Livestream Concerts Boomed During Lockdown. Are They Music's Future or Just a Pandemic Fad?

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Livestream Concerts Boomed During Lockdown. Are They Music's Future or Just a Pandemic Fad?

Takeaways

  • The music industry has increasingly turned to livestreamed concerts to try to make up for the massive losses sustained from the cancellation and postponement of in-person events due to the pandemic.
  • An ongoing experiment is underway to find and develop the best technology and techniques for engaging fans and convincing them to pay for digital shows.
  • Some themes are emerging in what works, what doesn't, and what's coming next.

Post Malone and his bandmates donned women's dresses while livestreaming a Nirvana tribute. British artist Yungblud livestreamed a performance reminiscent of a variety talk show. And Linkin Park's lead singer Mike Shinoda created a series of albums developed entirely in collaboration with his digital followers on Twitch.

Welcome to the new era of live concert-streaming.


With the pandemic effectively vaporizing the in-person concerts business, hamstrung artists and venues seeking alternative ways to engage fans have turned to livestreaming.

Although a livestreamed show cannot completely replicate an in-person concert, the medium also presents artists an untapped creative outlet – and a new challenge: to convince their fans that ticketed shows are worth the price of admission.

"These platforms have no filter. You're not hiding behind a stage full of pyrotechnics and a carefully crafted public messaging or marketing veneer; it's just you," Tim Westergren, founder of Bay Area-based streaming platform Sessions Live and former co-founder of Pandora, told dot.LA.

It's a high-stakes challenge, as many artists have grown to rely on live performances for the majority of their income.

And as the pandemic runs its indefinite course, many companies are jockeying to provide artists, their teams and a music industry at large striving to stay afloat with the next generation of livestreaming infrastructure.

What has emerged is a vast, ongoing experiment to find the best way to engage fans and convince them to pay.

Rapper, singer and songwriter Swae Lee performs on LiveXLive.Courtesy of LiveXLive

Born of Necessity

Livestreaming didn't receive serious attention or investment before the pandemic, not least because the in-person concert business was booming. It wasn't until Q3 of this year that concert trade magazine Pollstar even began tracking livestreaming data.

But COVID-19 dealt the concerts business a serious sucker punch. Pollstar forecast in April that artists, concert venues and labels were set to lose nearly $9 billion in revenue if live concerts didn't resume in 2020.

By August, Beverly Hills-based concert promoter Live Nation had reported a 95% decline in year-over-year concert revenues.

Following a frantic period of shutdowns, reopenings and weighing options, the music industry has realized that live concerts won't be back anytime soon. It is now scrambling to figure out how to make livestreaming work.

"There was some shellshock early on," said Prajit Gopal, founder of L.A.- and NYC-based LoopedLive, a streaming platform specialized in combining its 'digital venue' with a patented form of one-on-one digital meet-and-greets. "Over the last month or so, everybody is diving into it."

LiveXLive, for instance, a sprawling NASDAQ-listed music company based in West Hollywood, has amped up its livestreaming shows by 289% over the last six months compared to the same period in 2019.

Greg Patterson, who'd previously been head of music at Eventbrite, told dot.LA that he saw L.A.-based Veeps is "one of two or three companies that changed really quickly" in response to the pandemic, spinning up its first livestreamed show in March. Patterson joined Veeps in May to help the company develop its livestreaming business to complement its pre-existing suite of tools for 'long-tail artists,' such as direct-to-fan ticketing.

"Since then, there's been what feels like another company every 30 seconds," Patterson said, noting that the field remains very fluid. "It feels like the early 2000s startup period, where there were no rules."

"It's absolutely the wild West," said music industry veteran Stephen Prendergast. "To make it work we need people coming up with ideas and tech to make it more compelling; it can't be a flat, one-screen dimension."

In other words, artists sitting in their bedrooms and broadcasting on Instagram and Facebook won't cut it.

Image courtesy of Veeps

More Than a Concert

New solutions have sprung up to do what concerts do best: put fans in the same space as the bands they love. But because a digital show has its limitations, there are also ongoing efforts to provide fans with online experiences that they wouldn't find at a traditional concert.

