Music Industry Disruption: Live Streaming Concerts in Singapore

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In Singapore, a band will not be able to become a major source of revenue due to Singaporeans’ lack of interest in locally made music. Most live musicians survive on a meagre income playing gigs in various bars and clubs. Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19, live music and gigs are no longer a source of income for musicians and due to Singapore’s strict circuit breaker measures, all bars and clubs were closed on April 7th and will open on June 1st. This has left many musicians in a desperate state for income. With the tremendous loss in revenue, many musicians have considered venturing into an alternative career, while some continue to teach music through online platforms. However, there is still hope for musicians in Singapore with the recent rise in live streaming Singapore.

The music industry has definitely come a long way since its establishment. In the 1960s and 70s, it was possible for someone to start and develop a successful career in music with nothing more than a good voice, a bit of talent, and a couple of amateur guitar strumming friends to start a rock band. Today, however, the music industry is completely different from the music industry of the 60s and 70s – it is much more complex, and the business of music is an essential aspect of the success of a band. Bands in today’s music industry are no longer just selling music, they are selling a product – themselves. This product is a combination of their music, image, and live performances, but the money from record sales and mp3s has long since been lost due to music piracy. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, in the decade between 2000 and 2010, recorded music revenues in the United States have dropped from $14.6 billion to $6.8 billion.

Background of the Music Industry

The live music has always been considered a significant musical experience because of the direct interaction between the performer and the audience. A live concert can be an effective way to market and sell recorded music, and developing musicians and music can be marketed to both music industry insiders and the general public in relatively few venues that are accessible to the performing and recording acts. Leisure is a luxury, and live music is a leisure event. Therefore, the shift in people’s discretionary expenditure can have an effect on the demand for live music performances. Improvements in telecommunications and awareness of how much it costs to mobilize a music performance are factors that increase the economic pressures of holding a music event. This goes hand in hand with increasing the value of music because improvements in telecommunications are often driven by people’s desire for a better, more convenient lifestyle. The alternative is to simulate an experience that can be experienced in a convenient location. This is becoming increasingly closer to how people are experiencing music today.

The music industry has always been about connecting people with music. The industry is constantly progressing, enabling music to be disseminated faster and connecting people more quickly. There are constant introductions of new mediums supporting the consumption of music, leading to changes in listeners’ experience. Technological improvements have played a crucial role in shaping the modern music industry. The most ancient musical form and genre is the live performance. However, technological advances have seen the role of live music change. High definition, digital radio and television, music tracks that can be downloaded and stored on portable devices, changing the ways and places in which music is experienced. Audio reproduction technologies have changed the quality of music experiences and have had an impact on the music industry. This section will be focusing on the ways in which the music industry has been utilizing emerging technology to evoke an experience to connect with music and enhance its value.

Rise of Live Streaming

The disruptions in the music industry have been caused by many factors, many of which can be attributed to technological advancements and the ease of global communication through the internet. As the music industry is part of the larger entertainment industry, it may be useful to consider a study done by In Yae Jin and Vogel in 2006, where they examined cultural goods as being either ‘National products’ or ‘global products’. They concluded that while the flow of content of cultural goods was becoming more global, consumer tastes were becoming more localized. They argued that the film and music industry were being divided between ‘local/cultural’ products and ‘blockbuster/hit’ products, with the latter becoming more global. This data could be indicators for what is to transpire in the future of the music industry in Singapore, as to whether the results are positive or negative, that remains to be seen.

There is no denying that the Singapore music industry, much like those of the rest of the world, has felt the impact of the disruptions brought about by advancements in technology over the past decades. One such disruption that will be the focus of this essay is the rise of live streaming Singapore of music performances. To put things into perspective, these technological disruptions in the music industry are not by any means isolated to just the music industry, but are part and parcel of a much larger picture in the entertainment industry and even in consumer habits.

Impact of Live Streaming Concerts

In today’s climate where every entertainment option is competing with several others for a relatively fixed level of consumer spending, monetization has become a key factor. Many artists and promoters have turned to live stream as an option for a ‘pay per view’ setup or a full-scale music event. With the growth of live-streamed gaming events on websites such as Twitch, music is not the only type of content being consumed in the live-streamed format. For a music fan who in the past may have spent $15 on a CD album, this form could be described as quite economical, considering admission to a live event or festival has become quite costly in many countries.

