Online Streaming: A New Booking Criteria for Artists

Many artists have taken to online streaming to continue building their exposure and revenue. In a hypothetical (and hopeful) future, venues will reopen, and festivals will once again take place – but if artists had to rely on an online presence in the past, what criteria should booking agents follow in the future?

Artists Going Online: A Necessity

The financial implications of cancelled concerts mean that a myriad of artists lose out on the most lucrative period of any album cycle. 

And it isn’t only about fiscal hardships: fans are looking for means to combat isolation, and as a result, many turn to their favourite artists for respite. As a result, artists had to get creative in how they maintained an online presence.

From home-tours to impromptu concerts to online tutorials, social media became the only way in which acts could keep connected to their audiences.

But with hopes of a new “normal”, this online presence means much more than just a way to stay relevant.

For many, especially those in the business of booking artists for gigs and festivals, it remains the only way to judge whether said artists are worth booking.

Should Live Streaming Count Towards Your Leverage for Bookings?

Popularity means numbers, and numbers mean money. In an ideal world, bookers can gage the predicted “success” of an artist’s performance by pre-ticket sales or overall past ticket sales.

But what about live streaming?

Believe it or not, it might be a blessing in disguise.

Assuming that streaming won’t replace concerts, using analytics to measure the success of live video streaming might come in handy for hypothetically planning who makes it to, say, Glastonbury’s Legend Slot.

There are seven predominant metrics to keep in mind when checking out online artists:

  1. Device viewership
  2. Live viewership vs on-demand viewership
  3. Repeat traffic
  4. Duration of views
  5. Unique visitors to your site.
  6. Geographical breakdown of your viewership.
  7. Viewer engagement

A great plus is the development of real-time data, which point out the gaps and where improvement is needed.  What demographic are the artists resonating with? During what bit of the concert where views the highest? Is engagement maintained throughout the whole stream (in which case it’s safe to assume in real life, too)?

Of course, we’re not talking about already-established artists (nobody is going to pass on Taylor Swift because she didn’t get enough views on her latest home-concert).

Live streaming has opened the doors to independent artists that would otherwise be overlooked. It’s allowed them to build up their fanbase and generate demand for more music, and a booker, looking at their live stream data can be a huge pro in deciding who to add to your setlist.

In 2018, 67% of live video viewers were more likely to buy a ticket to a concert or event after watching a live video of that event or a similar one. For annual events like music festivals, 30% who watched a livestream would attend that same event the following year.

Valuable Content and Engagement

For artists and bookers alike, engagement validation almost always came in the form of clapping and cheering after every song.

Now, it’s all down to virtual numbers.

Although navigating the online world isn’t always easy, there are some advantages to these setbacks, mainly the opportunity to capture the attention of new fans via new creative strategies. Looking at an artist’s engagement with their fans during lockdown can be a magnificent indicator of the artist’s potential.

Why? Because now is the time to build a loyal fanbase. Amidst uncertainty and tension, people turn to the arts for respite. How an artist connects and helps their fans can pay off twice fold when venues open again, in the form of ticket sales. 

How to Translate Viewers Into Ticket Sales?

Of course, now it’s all largely based on views, and having views is excellent, but if they don’t convert into sales, it’s akin to window-shopping.

For example, one of the most successful live streams amidst the pandemic has been Isol-Aid, a weekly Instagram festival featuring musicians performing mainly from home, benefiting charity Support Act. But they rely on donations, not ticketing, and free performances risk devaluing that work over the long-term.

Charging money for online streams is challenging because the demand for paid live streams is mostly dependent on the quality of the experience.

But there is a silver lining:  within reason, cutting down on the fancy technology and seeing artists host a stripped-down concert from, say, their kitchen floor has given the haphazard nature of these events a charming, relatable atmosphere to an otherwise polished industry.

A digital experience is uniquely different than the experience of attending a concert. As such, incentivising ticket sales from views can come in a variety of ways: freebies, holding contests, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, etc.

With that said, keep in mind that ticket sales will never mimic live-gig sales. As Mat Dryhurst puts it, “current music infrastructure is unfit for purpose…  music’s sole advantage over games and Netflix is real-life congregation, interaction and full-spectrum sound.”

online

The criteria for booking artists based on their online presence is perhaps not the most kosher, but it’s the only available option for those who are looking to spring back into action once restrictions lift. It won’t replicate seeing an artist perform live, but live streaming does put a light on emerging artists (many of who would otherwise have needed years of touring to reach similar views).

And who knows, it might even be the catalyst for a fresh batch of much-needed talent.