Not long after lockdowns started coming into effect across the western world, speculation arose. There was a thought that Netflix would do well
and other streaming platforms would see the benefit of the forced call to stay indoors. Then, Quartz reported
: Music Streaming May Actually Be Falling Because of Coronavirus. The story explained that in Italy there was a decrease in streams and set up a narrative that streaming also was going down, along with the live music industry. Luckily for the recording
industry, this didn’t quite appear to be the case. Overall streaming did go down but in other countries that appears to have leveled off
and wasn’t simply a continuous fall
. However, the immediate concern showed just how important streaming is to the health of the entire record business right now.
The downturn trend in streaming might’ve been called prematurely, but the status of sales is similarly complicated. Last week, Billboard reported
that digital album sales increased while physical sales decreased. Now, the precipitous fall of CDs is not new, but reducing the options for artists to make money right now is disconcerting as there is a mass closure of retail stores. (The status of said retail shops was already precarious pre-pandemic and this only further amplifies that fact
.) A slight uptick in digital music sales was seen, and Bandcamp made a charitable show of this, as the company raised where $4.3 million
in a day when they waived fees so that these musicians could see 100% of the money coming in from fans. The increase in digital sales suggests that fans are receptive and open to finding ways of supporting artists. Still, as stores (which can function as venues and community spaces) struggle, there is high uncertainty about what will survive out of this situation.
Next week I’ll dive deeper into live music but I did want to make a quick note: live music remains fully on pause. AEG and Live Nation put a halt on major events about a month ago and there’s been little word from the companies about if/when events will return. On Monday, Live Nation announced
that Michael Rapino, the CEO of Live Nation, would forgo his $3 million base salary as the company seeks to find $500 million in savings. Last month, the company put together a $10 million fund to help those in the live music space who are out of work, but that feels paltry when remembering that Rapini made over $70 million in 2017 alone. (As The New Republic notes
, that figure is nearly 3,000 times more than the average employee of Live Nation makes) Also, speaking of Live Nation, Ticketmaster, which a decade ago merged with Live Nation, is now refusing to offer refunds
on postponed shows after sneakily changing its ticketing agreements. This happened all while Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, said yesterday not to expect gatherings of 100+ people or more
in the state until there is a vaccine. In other words, Ticketmaster may want to reconsider their new policy.
A peek into other industries might give a hint as to when the music industry might start again. Over the last month, Hollywood films continue to push
into the fall with a lot of reporting winking towards the fact
that studios are effectively writing off the entire summer. Professional sports, whose commissioners met with Donald Trump a couple of weeks back, appear to be wanting to figure out a way of keeping the money flowing. However, this might offer little solace for concerts because while sequestering off athletes to perform in an empty stadium might sustain TV deals, it isn’t a solution for a country-wide arena tour that sells thousands of tickets. So, while live music remains on pause, streaming is going to be carrying the industry for a while.