Will there ever be a substitute for live music? Or is it gone?
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but analysts are saying that 50% of bars, clubs, and restaurants will permanently close before the pandemic all over and that somewhere close to 64% of musicians are going to quit.
This makes sense given the fact that we can’t gather in groups and no one is leaving their houses, let alone attending live shows. The only places that will survive are places with decent take-out options and it’s truly sad to think that if you name two of your favorite bars, one will no longer exist after this. Possibly both.
As for the musicians, the “new normal” means no dancing, no private parties, weddings, or festivals. There is no money being spent; therefore, there won’t be work for at least 65% of us, if that.
So, what are musicians going to do with the time off, and what are we going to do to get our music fix going forward?
For a quick minute, it seemed like live streaming was the answer. When the lockdowns began in April of 2020, music moved online, and live streaming surged. The digital honeymoon, however, now seems to be at an end. There are a few possible reasons for this.
One is that the kick we get from watching a live performance on a screen stems from the yearning to be there. If you think about it, most if not all legendary live performances are filmed at venues like Madison Square Garden, Coachella, Royal Albert Hall. The same sense of “FOMO” simply does not exist inside the Livestream experience. While some live streams have been a great placebo, they still stop significantly short of being any kind of permanent cure.
Similarly, alternative in-home “sessions” like Tiny Desk Concerts, BBC Sessions, etc, are pre-recorded and mixed professionally with good audio and video. Many, if not most live streams are significantly lacking in this area. Poorly shot and mixed, they often don’t come close to scratching the “live music itch” that these other online experiences can provide. The proof is in the numbers. Most streams we tuned into that found success early in lockdown continue to have lower and lower view counts (If you know of someone who is managing to grow their live-streaming numbers, let us know in the comments).
Until broadband speeds, servers and our computers are fast enough to fully immerse the viewer in the experience the way that a live show can, it is likely that watching music one-dimensionally with sub-par audio will never truly feel the same as a live show or even a great recording of a live show.
So what does this mean?
Simply put, it means that live music is still king and that when science gives us the green light to come out of our caves in 2022 (hopefully), we’ll be craving live music like never before. It means that even here in the internet age, 2021 has taught us that we STILL have not found a worthy substitute for live music. It’s a hard lesson for everyone, especially us musicians, but for those who find a way to weather the storm, it may be a valuable one… one worth remembering. Heck, we may get another rock revival.