Live streaming concerts have disrupted the traditional way of delivering music to the masses, and its impact has been felt in several different ways. Firstly, live streaming has increased the reach and accessibility of music to the home listener. What began as an ‘underground’ method of internet distribution has now become a viable option for many artists. High-speed internet connections in many countries have added to the viability of this method, as it has made it possible to watch live streams with minimal interruptions. In some cases, live-streamed events have been used as a promotion tool to increase the sales of tickets to a physical venue. In 2008, Linkin Park streamed a full live show on the social media website MySpace, which at the time attracted over 1 million viewers. Although this was to promote their “Projekt Revolution” tour that year, an increase in the accessibility of this form may lead to the belief that a home viewer does not require a physical show to be put on.

Increased Reach and Accessibility

Accessibility is not only limited to who can watch the event, but also when. Often, a live event in one part of the world may not be particularly accessible to viewers in another part because of time zone differences. This can be said of Singapore as well. A live event hosted in the Americas or even Europe may not be accessible to the typical Singaporean viewer as it would mean having to stay up late and affecting one’s work schedule the next day. Being able to watch recorded live events at a later time would be a great boon to these viewers, who up to now have had to miss out on many live events. For the artist, having an event that is viewable at various times may mean more viewers in the long run.

As of now, research shows that live streaming events such as sporting events have proved to successfully attract new viewers to the sport. Now, it is hard to assume that this would take away viewers from a live event since it is a sport. But in the case of concerts, it would be reasonable to assume that some people who would have attended a concert may opt to watch online instead.

The increase in reach and accessibility of live streaming concerts has various implications on traditional face-to-face concert arrangements. The most obvious impact would be the different demographic that live streaming concerts would attract. Convenience and the ability to watch the concert at any place with an internet connection opens up the demographic to include those who may be too busy to attend a traditional concert, or those who live in a country where the artist is not popular, or simply people who would not normally attend a concert. This could mean a whole new demographic of concertgoers who may not have been previously interested in attending a concert, which is good for the artist to tap into.

Monetization Opportunities

Pay-Per-View (PPV) is another method in which monetization can be achieved. PPV is an initiative where viewers are required to pay a fee in order to access the live stream event, as the event will not be part of the standard broadcast, and only viewers who have paid for the content will be able to access it. This method is particularly lucrative for boxing events and UFC fights but has equal potential for success with live-streamed music events. PPV has a high earning potential proven by the fact that the MayPac (Mayweather-Pacquiao) fight brought in $410 million in PPV revenue. However, it is quite an ambitious move, and there is no guarantee that a viewer will commit to paying for an event that they can’t be sure is value for money. It should not be attempted unless there is an established viewer base and accurate statistics to prove this. High-end PPV often requires piracy protection for the stream. This is to prevent alternate free distribution of the event or recording of the stream for later illegal distribution. Many PPV providers, including UFC, use prosecution as a method to scare people away from piracy.

A successful live stream event can also include a third-party sponsorship package to create revenue for the event. This may involve directly partnering with a company to sponsor the event. It involves the sponsor providing a sum of money to the event organizer to facilitate the live streaming event in exchange for consumer exposure to the brand during the event. This can be done through the use of banner ads, visual sweeps, or audio mentions. Partnering with a company can also entail the selling of a product, for example, an energy drink sponsoring a gaming event. The product would be sold on the event site, and there would be an added incentive for the viewer to buy the product to get extra in the streamed game. An advertising campaign can be rolled into a package that includes product placement and interactive advertising. These packages should also include viral marketing through contests and swag that will create a buzz for the product among the viewers. A successful partnership can result in the sponsor committing to a series of events and a long-term ongoing relationship with the event organizer.

