The music industry has had a long and often ugly battle with technology throughout the years. When music originally went from physical records or CD's to the digital MP3 format, the entire industry was reluctant to adapt to the new digital age. As a result of this, the music industry found policing the millions of illegal files shared online impossible. Limewire, uTorrent and other programs made it incredibly easy to snag a free copy of a song (or alternatively a virus, or Bill Clinton claiming that he did not have sexual relations with that woman). The point is, the music industry had no answer.
Years later, along came Spotify, looking to change the music industry again with the new prospect of streaming music, as opposed to purchasing and downloading. Although this is now considered commonplace, at the time the music industry was again reluctant to adopt this new technology and change. Through streaming music we have seen piracy rates drop dramatically.
Now, in 2020, there is another area where the music industry could again be caught with its proverbial pants around its legs if it doesn't innovate and accept new technology: video live streaming.
As both a music lover and a passionate sportsman, it makes complete sense to me that there should be a live streaming platform for live musical performances. I don't even think twice about streaming a game of football anymore - I just open my Optus Sport app and voilà, I'm watching the Champions League. It's quick, easy, innovative, and smooth.
Many were hesitant to accept live streaming sporting matches as sport was sacred land for the television. In a weird way it felt wrong or dirty to live stream a match on your phone or laptop. This isn't the case anymore.
Similar cases can be seen with TV shows or movies switching to streaming services like Netflix, Stan, Disney Plus or Amazon Prime.
The music industry has seen many game changers in its time, from Apple introducing digital music, to Spotify popularising music streaming. Now, we have another game changer on our hands: Netgigs.
Netgigs is an Australian company available in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada, and will soon be launching in Japan, Korea and Colombia among others down the line.
It began in 2018 and its focus has been the exact same throughout - let's help artist earn more money through technology . The brainchild for Netgigs, Joe Ward, is a musician in his own right in South Australia, and in the three years he has been working on this project they have seen a fast rise.
The company is a pay-per-view (PPV) live streaming platform with digital rights management (DRM) and the ability to sell music and merchandise among others. The PPV model, as opposed to a subscription model, means the consumer only pays for what they want. The artists win here, too, as there is an 80-20 split in favour of the artists for all PPV revenue.
Joe Ward says that Netgigs takes 20% of the revenue to cover outlaying costs of equipment, streaming costs and other factors.
"We're running an operation on par with the size of Netflix", Ward said.
"It's very expensive".
Despite the costs, Ward is more than happy to give artists an 80% split of PPV revenue because he has seen just how little they earn from streaming sites.
The impact COVID-19 has had on the music industry holistically is obvious, but the live sector has been hit the hardest. With social distancing measures in place it is impossible for venues to put on a show where they won't lose money. It is estimated that a venue has to sell to at least 85% of its capacity just to break even. Now, insert social distancing measures, and it's obvious to see why they can't make a penny, with many venues capped at 50% capacity or less.
As a result, we saw so many Instagram live streams from artists desperate to perform, and their fans desperate to see live music during lockdown. This is a void that will be left largely empty until it is safe for public gatherings to return with sweaty mosh pits.
In the meantime, live streaming music shows has become increasingly popular - but it is important that these live streams continue even once we can return to seeing live shows.
Disability, cost, and where you live all factor into how difficult it is to attend a live musical event. Personally, I'm very lucky to be an hour and a half away from Sydney or Newcastle. If you lived in rural towns, or even on the other side of the country, there's a good chance you won't be able to watch your favourite artists perform live.
Disability is another huge reason why we need live streams. It is incredibly difficult for individuals with a disability to attend live music events - and if they can, it's not easy or comfortable. We have seen small progress made in this area through Dylan Alcott's Ability Fest, but by and large, it is still an issue. By live streaming an event, it is not only more inclusive, but it allows for an artist to get more reach and money.
Now, I am not suggesting in the slightest that watching a gig from the comfort of your own home in your pyjamas will ever replace actually attending a live event - it will never compare. However, using Netgigs as an example, if the industry can build live streaming to work alongside live music, the reach and profits for artists will be far greater.
There are arguments against this model, with some claiming that by live streaming shows you will have less people attending gigs. Admittedly, I was originally of this thought as well, but we have seen already in sport that this is not the case.
In fact, a recent study by Live Nation suggests that 67% of people are more likely to attend a live event after watching an artists' live stream. This is proof that live streaming shows is a fantastic way to get more people to attend live events. It is possible for them to work hand-in-hand with each other, as opposed to competing.
Live streaming is a fairly new concept for the music industry, and it is relatively unproven at a global level how successful this can be. At a first glance, Netgigs have taken all the right steps to set the right foundations for success.
Live streaming is a gaping hole the music industry must tap into, and the industry recognises that adapting to digital live streaming can be beneficial. I do hope, as Joe Ward says, that this sort of model can be implemented successfully so artists all over the world can start to use technology as a way to earn a liveable income and tilt the scales back in their favour.
Listen to our full chat with Joe Ward here.