Looks Like Streaming Is Here To Stay A Bit Longer

I saw on FastCompany that Live Nation is wiring some of their venues for livestreaming and wondered what, if any impact it may have on the way performing arts venues operate in the future.

This is potentially a brilliant business move, because not only will livestreaming repeatedly capture superfans who would happily spend an evening and $120-$600 on tickets, but it will increase access for fans whose towns and budgets do not align with tours. Perhaps more critically, it will reach the many (many) semi-fans who would not tromp through crowds to see Pink, but would totally pay $15-40 to project her onto their living room wall.

Here are some of the things this got me thinking-

Pretty much at every community in which I have worked, people will complain there is too much they want to participate going on at the same time and they wish organizations would coordinate their calendars. (Of course there is often an overlap with the people who say there is nothing to do in the community.) Am I going to be in a position where I not only have to worry about what is going on in immediate area, but also a big event 300 miles away that people who live in a 10 mile radius of my venue are staying home to see?

There is plenty of precedent for this in relation to college sports. I have frequently been advised not to program during home football games of universities 200 miles away, during NCAA finals and similar events. Now granted, I don’t have empirical evidence this is a factor since it is difficult to survey people who chose not to come, but these events are frequently cited as a reason for low attendance.

Another concern is that performers may see less of a need to tour so extensively if they feel live streaming is extending their reach to people who live in the spaces between major markets, but won’t travel that far to see the show. Touring isn’t cheap or easy so it isn’t inconceivable that performers will skip places that may have gone in the past, especially if any sort of formal or informal social distancing conventions persist in the coming years. That decision will rob many communities of the economic impact of those tours.

The negative impact of casinos showrooms on performing arts venues has been widely acknowledged due to their ability to pay performers extremely well and require non-compete clauses over a broad geographic radius. I am not sure that Live Nation venues would require similarly large radii given the appeal of livestream broadcasts are not geographically bound, but performers feeling satisfied they are reaching who they need to reach via livestream may inadvertently have the same effect.

Now granted, this last hypothesis while possible, may not manifest. If there is enough perceived demand in smaller markets, touring groups are likely to make more money with a live performance than they would from streaming it 200 miles away. In fact, the streaming may increase the interest in seeing the liveshow.

As with so many things, its the unanticipated impacts of trends for which one needs to remain alert. Even if you don’t see your operation as being on the same scale as those of Live Nation’s, the ripples may impact you just the same. I can see plenty of positive potential as well as other performers move to fill in the gaps and find themselves thriving.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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3 thoughts on “Looks Like Streaming Is Here To Stay A Bit Longer”

  1. I wonder too what the effect hologram technology may have on this in the future. I don’t know that people will show up to a venue to see a flat-image of a streaming concert, but what if a band (or a play) is able to be projected on stage simultaneously to make it feel like the performers are there?

    • Matthew –

      We were just having a discussion about this a few weeks ago and were of the opinion that a concert where the main attraction is a hologram wouldn’t have a wide appeal. With a cover or tribute band, you can at least meet the guy playing Freddie Mercury and talk about how well he simulated the original. With a hologram, unless the backing band are the remaining members of Queen, there isn’t as much incentive to attend a live event.

      I am not sure about simulcasting bands or plays. Currently most hologram shows are projected on transparent scrims if you had a full band being projected. there would be that sense of a 3 dimensional presence, but if you are looking at a flat image of an entire band wouldn’t a high definition screen be more satisifying? You can have live people interacting with holograms, but it has to be carefully choreographed to avoid breaking the illusion. Which is not to say hologram technology won’t get better if someone sees good potential in it.

      Maybe someone should do a national survey that inquiries about people’s feelings on the matter? (I am sure that is WAY down on the list of priorities about things that need to be asked)


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