"I always say, 'do things in digital that you can't do in the real world'," LiveXLive President Dermot McCormack told dot.LA.

Many streaming services have started to provide coaching services to help artists exploit the unique opportunities a digital platform affords, and increasingly so as data comes in showing what works and what doesn't.

"If you do the same thing over and over again, people won't want to tune in," Gopal, LoopedLive's CEO, told dot.LA. When his company hosted a livestreamed show for the cast of "Hamilton," the performers used LoopedLive's private meet-and-greet feature for more than 'Hi, how are you.' Lin Manuel-Miranda, for instance, regaled fans with freestyle raps about a topic of their choice, and some cast members gave quick dance lessons.

During Grammy-winner Brandi Carlile's Veeps stream in early October, she and her band paused the show for a 30-minute fan Q&A that spanned topics from whether the band ever gets on each other's nerves to how life has been during the quarantine and the status of Carlile's forthcoming book. The band then obliged a fan's request to sing happy birthday to her daughter.

McCormack pointed to a 20-minute Q&A one artist hosted in the middle of a LiveXLive-hosted performance. "The fans lapped it up," he said. "We had to switch off the comments, they were moving so quickly."

Fans also seem to like when artists lean in to the sort of unmediated intimacy that accompanies livestreaming. "Artists'll play a song and go 'fuck, let me start again' – fans love that; in comes a basket of tips when that happens. It's about relatability and connection," said Westergren.

For K-Pop artist James Lee, "there's definitely a rush" that comes with livestreaming. Lee, who has performed on Sessions, told dot.LA that, "I have not been on stage in over a year. [Streaming] feels very intimate. There is more of a burden because nobody is in the room with you and everything depends on me."

Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda took that intimacy to another level with his three-volume album, "Dropped Frames." Shinoda's fans on Twitch suggested themes and lyrics that he transposed into songs, some of which even included fan-submitted vocals.

More such experimentation is likely to come. DICE general manager of North American operations Shanna Jade Vélez told dot.LA she is "expecting to see a lot more innovation when it comes to interactivity." The company began operating before the pandemic as a live-ticketing discovery platform, available in seven countries. It has since streamed over 4,000 shows and sold tickets in 145 countries.

K-Pop megastars MonstaX perform on LiveXLive's platform. Courtesy of LiveXLive

Putting on a Show

Live chat has become a regular feature of livestreamed concerts, enabling concertgoers to message one another. Mandolin offers private chat rooms for groups of fans to congregate; the Indianapolis-based company launched in response to the pandemic and recently raised $5 million in seed funding.

Other startups are working to translate fan input – like clicking 'like' buttons – into a crowd roar that gets transmitted to musicians on the other side of the screen. FanTracks is one such service. It's also providing concertgoers a "director's chair" that gives them the option to toggle camera views. And it is one of many platforms experimenting with augmented reality to "transport" the performers to different locations.

Peter Shapiro, owner of several venues including the Brooklyn Bowl, is founder of Fans, a concert-streaming platform that transports audience members themselves, by allowing them to beam their video-feeds onto screens at venues where livestreamed performances are held. The technique is similar to how the NBA has allowed its fans to project their video-feeds onto screens in the stands.

Taking virtual transportation a step further, L.A.-based Wave renders musicians into digital avatars who interact with and perform for fans in otherworldly settings where the laws of physics are optional. The company raised $30 million in June and has hosted concerts by John Legend and The Weeknd. Produced in partnership with TikTok, the Weeknd's show reportedly attracted 2 million unique viewers.

Similar to Travis Scott's virtual concert series in April – where a giant, digital rendering of the hip-hop artist performed for over 27 million viewers across five shows hosted on Epic Games' Fortnite – Wave concerts are created with gaming engines and can be accessed by viewers via PC, gaming consoles or VR headsets. Unlike the Scott concert, however, which was pre-recorded and then rendered into Fortnite's virtual venue, Wave's avatars perform in real-time.

The TikTok live event featuring the Weeknd and Wave's technology brought aspects of gaming to live concerts.

