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PRS for Music’s controversial new streaming licences were inevitable, writes Phil Tucker. Those who embrace the change will also find them inconsequential.

DJ live streaming a performance wearing a surgical facemask

Live streaming is quickly becoming the future of the live music industry. While the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated awareness, leading artists and bands were already exploring and experimenting with digital live performances, identifying intelligent ways to maximise their audience and make the most of every live moment. 

The Performing Right Society’s (PRS) decision to introduce a new licence for live-streamed online events was inevitable. Over the next year the music industry will drive a digital revolution as artists take control of their performing rights and turn to digital events to generate income. 

Embrace the change

The music industry is quickly embracing the changes brought about by live streaming, with artists and musicians inventing ways to generate revenue beyond ticketing. While it will never replace the physical live event, live streaming will become the complementary way to engage global audiences. Artists who are astute in their use of technology, partnerships and community engagement will completely reinvent the live industry. In doing so, they will grow their audiences enormously and make more income from live performances than ever before.

Unlimited audience size opens up opportunities for lucrative sponsorships, targeted to individual regions, demographics and other segments. Artists that embrace the full capabilities of live streaming can achieve significant revenues in the live moment. Fees such as the PRS licence will become inconsequential in the broader economics of live-streamed performances.

New potential

Live streaming has been around for a number of years, with industries such as gaming leading its adoption. Now the music industry is realising the potential opportunities it offers. Much in the same way that the internet has allowed billions of people to easily connect with one another, live streaming offers artists the opportunity to connect with fan communities across the globe and maximise the reach of their performance. 

Not only are artists able to perform to audiences of unlimited size, selling tickets to a global fanbase, they are also able to generate additional income in the live moment. They can connect directly with fans, driving real time sales of merchandise, digital downloads and other physical and digital items.

The internet and its multiple platforms allow for customised personal approaches that transform the live-streamed moment into something truly engaging. Currently, audiences see the same stream regardless of who they are, or where they are in the world. Through a data-driven approach to audience engagement and a combination of multi-casting and co-hosting streaming, artists can segment audiences and customise their content to connect with smaller groups in a more engaging manner. In this way artists can intelligently identify new online communities who may be interested in their music. By working in partnership with the people in touch with these communities, they have an opportunity to grow their audience – and their revenues – even further.

In building something that is truly an event, the music industry can create the online equivalent of the physical experience. For artists, management, promoters and venues, there are numerous revenue streams at physical events over and above ticket sales. Live streamed events should have the same opportunities for merchandising and brand partnerships that live events have. Just as artists can take a customised approach to audience experience, so too can they create customised merchandise and secure multiple audience-specific brand partnerships and make live-streamed events a key source of income in the future. 

Democratising opportunity

As live streaming adoption increases, the music industry will inevitably be nervous about the changing nature of the live economy and the impact of costs like PRS licences on their ability to make money. This is even more reason for artists, managers, promoters and venues to embrace the new opportunities presented by live streaming. Those that innovate, work with strategic and creative partners, and adopt the latest technologies will be able to tap into a global audience and a global marketplace. 

Though this may seem to be the preserve of larger artists, that could not be further from the truth. The fact is that live streaming is democratising these opportunities through technology that is accessible to all, allowing anyone to find their global niche and maximise the return on their performance.

We’re all looking forward to the days when physical live performances return. And when they do, live streaming will be right there alongside each and every significant event. It will quickly become the most important revenue generating tool that artists have at their disposal and have a massive impact on the live calendar. It is for this reason that the UK must grab the opportunity and adopt best practice now, so that our industry and the artists that drive it remain at the forefront of global culture and entertainment.

Phil Tucker is the Founder of PUSH LIVE

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Phil Tucker