Lockdown Live Music in the Ex-stream

On a normal year by this point I would have have been to see, on average, about five music concerts. This, of course, is not a normal year by any means and so the total stands exactly at a measly one.

There were supposed to be more. I had booked to see Steve Hackett (twice), 10cc, Crowded House and Steven Wilson at the O2. All were moved or cancelled as the pandemic did its worst and nobody wanted to be sitting (or standing if you’re young enough) in a packed, sweaty auditorium.

It’s amazing how quickly that people can adapt when forced to do so and by the middle of the first lock down artists were beginning to see the potential in streaming concerts. The first I became aware of and attended were by Duke Special who put on a series of Friday night events from his home. The first week would be an ‘in conversation’ between himself and the producer of the album that he would then perform the next week, live.

By lock down two things had ramped up a bit and Paul Carrack streamed a concert recorded live from Leeds. This was Carrack and his full touring band but no audience.

While one was low key and the other slick and glossy they both had the same thing in common. At the end of each track they looked a little lost as they waited for some sort of feedback. A clap, a cheer or even a boo might have been a useful reference point for them. However, they both hit their stride eventually and got used to it. In Duke Special’s case as it was live live as opposed to recorded live he was able to see feedback from comments all over the world in the zoom chat window. Not quite the same but feedback never the less.

Paul Carrack doing his stuff

The last stream I watched was an acoustic set by Marillion front man Steve Hogarth. This was him and a piano from a church in Oxford. I’m not sure what the costs are to run such an event but at its peak about 1,800 people were watching the stream which at £15 a head is £27,000. I’m sure that actual income will have been lower than that with people sharing links etc. but still a reasonable sum before other costs are taken into account.

It is true that streaming live music is no substitute for the real thing but in the current climate it is a good second best. Plus there are no travel or hotel costs for the individuals and for the artist they can attract a much wider audience for a single gig meaning the income could be higher.

It also means that I can get to see people that I might not otherwise have been able to or couldn’t be arsed to get tickets for. A case in point being The Dandy Wahols event on December 30th where they are playing the whole of “13 Tales From Urban Bohemia”. I prefer not to gig alone and the Wahols are an acquired taste that nobody I know has savored so this means I can watch the gig and the band gets my money.

I know that lots of people are hankering to get back to ‘normal’, whatever that looks like, but I for one hope that going forward some form of hybrid is going to be available where we can attend gigs in person for that high you only get from being there plus some that I can join on stream.