Analysis April 2021: Crossing the streams

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Live streaming has become one of the main – and in some cases the only – outlet for musicians to perform during the pandemic. But how viable is it as a profit-making enterprise? By Peter Somerford

With concert venues around the world still shut to audiences more than a year into the pandemic, live streaming has been a powerful way for artists to stay connected with their fans and reach new audiences. But whether it’s individual performers recording themselves at home and inviting donations from the audience, or ensembles being professionally filmed and recorded for ticketed events delivered through high-tech streaming platforms, can the income from live streaming make up for revenues lost from cancelled concerts? By the beginning of April, London’s Wigmore Hall will have live-streamed 160 concerts since June 2020, all of them free to view in HD, with audiences encouraged to make donations. But chief executive John Gilhooly, in an interview with the Financial Times in January, was brutal in his assessment of live streaming as a money maker. Noting that the £1m the hall aims to raise from a year of donations represents only around one seventh of its usual annual income, Gilhooly said: ‘Apart from the deluded, no one can say streaming concerts pays.’

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