche content is set up for success, at least on YouTube:

“Fact: Music from around the world resonates with broad audiences and consistently tops the global charts.”

Cohen for, 2020

Don’t they have to say that? Actually, Forbes as well as Wired already suggested to make niche artists part of your livestreaming strategy years ago. Is this wise? Our upcoming article about the long tail phenomenon will go more into depth. Stay tuned!


Much has been said about music livestreams in the media. In 2020, as well as in 2015, 2007 or 2009. Most of the prospections are only partly true. Our evaluations show that it’s worth taking a differentiated view on absolute statements. The world is transitioning into a new decade for livestreaming now, but it’s not so disruptive that things that were true in the past turn false in the future or the other way round.


Forbes, 2015

Hu, C. (2015, November 27). The Modern Concert, Part 1: Live-Streaming As Microcosm. Retrieved from

The Rolling Stone, 2020

Millman, E. (2020, August 4). Better Concert Livestreams Are Coming. But You’ll Have to Pay for Them. Retrieved from, 2020

Cohen, L. (2020, November). Why marketers should care about the music industry’s latest transformation. Retrieved from

Wired, 2000

King, B. (2000, May 31). Riffage Buys SF Concert Hall. Retrieved from

Wired, 2007

van Buskirk, E. (2007, December 24). Live Music Webcasting Starts Making Sense in 2008. Retrieved from

Wired, 2009

van Buskirk, E. (2009, June 11). 4 Ways Live and Digital Music Are Teaming Up to Rock Your World. Retrieved from

By Sophia Schmelz

Sophia Schmelz holds a master's degree in Cultural Economics & Entrepreneurship from Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her specialisation lies in music and mediated cultural experiences. She is the iniator of HollyWhat?.