Got a lot to lose
Lately, I’ve noticed an abundance of musical artists reaching out to fans through music. Now more than ever, artists are recording performances online. They post to YouTube, Instagram, or as I saw last night in email – Live From Home by Live Nation.
Sadly, it is likely to be several months before concerts will be back in the collective vernacular of the general public. As I recall back before the words “coronavirus” or “Covid-19″ became a part of my vocabulary, concerts were a huge part of the musician’s income. Record sales, in contrast, were not. Streaming, while widely accepted by the public, didn’t pay the artist “diddly-squat”, in technical terms. So I have to wonder how anyone expects to make money these days.
As I mentioned above, Live Nation proudly announced Live from Home yesterday. It was described to be “updated daily with live streams, content and more to keep you connected to your favorite artists”. It appears that this is at least part of Live Nation’s grand plan to remain in firm control of how concerts are viewed, and who gets paid. I scrolled through the website this morning, noting how easy it was to see what content was available and where. Live Nation made a quick jump from concerts to curated content, similar to a cable TV guide. The twist here is that Live Nation doesn’t appear to actually “host” the shows, but instead advertises and promotes them. For example, want to see Miley Cyrus? She’s got a show on Instagram at 11:30am (all times are local). Awolnation appears on Instagram at noon, while Melissa Etheridge will be on Facebook Live at 3pm. They’ve certainly hoisted their flag over their slice of real estate.
Nothing better than being with you
What does strike me though, and I’m still trying to decide how I feel or how this might affect the band, is Duran Duran’s own response to these online gigs. Two band members on two separate occasions have said that they don’t think playing without an audience works.
In considering this, I’m assuming that they meant a live audience. In fairness to the band, I too have to wonder how it might be playing onstage without an audience. The whole thing seems like it might be just a touch eerie. Sort of like a rehearsal, but not really. Having attended more than my fair share of gigs over the years, and being everywhere from the very back to the very front – audiences matter to Duran Duran. I can’t say that about every band I’ve seen over the years, though. Some bands – and I won’t name names – don’t seem to care.
Those bands don’t interact with their audiences in the same manner as DD fans might be used to seeing or experiencing. In some cases, they’re far more into their musicianship than they are their showmanship. Duran Duran is very interested in how they sound, don’t get me wrong, but the SHOW is equally important, and they know exactly how the show is going by how the audience responds, in real time. I don’t think it is an overstatement to claim that the give and take between band and fans, or the circle of energy between them is paramount to a Duran Duran concert. So, I can understand their misgivings.
Everything to gain
However, these circumstances are indeed different, and there is no firm end in sight. Just last night I read an article that suggested we will likely lose an entire summer of live festivals and gigs, as well as there is a fear of Covid-19 reappearing in late autumn, winter, and spring. Then this morning, Duran Duran cancelled their May 1 and May 2nd shows at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino (not postponed, mind you – cancelled with full refunds at point of purchase).
How does a band survive months of nothing – and not just this band, who arguably already had their moment(s) of success, but any band? How does a live music starved public survive?? For their stake in this territory, Duran Duran is as much a business as it is an art. The last I’d heard – touring made them more money than album sales. If they were to release their next album without the ability to tour live, and they weren’t ready or willing to do streamed shows – would it matter? Never mind that in my head, a streamed show still provides an audience, albeit a much different one than this band knows. I don’t have the answers.
I’ve seen a plethora of artists who sit down in front of their computer with a guitar and record away. They post to YouTube, or they do Instagram or even Facebook Live. They join other artists by doing short sets for charity – but the difference is, of course, that they’re singular artists. Duran Duran is a group. I don’t know how playing together could possibly work live during the era of social distancing unless one used the magic of editing. (hence, it ain’t gonna be live!)
When I think about it
Don’t get me wrong, like many – I wish the band was able to stream appearances. It would be great to actually see and hear them talking to us over Instagram Live. Twitter is great too, although I think we’ve all had that moment of “This is so dumb, I can’t even follow what they’re saying!” or we’ve wondered if it’s really the band answering. (For the record, I’m sure it is.) It is simply that I can understand why they aren’t necessarily jumping on the bandwagon, even though I’d sure love to see Drama Americana (A unreleased movie similar to Sing Blue Silver about the 2005 Astronaut tour) right about now. Talk about a watch party – that one would be epic! Perhaps live streaming a gig wouldn’t work, but releasing previously unseen video that I know exists might be??