Whether artists perform as an avatar or their unvarnished selves, Veeps has found that fans seem to prefer some degree of predictability on what they will see in a livestream. Similarly, Vélez said DICE is finding that fans want "a reason" to purchase a ticket. Some artists are turning to filming shows at big, deserted, "hauntingly beautiful" sets like churches and palaces, she said.

Patterson added that shorter shows, around 45 minutes, also seem to perform well, and noted that the user interface must be premium.

"It has to be on the level of watching a movie on Netflix or Disney Plus," the Veeps executive said. "If you mess it up, with so many other options, no one's going to want to come back."

Anyone who's shelled out $100 for a concert wouldn't necessarily point to the auxiliary pieces surrounding a show – the lighting, the refreshments, the bathrooms – as key to the experience. It's the performance that matters. But in the digital world, the areas ancillary to the performance are opportunities for virtual venues to distinguish themselves. So says L.A.-based streaming platform Moment House.

"If you make fans feel that they're part of this very elegant, premium and special place of a moment, we can make this a cultural phenomenon," Moment House co-founder Arjun Mehta told dot.LA. "We saw that thesis in our beta stage play out really nicely."

Moment House debuts this month, with a focus on user experience. Mehta developed the idea as a student in the inaugural class of USC's Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy, a program that focuses on the intersection of design, engineering, management and communication. The company has raised a $1.5 million seed round led by Forerunner Ventures with investors including Scooter Braun, Troy Carter and actor Jared Leto.

DICE began operating before the pandemic as a global live-ticketing discovery platform. It has since streamed over 4,000 shows and sold tickets in 145 countries.Image courtesy of DICE

What's Next?

As this experiment continues and the culture and technology of virtual performances grows, we could be entering a new paradigm for musicians and their audiences.

"The early-90s internet is unrecognizable compared to what we have today and I think visual content and music will become unrecognizable to what we have now," Patterson of Veeps said.

One example of new technology that could open a world of possibilities is Aloha by Elk, which launches in beta this month and will allow musicians to play together in real time from hundreds of miles away.

"Playing together over the internet is something that musicians have been dreaming about since Skype: 'We can talk, but why can't we play?'" Michele Benincaso, founder of the Stockholm-based Elk Audio, the company behind Aloha, told dot.LA. The answer: latency.

The delay between someone speaking over Zoom or Skype and someone else hearing it is usually between 500 milliseconds and 1 second. The delay itself often fluctuates, a process known as "jitter." These issues make playing together on beat effectively impossible.

Solving these problems, as Aloha aims to do, would clear the way to a whole new path for livestreamed concerts.

"I could think of hundreds of examples for things that haven't been done today," said Sharooz Raoofi, a musician and tech entrepreneur who splits his time between L.A. and London. He is one of a few artists who's worked with Aloha prior to its upcoming beta launch.

"If you think about legendary festival performances, like when a guest vocalist jumps on stage and sings a track – that can't be done in digital unless it's latency free," Raoofi told dot.LA. "Even in the best of times, trying to get musicians together is tricky – more so if it's multiple bands. Doing that remotely without any latency could be a game changer."

For now, the maximum distance Aloha can manage is about 1,000 miles, enough to allow musicians in different countries to play together. As this technology develops and the distance grows, however, the possibilities may become virtually endless.

A Band-Aid or a Bridge to the Future?

Whether livestreaming becomes an enduring pillar of the music industry or fades into a fad once the pandemic dies down will depend on whether it can bring in enough money and deliver a new kind of experience.

"I was really struck that someone made $10,000 in a show with 300 people attending – and I can guarantee you there's not a room anywhere in the world that that artist could sell out," Westergren said of a performer who streamed on Sessions. "Historically there are only two ways for an artist to get paid like that. One is to spend years on a stage, grinding and touring. The other is to get plucked out of obscurity by the powers that be."

"Livestreaming can solve that, but only if you have monetization," he said.

---

Sam Blake primarily covers entertainment for dot.LA. Find him on Twitter @hisamblake and email him at samblake@dot.LA

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

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