Changing Fan Experience

If implemented correctly, live streamed concerts could break the current model of remote music experiences. Often in the past, the only way to experience live music at home would be through listening to a live album, which simply does not provide the atmosphere and sense of community that a live performance generates. In contrast, live streaming would allow fans to be spectators of the actual live performance, and the interactive nature of the internet would potentially allow the fan’s voice to be heard and included in the performance. An example would be an online chat between the band and the fans, ultimately involving the fans in the performance itself. On a technical level, the performance can be streamed in real time with no loss of audio quality, and internet connectivity advances will ensure that the stream is rarely disrupted. The realism and immediacy of a live streamed performance in comparison to other remote music experiences means that it could be a very attractive option for music fans.

Fans’ experience from attending live performances has always been one of the most crucial aspects of the music industry. Performers are lost without their fans, and vice versa. The emotional experiences that both parties share simply cannot be replaced or recreated, often placing a barrier between live and remote music experiences. However, recent improvements made to remote music experiences through the likes of video game simulations and online communities have continuously been closing that gap, and live streamed performances could potentially provide the most immersive solution for remote music fans to date.

Challenges and Opportunities for Artists and Venues

An effective training ground for bands would be to organize a live stream event at a private venue where the show will be transmitted to an online audience, but this would circumvent the opportunity for the artists in unearthing potential new fans. A pool of young talent combined with the recent shutdown of SCAPE and threat of further music venue closures puts the discovery of new music into a brow furrowing state. The artists must be weighed down by the want to maintain the exposure of their band name while using the least possible financial resources. A solution to this would be the organization of live stream events at established venues as live stream events can serve as a form of advertising for venue owners to attract the interest of other bands who are looking for viable performance opportunities.

Firstly, the best way for artists to take advantage of the exposure generated by a live performance is to accumulate a good following. This following can then be leveraged upon by releasing information on upcoming live stream events, and with enough support, some followers may even be willing to financially support the artists in hopes of the Singapore music industry maintaining its strong cultural presence that is representative of its transition era.

One of the biggest challenges for artists and venues is adapting to the digital landscape, which essentially means moving from live performances to live stream events. As this concept is still in its infancy in Singapore, there isn’t a clear understanding of how musicians and bands should manage their recorded music and live performances.

Adapting to the Digital Landscape

For venues and event organizers, it may appear that they are now out of operation amidst the pandemic. But with the demand for virtual music performances on the rise, the virtual performance can be an opportunity for the event organizer to arrange an event through online means. This can include contacting artists to perform virtual set times for a specific date and broadcasting on social media channels and with potential for profit through the use of donation links. The event organizer can also consider producing a virtual concert through a gaming platform such as VR Chat or Second Life, and this could be an innovative way of delivering an interactive music experience for an online audience.

For artists playing acoustic music, the virtual performance may not necessarily require a complex setup. They can still use live streaming platforms and perform using basic recording equipment and put focus on creating a pleasing visual aesthetic. Although it cannot replicate the live experience, the virtual performance is a means of allowing both artists and fans to still engage in live music during these times and can be a beneficial way for artists to stay connected to their fanbase.

The live streaming concert has become a more frequent practice amidst the pandemic, but there were artists that were attempting to perform this as a virtual performance prior to the pandemic. For artists already well-versed in music production, this can be easily done. Essentially, they can use live streaming hosting platforms such as Twitch or YouTube and perform using their DAW software and audio interface. This allows near-studio quality performance directly from their own home. However, not all artists have this kind of technological capability and will be unacquainted with the process of setting up a virtual performance. For this, artists can explore instructive videos on getting started with music production and make efforts to replicate the quality of their audio to a similar level to that of their live performances.

Building Engaging Virtual Performances

The visual aspect of performance has always been an integral part of many music concerts, and this is something that need not be forsaken in a virtual performance. Low-cost portable video cameras and easy access to video editing software mean that it is easier now than ever to add a visual element to the audio-only stream. Studio-produced music also takes on an entirely new life when the artist can play the actual recorded tracks along with the performance. This is an opportunity to create an emotional connection with the music by playing footage of the band recording the song, or perhaps syncing the music with a coordinated video or slideshow.

A great example to come out of this recession is the at-home concert of Brazilian Jazz/Funk band ‘BossaCucaNova’. They’ve gone the whole nine yards, multitracking audio and video, editing/compressing/mixing the audio, and using HD video. The result is a stunning performance and a very high audio-visual quality. An ambitious project for a live-streamed performance with a pay-what-you-like donation scheme. That high quality may be just what it takes to entice donations and CD purchases from fans who liked the performance.

