Live Performance Revenue

Part two of our four part series on the history and current state of monetizing music as an artform covers the impact that digital technology has had on live performance with respect to artist earnings.

By Dylan Korver

When technology had broken yet another frontier with the introduction of widespread broadband the final frontier was broken and even live events were being streamed – at this stage, it was thought by some that all may be lost for music as we knew it. In more recent times the video streaming aspect of the industry has evolved with the introduction of VR with artists and event organisers incorporating augmented experiences, one of many forms of tech now increasing the value of live performance as a stable stream of income for current artists. By definition then, the term performing live became slightly ambiguous, with artists now able to perform live in a traditional sense or reach audiences in realtime via streaming.


So how has streaming and other digital mediums changed the face of live music performance in terms of income? In the most recent times, it has become clear that initial fears were unfounded that the value of live performance could be lost with the introduction of live streaming – revenue has been steadily increasing since 2012 when the trend reversed after the global financial crisis. Total revenue for live music now stands at 28 billion up from 23 billion in 2012, each year increasing the year on year growth indicating a strong trend moving forward.


At this point however we face a widespread cease on live performances with the outbreak of the “Corona” Virus presenting perhaps the largest threat to date on the musicians – felt instantly by those relying on live performance revenue. In response to the outbreak many artists have been showcasing music through various streaming channels with businesses and services offering anything from free shipping, discounts and in the case of Bandcamp – 24 hours of no commission sales – meaning artists net all the profit; a reflection of the financial impact faced by artists unable to generate live performance revenue.


Of course now what was tipped to be a danger for live performers is now the saving grace, with decent streaming setups becoming more affordable and a number of ways to monetize streams – artists can now develop much needed emergency fund via live streaming. While this provides some comfort, earning during these times has again become more complicated, next up we look at “record sales” in this digital age and checkout the effect that the pandemic has had on various mediums.


Additional references and reading