As the music industry continues to adjust, it’s becoming more and more clear that digital concerts are going to be a much larger part of the way audiences enjoy music moving forward. To get the most out of live-streaming shows as artists, the first thing we have to remember is that they’re not a suitable replacement for in-person experiences––far from it. Instead, we’re better off seeing digital concerts as completely separate performance opportunities with their own unique advantages and drawbacks. If you’re new to the world of digital performances, here are some important ways they differ from conventional concerts:
Audience feedback and interactions are digital, not physical
One of the things artists struggle with while transitioning to digital concerts is the lack of physical feedback from audiences. The silence after finishing a song can be psychologically tough if you’ve been a performing musician for a long time. Plus, and the lack of personal affirmation can make adjusting to the live-stream format a challenge. However, digital interactions have some important advantages. Conversations between artists and audience members don’t really happen during normal shows, but they’re becoming the norm for live-streamed shows. Fans can request specific songs, ask about the stories behind your music, and can send comments about you and your music in real-time. You’re free to respond to or ignore whatever interactions you like. Lots of the new technology shaping the music industry is leaving human connections between artists and listeners on the backburner. Yet, there is a unique opportunity with digital concerts to get closer to your fans.
There isn’t professional sound expertise and equipment to rely on unless you arrange it yourself
By far, the biggest challenge for artists taking their performances to digital formats is the sound aspect. Many artists don’t have the equipment to produce solid-sounding live-streams. Some don’t have the experience of running sound for themselves during performances. However, once you invest the time and money into delivering professional sound for digital shows, you’ll be much better off than simply singing along to a backing track on your phone and filming yourself with your laptop. These are insane times we’re living in, and listeners will forgive a couple of live-streams that sound bad. However, this won’t always be the case as audiences get more used to this concert format.
Talking between songs is typically much more important for live-streams than it is for in-person concerts
The up-close nature of most digital concerts require more conversation and interaction from artists than during usual shows. Again, this is a good thing for musicians who are actively looking for ways to deepen connections with their listeners. Unless your musical identity is centered around a “no conversation and only music” philosophy, the space between songs during digital concerts is a great time to tell stories, talk to your fans directly, and show your personality as a person and performer.
Digital concerts can break down the barriers of the location, age, and finances of your audience
If you’ve ever been frustrated at the thought of not being able to perform in a far off country or have fans under the age of 21 see your shows, you’ll like the reach that digital concerts gives you as an artist. Touring is extremely hard work for every musician, even ones that are conventionally successful. But with live-streams, people around the world have a chance to catch your performances without you having to leave your home or music studio. And if you choose to offer some of your digital shows for free or suggested donation, your cash-strapped fans will have the chance to see you play as well.
Payment options are typically more flexible for live-streams
Unless you’re at the very early stages of your career and are still playing coffee places and open-mic nights, the payment structures for live shows are rigid and not always favorable to the artist. But with digital concerts, you have the option to do everything from set your own ticket prices for exclusive access to your shows to making them free to watch with the option for fans to donate. This flexibility gives hard working musicians financial independence that they wouldn’t get playing normal shows at venues, but it also makes them responsible for the work of figuring out ways to accept payments and how to price their shows.
As musicians, we’ve lost a lot of opportunities because of the pandemic. Live-streaming isn’t going to replace what we’ve lost, but it’s a solid option for staying connected with fans.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.