So what can be learned from performances past? The medium is shifting back to an emphasis on audio quality. As music becomes less of a physical product and more of digital data, consumers expect near-perfect audio. The loudness war has squashed much of the dynamics in modern music, grainy low-quality codecs have pushed MP3s to their limits, and poor compression on YouTube has left something to be desired. Music is an audio art, and at the professional level, consumers will not tolerate less than near perfection.

Socially-distanced live streaming concerts are a reality. The challenge ahead for musicians and performers – already reeling from the effects of a global pandemic and a recession – is creating engaging virtual performances that resonate with fans. Virtual performances are nothing new in today’s digital age, but the landscape has undergone a dramatic shift to a primarily online platform. If artists wish to carve a slice out of this market, they need to sustain a virtual presence that will engage their desired audience.

Leveraging Social Media and Online Platforms

Artists have been quick to adapt in using live streaming as a way of reaching out to fans. For long the haven of online gamers, Twitch has recently risen in popularity as a platform for musicians due to its “going live” functionality, and artists have been hosting online concerts of various scales, from the decks in their bedroom to setting up stage effects in their garage. Lonely no more, the typical live streaming experience can be as basic as an acoustic guitar and a phone, or as complex as utilizing multiple cameras, visual effects, and live audio modulation. On 3rd April, Singapore music duo .gif executed an impressive hour-long online concert in collaboration with the local music festival SIFA, featuring electronic music, go-go dancers in animal mask costumes, and even an appearance from the festival director.

When it comes to Singapore, leveraging social media and online platforms means getting to grips with some technical nuts and bolts, including streaming and developing relationships with fans. Facebook, Instagram, and more recently TikTok all offer live stream functionality, allowing musicians to connect with fans in real-time with updates, performances, and Q&A sessions. The “tip” feature on streaming platform Twitch also provides artists with another revenue stream, allowing viewers to tip in the same way they would at a live performance. For artists tech-savvy enough to manage, hosting a concert in online gaming numerous have also proven to be successful, with American artist Travis Scott’s virtual concert in the game Fortnite drawing over 12 million concurrent viewers. The method to which artists take advantage of methods such as these varies greatly based on their target audience and level of technological literacy.

Future of Live Streaming Concerts in Singapore

In the future, live stream concerts can also implement an online ticket entry just like online MMORPG games. Online ticket entry would provide exclusive access to only paid viewers to actually watch the concert. There will also be event schedules where the viewer can browse and watch the highlights of the concert if they missed it. Multipoint control unit provided by Polycom can also provide an alternative way of viewing live concerts. This function allows users to switch between different camera angles at their own choice during a live conference. This will enable the users to watch the concert from different perspectives. All these enhancements would make a live stream concert a better experience than watching a video clip. Prices will be relatively cheaper compared to live concerts but the experience and enjoyment of the show would be just as good.

As for video technologies, there have been improvements on video resolution. From normal TV resolution, we now have HDTV resolution which is 5 times better than normal TV. With better audio as mentioned earlier and also better video resolution, sound and vision will definitely provide an experience that is as good as watching a live performance. The future video technology will be the 3D television. Just like 3D cinemas, this TV requires 3D glasses and there is also one without the glasses. If 3D technology can be implemented into live streaming, this can provide a better visual experience for the audience. With an appropriate price, it can very well replace the cost of going to a live concert with superior sound and visual experience. High-resolution video technologies can also greatly benefit musicians from promotional shows.

On top of that, there are new audio formats such as DVD-audio and SACD which provide higher quality audio. DVD-audio has sampling rates of up to 192 kHz which sampling quality that is way better than compact discs. SACD on the other hand, gives 3D sound quality audio. All these advancements would make live streaming concerts a better appreciation for the listener.

