With recent speculation about Spotify soon going public (without an IPO) and the belated launch of Pandora Premium, the music streaming space is increasingly nearing both maturity and saturation. The market is crowded by such giants as Apple, Google, and Amazon, as well as smaller companies like Spotify, Deezer, Napster, Pandora, and Tidal. For 2016, it was estimated that Spotify had 43 million subscribers, followed by Apple Music with 20.8 million and by Deezer with 6.9 million. At this point, it is unlikely that a new player can arise and grab a significant market share from the top players.
However, it’s worth noting that in the United States, paid and ad-supported music streaming together generated $3.9 billion in revenue in 2015. In contrast, live music generated $9.3 billion in revenue — nearly three times as much — for the same period. This points to the large opportunity in live music, and some of the same aforementioned companies are looking to expand into the market.
It’s almost a natural progression for these companies to expand from static audio streaming to live video streaming because they can leverage their experience with the music industry (think licenses, copyrights, etc.), as well as their existing platforms. For example, Pandora has run pilot livestreams with artists such as G-Eazy, Fall Out Boy, Jack White, and Mumford and Sons, and its product team is focusing on livestreamed shows. YouTube partners with large music festivals like Coachella and Ultra to livestream entire lineups. Twitter recently announced a partnership with Live Nation to livestream concerts.
Tapping into the live concert space also makes sense because of people’s interest in livestreaming generally. Thanks to Facebook Live and other services, livestreaming has gone mainstream. If we’re already used to seeing livestreams of Trump press conferences on Facebook and NFL games on Twitter, then it isn’t strange for to us watch Beyoncé concerts on Spotify.
But what’s in it for the artists? Currently, many artists make most of their income from live concerts, not from streaming or digital sales. Won’t livestreaming concerts cannibalize tickets for live concerts? It seems unlikely: In fact, 67 percent of livestream viewers are more likely to buy a ticket to a concert/event after watching a livestream of that concert/event or a similar one. Jordan Zachary, chief strategy officer of ticket sales company Live Nation, said the company’s data shows that consumption of live content increases a fan’s desire to attend the concert: “Research shows that millennials highly value live experience, and we believe live attendance will continue to grow globally.”
Following this logic, livestreaming concerts may actually augment an artist’s concert ticket sales. This is likely because the physical concert experience — acoustics, atmosphere, energy , etc. — can never be completely replicated virtually. People pay for more than the live music alone; they pay for the live concert experience. And the people who watch online are likely those who find the physical concert geographically or cost prohibitive. They were not going to buy live concert tickets in the first place.
Further, livestreamed concerts can help artists collect and analyze data. Artists could gather data about their fans and audience from live concert streams, much like they already do from traditional streaming tools, like Spotify’s Fan Insights portal. If livestreaming concerts are merely additive and promotional for an artist, the opportunity to add another source of data about fans and audiences offers value for minimal risk.
In addition, with virtual reality on everyone’s minds, it should be no surprise that there are startups looking to livestream concerts in VR. In 2014, vantage.tv livestreamed Coachella in 360 in conjunction with the release of the Coachella VR app and cardboard. This year, with YouTube added to this partnership, Goldenvoice (the company that produces Coachella) integrated the 360 broadcast with a highly trafficked 2D broadcast so users could toggle between 2D and VR. So far, vantage.tv has recorded and created more than 120 in-venue live VR broadcasts from Outside Lands, Coachella, Lollapalooza, and other festivals. Another startup, TheWaveVR, livestreams concerts in VR and offers interactive features that enable users to touch equipment or dance in the landscape.
AR, too, has potential to change live concerts beyond traditional livestreaming and VR livestreaming. This year, the Coachella app contained AR filters and overlays. In the future, we may start seeing more mixed reality and immersive media (like holograms) as part of live concerts.
Live concert streaming and expansions into VR and AR represent new opportunities — for both large companies and startups, that may reinvigorate the crowded streaming music category. The benefits of livestreaming concerts suggest that timing is right for music tech to play new a chord.
Jaja Liao works in mobile partnerships acquisitions at Google.