✖ The decade of the virtual tour pass
Also: Onlyfans' $300 million profit; Save Our Stages Act passes; Criminalizing livestreaming; Troy Carter's new venture; Platinum age of piracy
Hands up if you’ve had to pivot to livestreaming this year. Many parts of the music ecosystem have made considerable investments of time and resources into livestreaming. Now, what’s going to happen to all that experience, expertise, and infrastructure when live music comes back at some point next year?
2020 has introduced us to a new era of fan culture. Virtual shows and other types of digital experiences have been normalized, opening up new sources of revenue for artists as well as new ways to keep fans engaged. Inevitably, tours will become hybrid phenomena with fans attaining a rich experience rather than being relegated to clips on Instagram and getting a few streamable singles thrown at them every so often. Artists will start taking fans on tour, digitally.
The virtual tour pass
It’s an idea so simple that I expect more than a handful of the companies who experimented with or pivoted towards livestreaming this year, will roll out a service for bands to allow them to sell passes for fans to join the tour and get access to the all the shows — something which may also be rolled up into a membership on Patreon.
A few years ago I was at a small party by a collective of internet culture researchers and artists. Due to the nature of their work, their network is spread over many cities with just enough critical mass locally in order to organise a gig. In order to not leave the bulk of their network out of the loop, they made sure to stream the party out to them while simultaneously streaming the remote attendees in. They were visible on a screen inside the venue and by logging into a special chatroom on your smartphone, you could interact with them through text (though making provocative gestures at the venue’s webcam also worked).
(I wrote about this event 3 years ago in my piece Postinternet Music — scroll down to Instreaming if you don’t get directed there straight away)
This concept of instreaming is something that we’ve also seen during online events this year. There will be a main stream that people can tune into on Twitch or YouTube and various Zoom-sessions where you can stream yourself partying in your room to other fans. Occasionally, fans get featured in the main stream with an effect somewhat similar to the kiss cam popular at sporting events in the US.
When we go back to live, some artists may choose to start or close a tour with a virtual performance, either through livestreaming channels or an experience similar to Lil Nas X’s performance in Roblox or Travis Scott’s Fortnite gig. It could even be an exclusive for virtual tour pass holders. As I’ve pointed out in previous newsletters, these types of virtual environments are primarily known as games, but they also offer non-gaming experiences… so it’s not inconceivable that Fortnite might actually partner with a tour, allowing the fans to virtually experience every real-world gig as a livestream on its platform.
Other artists may go for something more personal and keep something of a diary through videos, text or drawings and include that in the virtual tour pass. In fact, I’m aware of startups with similar concepts as far back as 2009 that never really took off. What’s changed since then is that everyone now has smart phones, paying for digital media is normal, the social landscape has shifted towards video, and then there are all the shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviour created during the pandemic.
There will be tours again! If you’re active in livestreaming now: start thinking long-term. Where will this experience sit when live kicks up again? How can additional value be created for fans using this year’s investment of time and resources? How do you keep your fanbase connected beyond this challenging time and make it feel like a movement?
I’m looking forward to writing about all the cool stuff many of you will be pioneering.
(while I won’t be touring, you can support MUSIC x on Patreon)
Happy holidays from Bas & Maarten 🎅🎅. Our next edition is next week, in which we’ll answer all your burning questions (that you were afraid to ask 🙃) about what trends to keep an eye on for 2021. Consider the above a small preview.
👓 Troy Carter & Suzy Ryoo’s music tech company Q&A has launched a software group called Venice Innovation Labs. One of its first two releases is StreamRate, which allows companies to test tracks before their release. StreamRate’s website is geared towards recruiting music fans as testers with its lead message being: You Heard It Here First.
🎸 Bassist and YouTuber Adam Neely sent the machine learning experts of Dadabots two hours of bass improvisation. The latter create a never-ending neural net bass solo with it, which Adam then plays around with to the point of collaborating with the AI output.
🔞 OnlyFans has had a great year and went from under-the-radar website to a cultural phenomenon with the likes of Cardi B, The-Dream, and A Boogie With Da Hoodie joining the platform to offer exclusive content to paying fans. Why is OnlyFans profitable and self-funded whereas Patreon, the other major creator-fan subscription platform, requires investment and is losing money? The answer lies in its margins and 20% transactions cut.
Data used in Songview has been vetted by both PROs and will feature a green checkmark to indicate an “agreed-upon view of detailed, aggregated and reconciled ownership.”
🥁 The US Congress passed the Save Our Stages Act, which provides $15 billion in relief for cultural venues.
🚓 Passed in the same stimulus bill, alongside the above act, is a bill that proposes criminal penalties for operators of websites that ‘wilfully’ stream ‘unauthorised media’ for commercial gain and turns it into a felony. Critics call it a weird Christmas gift to Hollywood and argue it should be a civil rather than a criminal issue.
🏴☠️ Are we entering the platinum age of piracy? For Wired, Abigail De Kosnik describes how the accelerated trend of skipping the theatrical release and going straight-to-SVOD services like Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max creates exciting new opportunities for pirates.
📈 Another set of accelerated trends is the surge in the so-called ‘creator economy’ with Substack creators totalling over a quarter million paid subscribers, Patreon being valued at more than a billion USD, OnlyFans making a $300 million profit this year, and Twitch doubling the number of streamers on its platform.
I suppose the abbreviation for the Save Our Stages Act mentioned above is SOSA, so why not celebrate with this Chief Keef drill classic.