The future of live streaming concerts in Singapore appears to be optimistic with the increasing technological advancements in audio and video technologies. For audio technologies, there have been many improvements in sound quality. From simple mono sound to stereo sound, the development of sound quality has been tremendous. The latest invention in sound technology has been the development of 3D sound. Yamaha has developed a 3D sound technology where sound is able to reach its listener in a way where the listener can actually tell the distance and the direction of the sound source. This development in 3D sound technology can greatly enhance the listening experience for a live stream concert. This is definitely better than the current audio technology used in live streaming today, which is only in stereo sound.

Technological Advancements and Innovations

For example, an artist could use an app to make a live concert appear on users’ smartphones at the same time as a physical concert. This would be a cheap method to add an extra event in the same location for fans. The A/V production for modern concerts is hugely complex, and AR would give artists the potential to always use their latest production at any concert without having to transport physical props. All of this would improve the current surreal experience of watching video content from a major artist at home and allow the digital reproductions of concerts to be a valid alternative for people who can’t afford tickets to the real thing.

Another step forward for technology is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. These have been continuous projects for many companies and have never been fully realized for live entertainment. It has been shown to be successful for many sporting events and e-sports, but music has yet to dip into this market. This could potentially be a massive step forward in the future, by making the concert experience nearly identical to a physical concert. Users of VR would be able to experience a live concert from their own home and have a customizable visual experience. Meanwhile, AR could be used to add another layer onto physical live concerts.

The ability of technology to improve and grow has been proven time and again, and that includes live streaming. The advancements and innovation in technology have given live streaming a chance to become more popular and more accessible for everybody. The best example of this would be gaming streaming platforms. Gaming streaming platforms have taken leaps and bounds in the last decade to become one of the most popular methods of entertainment with millions of unique views. These companies have taken the data collected over that time to improve the quality of their content and improve the accessibility of said content. This has led to the creation of on-demand video and a higher base quality for live videos. On top of that, they have improved the support for their content creators, which has become crucial in attracting the biggest acts from the music industry. With all of these improvements, including more accessible content, higher quality content, and attracting bigger acts to their platforms, it’s clear that this is the best time in history for live streaming concerts to be a resounding success.

Integration of Virtual and Physical Experiences

Once again, returning to the ways in which the virtual format changes our expectations of a traditional live music performance, we see the Virtual Masa live music series on Second Life. While most virtual music events discussed so far seek to recreate a real-life event online, this video game-derived event takes the music performance to the virtual environment. Mark Ginsburg (Masa) argues that in SL “we cease to operate in the usual value associations with liveness, namely presence and immediacy.” He goes on to suggest that this has both negative and positive connotations for the future of live music. The negative relates to an argument made earlier that virtual events cannot recreate smaller aspects of live music performance; however, the positive is that real-life music events are “no longer the only mode of performance.” This evidently suggests that virtual music events are becoming a significant entity and are slowly but surely changing our expectations on live performance, with physical location becoming less of an issue.

Collaboration and Partnerships

As mentioned by Andrews, in times of crises or when faced with external shock, governments, firms, and people may respond by forming full-scale new systems with mixtures of old and new elements by recombining and reconfiguring existing assets and processes (p.10). This is illustrated with the happening in Tonkinoise where partnerships are formed between event organizers and artists. The case of A-VOYAGE where a series of five musical happenings, music blast, and displaced sessions were held over a period of six months mutually benefited event organizers and artists. According to Andrew Ingkavet, founder and CEO of Singapore music social networking site, these kinds of event partnerships are viable business opportunities for all event organizers. As revenue from the sale of an event is shared between an event organizer, bands, and sound crew, it is said to potentially offset the fall in sales for hard copy recordings and can help to develop a semi-permanent to permanent live music venue. This provides a platform for artists with expectations of regular performance engagements. Andrew also points out that many bands or event organizers may not yet be aware of the advantages of having a vacancy at these semi-permanent to permanent live music venues. Therefore, it is possible for to match these bands and event organizers with an in-depth database of event and band profiles. A virtual showcase session can then be arranged with the bands assigned to play at an event and time slot best matching their profiles. Each event can then be captured on video for the bands and sound crew involved in the actual performances. This goes full circle with revenue from the sales of recording, benefiting everyone involved. This is in line with the progression from event to integrative audio-visual technology application, showing that such partnerships will continue to exist in the live music industry and for live streaming concert simulations.