A Permanent Shift to Streaming?

Over the past two years, COVID-19 has dealt a great blow to the music industry by forcing concert cancellations across the globe. To still provide some form of performance, many artists—particularly smaller, more local ones— have shifted to offering live streams as stand-ins for these live concerts with media sites such as Facebook or Twitch providing ideal platforms for artists to share their music with excited fans missing live concerts. Despite this, many avid concertgoers have missed the unique electricity of live performances and have eagerly awaited the end of the pandemic.

With surges in the US beginning to abate and masks coming off in institutions across the country, it seems that the severity of the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions are beginning to taper off. While concerts being offered now are not entirely back to the pre-pandemic experience (masks and limited capacity are required at many of the events), with such a decrease in deaths and cases, the number of concerts by small and big artists alike has experienced a significant increase. What does such a shift mean for the popularized streaming performances?

Concerts are truly a unique experience: individuals continue to come back to concerts because of the variation, community, and atmosphere that can be found nowhere else. While convenient and safer, watching a stream from your home provides few of these benefits. Many describe concerts as something that breaks up the everyday monotony by providing something truly out of the ordinary. Furthermore, at a concert, surrounded by a mass of singing and dancing individuals who are equally as interested and focused on the music, is an ambiance that is extremely difficult to find in any other setting; the music is the main attraction and there are few distractions. In contrast, a live stream does little to provide variety to your day, and it is easy to lose interest in a livestream where there are numerous different things in your setting.

Given the stark differences in experiences between live streams and concerts, should we expect streaming performances to be completely dropped? For bigger artist’s performances, where much of the experience lies in the large number of attendees and loud, large scale of the music, it seems safe to expect streaming to largely fade away. However, for smaller artists trying to reach new audiences, streaming is likely to remain an effective way for these aspiring creators to reach new people. For all the same reasons a concert is a truly amazing and unique experience, there is simultaneously a higher amount of effort and thought needed to attend a concert as opposed to watching a live stream. Transportation time, schedule, and location are all important factors when it comes to live performances; in contrast none of these are too much of a concern for a stream. Instead of worrying about all of these extra components, an interested fan can simply join a streaming link to experience the artist’s music. There is less of a barrier of entry and risk of wasted time if the artist is not what’s expected. Thus, streaming is an amazing way to reach more people and grow a fanbase for small musicians.

Streaming and concerts are truly two different experiences with their own pros and cons and, as such, they both are likely to stick around. The pandemic may have accelerated certain shifts towards wider streaming, but, much to avid concert-goers' excitement, we can expect concerts to continue to return to pre pandemic levels.

Sam DePaolo ‘24 is a guest writer for the Record Hospital.