Are virtual livestream tours the future of music export?


The live music industry has been going through incredible hardships and change these past few months, with losses estimated to amount to the region of $9 billion globally. With no official date for when business can start again (as in, hosting live events being allowed) and no concrete idea of what the future will look like in many places including the UK, music venues of all sizes are taking a massive hit. Nevertheless, there has been a silver lining for many in the music world : live streaming. The Compass Music team discuss the trend, and questions what it could mean for music export in the future.


It is the gift that keeps on giving, a technology so wide-ranging that it has been able to siphon the industry’s unexploited creativity, and spew innovation after innovation almost on a daily basis. There has virtually (pun intended) not been a day since the start of the crisis without at least one news headline about a new live streaming feat. It’s groundbreaking, a cornucopia of opportunity, a karmic miracle that’s so versatile and broad that last week, it managed to do the thing that many traditionalist naysayers said never could be done: it gave Compass Music’s founder Géraldine Zanaska FOMO.


That’s right FOMO.


It started when the Parisian disco-pop band L’Impératrice announced a virtual world tour. Fans of the band will know that the sextet had plans to embark on a much anticipated physical world tour pre-corona, which they of course had to cancel. But, aside from rescheduling and rebooking 2021 dates, the band and their French label Microqlima, decided to take advantage of the situation — to keep their audience engaged and interested — and came up with a pretty creative solution: broadcast one time virtual concerts exclusively to audiences local to the countries announced. Partnering up with Dice, the concerts will be taking place in 10 cities featuring local opening acts. Limited tickets and bundles are sold on Dice, made available only to those browsing with IP addresses registered to that country, who are set to receive live stream links 15 minutes before the start of the show. Fans will also have access to “I could have seen L’Impératrice live” tees designed exclusively for the tour. Unfortunately for Geraldine, she will be at the wrong place at the wrong time twice, being in London during the Paris show, and in Paris during the London show, meaning she will not have access to either — hence the FOMO.


That left quite an impression on her and got us talking. We agreed that of all the live streaming concerts we have heard of, never have we seen one emulate the feeling of the concert going experience as much as this tour. On their end, it means that they will be able to offer an exclusive experience for their growing fan base abroad, direct from Paris without the cost of touring and without sacrificing merchandising income. But beyond that, we believe that L’Impératrice and their team really seem to hit the nail on the head with this one. This entire tour seems to indicate that they perfectly understand the strong need for the music fan to experience a unique and lasting connection with their favourite acts. The exclusivity of the concerts, the hiring of local opening acts and the selling of special edition merch does that perfectly. It makes the moment memorable for the fan, and offers a platform for their opening acts, kickstarting a virtuous circle of music discovery. We will definitely be keeping an eye how much of an impact this will have on the popularity of the bands in the virtually visited countries.


This new approach for touring can have immense repercussions in terms of music export. Travel requirements and costs of touring are huge obstacles to acts from around the world, preventing bands and artists from attending international showcases and other opportunities. Although it will in our opinion never be able to replace the unique and authentic experience of a real life interaction, widening the reach of up and coming artists could very well redefine the process of exporting music and introducing bands to new audiences — not to mention the possible opportunities live streaming opens up for more sustainable and eco-friendly “touring”.


Speaking from personal experience, as an indie rock music fan who grew up in Africa and is currently riding out the pandemic in Dar Es Salaam, this is a very exciting development. My preferred genre and music scene has been out of reach for most of my life, and innovations like music live streaming bring on new solutions that actually seem to cater to me for once. That being said, as a music industry professional I am also conscious of the negative impact it can have on the industry and the danger it could pose in terms of taking money further away from grassroots venues around the world, and perpetuating the idea that music is now “free”. So although live streaming undeniably has a role to play in the future of live music, part of the challenge is figuring out exactly what that is.


For now, please join us in the industry-wide action on social media today led by the Concert Promoters Association, Music Venues Trust and countless others to encourage government support for live music in the UK under the banner #LetTheMusicPlay


Much to think about!


Sal Benryane, Communication, Social Media & Marketing, Compass Music.

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