Music is a source of hope, and in times of uncertainty, it provides an escape from the sometimes dim reality. A plethora of huge events have taken place virtually since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, among them EDC’s ‘Virtual Rave-A-Thon, Proximity’s ‘Digital Mirage’ and Trap Nation’s ‘Room Service’ which brought together top artists in support of charities to help those who’ve been affected by the impacts of the virus. However, now the endless free party sessions might be over as a number of promoters and artists have begun to roll out or consider ticketed online events. So now the question begs, should you pay for an online music event when others are free?.
Tomorrowland is one of the biggest electronic music festivals in the annual calendar that was forced to cancel its 2020 edition, the Belgian festival typically sells out in minutes and is known to bring the biggest names in dance music as well as creating world-renowned stage designs. Early last week the festival teased a mysterious countdown which was later revealed to be an announcement of an interactive 3D live-streamed experience. The initial teaser raised a huge interest of fans around the world and sparked huge excitement, but was quickly shamed on social media because it revealed “Tickets Will Go On Sale”.
So I’ve got to pay for a ticket to sit in my house and turn a laptop on, when every other festival are putting these on free whaaaa
— Craig Aspinall (@CraigAspinall1) June 4, 2020
As the virus continues to put the future of live music in doubt, it was only a matter of time before we started to see the industry try to re-think how it’s going to survive. While the previously mentioned streams so far have raised millions for charities, Artists themselves have been forced off tours and into isolation, while many are willing to donate their time to help those in need, we shouldn’t expect them to do this forever.
The biggest artists might have healthy bank accounts and can afford to sit things out but many others don’t have the same luxury. Moreover, their teams and the business around them such as managers, tour staff, booking agents, sound managers and visual artists are also suffering from the lack of income from touring. Eventually, the industry would need to consider how they can support these members and themselves to survive the economic losses faced due to the pandemic.
While firstly it must be said that if you have lost your job or income then it’s probably best to take a pass and enjoy the content you already pay for through an existing subscription or wait for re-broadcasts to end up on other platforms such as YouTube. Live stream experiences are undoubtedly not necessary expenses, however, if you are excited by what is on offer and are in a position to spend on additional entertainment, paid streams are helping keep people employed.
In the case of Tomorrowland, much of the criticism of their concept also came because the event reportedly didn’t offer refunds to ticket buyers for this year’s event and instead they were offered to keep their tickets for when the event can run in a normal fashion. However many also cited the fact that others had run free live-streamed events so why should they now pay for this one?
Simply because others had offered them for free, it shouldn’t be expected that it would continue or mean that every event would do the same. If you’re buying an artists merch that is a great and direct way to support them, but not all artists have merch. While streaming their music would also help, royalties come in months later and some artists may not receive those funds because the labels they are signed to have expenses to recover. Artists may also have opened up ways to donate to them through Spotify, Soundcloud or direct platforms however not everyone is open about their financial struggles.
So if you’re considering paying for a live stream event, we think the number one question you should ask is how are artists and creatives benefiting from it. Demanding that the content should be free is unfair, you’re not expecting your food delivery service to give you free meals or Netflix to waive your membership. Sure, events online aren’t the same as going to an event but when a festival creates a unique experience it could be worth paying, especially if it is supporting the industry so it can eventually return to normalcy.
Event promoters could opt to not do anything, however, if they are investing in creating an experience beyond simply having artists provided mixes it would be unsustainable to expect them to continue investing in it. To create a concept like Tomorrowland is they are likely hiring a team of 3D artists, building a complex platform, running servers, filming content and paying artists to be part of the event. The online event is not billed as simple pre-recorded streams from bedrooms, they are trying to create an experience that you can escape in and enjoy with friends.
Promoters can monetise their efforts in a number of ways, from working with sponsors to running ads and selling tickets, at the end of the day the companies putting these on are still paying staff to work on putting these events together, if they are creating something unique for fans then they have a right to charge for it. If you don’t see the value in the experience on offer don’t partake.