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Moving online: The booming business of livestreaming

As many turn online for their live event fix, IQ speaks to two industry experts and asks how the livestreaming business could prove a true ancillary to live

By IQ on 09 Apr 2020

Moving online: The booming business of livestreaming

The coonvirus pandemic has "accelerated and diverted" what was happening in livestreaming


With fans left deprived of the live experience and much of the industry facing stagnated revenue streams,  livestreaming is developing fast as a credible new source of income for artists, promoters and other rightsholders.

Livestreaming has been used one way or another for many years now, be it by festivals looking to expand their audience reach, artists seeking to enhance fan engagement or maximise audience numbers, streaming services looking to tap into the live business, or video games crossing over into the music space.

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis and live event shutdown, many have moved into the virtual space as a means of driving much-needed revenue and of raising funds and awareness, or simply of boosting spirits.

According to International Music Managers Forum’s (IMMF) Jake Beaumont-Nesbitt, however, the coronavirus crisis has not instigated anything completely new here, but rather has “accelerated and diverted” what was already happening in this online live event space.

As the business begins to become accustomed to its new reality, however long it may last, the potential and need to properly commercialise the livestreaming game is becoming ever more apparent.

“Who knew it would take a global pandemic to serve as a catalyst for some serious conversations about what this side of the business could look like?”

“One of the flip sides of the global health crisis, so to speak, is that people are realising there is a commercial business here,” Ruth Barlow, director of live licensing at the independent Beggars Group of labels tells IQ.

“Who knew it would take a global pandemic to serve as a catalyst for some serious conversations about what this side of the business could look like?”

Barlow, who has been licensing livestreams for the Beggars Group for around ten years, occupying the space between live and recorded and attempting to get both to see eye to eye, believes there is potential for “a business that both the live industry and labels can share in here”.

“I think there are really strong indicators that a healthy online business can sit comfortably aside real-time events and has the potential to generate ancillary revenue for rightsholders, promoters and artists alike,” says Barlow.

Too often, she says, there is a tendency for the live industry to see streaming live from festivals and other events purely as ‘promotional’ activity, leading rightsholders, artists and others to miss out on commercialising the content and collecting royalties on commercial platforms.

“These big live companies could act as the trusted gatekeepers for this, figuring out the licensing and taking the strain off artists”

Beaumont-Nesbitt agrees that the trend to view livestreams predominantly as marketing opportunities has led to “a failure on the part of major record labels to properly move into this space over the past 10 to 15 years.”

Now as offline replaces online for a period, Beaumont-Nesbitt believes the major players of the live entertainment and, potentially, esports worlds can capitalise on the potential of livestreaming.

Through leveraging in-depth audience knowledge, together with pre-existing brand relationships and well-trusted festival and event identities, the live industry could gain an edge over its recorded counterparts in the online event creation space.

Much like in the real-life live events market, Beaumont-Nesbitt expects consolidation to be key here, with a few major players likely to prove to have both the recognisable identity and the diversity of offering to succeed.

“These big live companies could act as the trusted gatekeepers for this, figuring out the licensing and taking the strain off artists.”

“A proper conversation is needed about licensing to create a mutually beneficial situation for the recorded and live sector alike”

However, for Barlow, it is imperative that the recorded sector be involved too, as generally permission is needed from labels and the artists’ publishers before any form of recording or broadcast takes place.

It’s been an “uphill struggle” over the years to convince promoters that labels have a say in livestreaming, says Barlow, yet paying for an artist to play a show does not automatically include the rights to livestream these performances.

Licensing, it seems, is a sticky issue within the livestreaming business. Unlike at an offline event, audiences online spread beyond national boundaries, stretching the certainty of many national collective management organisations’ (CMOs) license agreements.

The diversity of online platforms and the lack of unification or regulation between them also complicates matters, with each negotiating different licensing rules. A live stream on Instagram, for example, is recorded as well and available on demand for 24 hours or longer after it was “live”, which technically turns a livestream into a recording, requiring a different set of rights. A growing number of platforms also stream primarily user-generated content, making it much harder to identify which licensor holds the rights in the content.

“A proper conversation is needed about licensing to create a mutually beneficial situation for the recorded and live sector alike,” says Barlow.

The future of livestreaming looks bright, as more consumers get accustomed to viewing live content online and the return date of live events as we know them remains uncertain

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Beggars Group has been partaking in another form of livestreaming, one that does not originate from a live – or even “virtual” event – in real time, but rather involves the resurfacing of old live footage, that is then repurposed and broadcast at a set time on platforms such as YouTube Premieres.

This form of livestreaming allows viewers to watch and react to content together, mimicking the temporality and collectivism of a live show. Beggars Group is able to use such content as, over the years, it has been licensing and retaining the rights to a whole host of live performances.

“The level of engagement with long-form content on certain platforms has been pretty bonkers,” says Barlow, hinting that more previously unseen footage from across the Beggars Group’s roster is set to be aired soon.

The future of livestreaming looks bright, as more consumers get accustomed to viewing live content online and the return date of live events as we know them remains uncertain. As the lockdowns rumble on and infection rates continue to rise in many places, it seems that rebuilding consumer confidence may prove tricky and, even after the peak of the pandemic has passed, there will be a demographic that may seek their live experience elsewhere, at least for a time.


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