To help address the global music industry’s concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, US-based music analytics company Chartmetric is continuously monitoring 2M+ artists across 20+ streaming and social media data sources.
We hope our data-driven analysis of COVID-19’s effects on music-related consumption helps artists, songwriters, labels, agencies, distributors, and other entertainment-related entities sustain and improve their well-being during these unprecedented times.
- If streaming and social media follower counts are the deciding factor, then live streams are now officially “cool” for popular artists, virtually guaranteeing same and/or following day increases.
- Live streams scheduled by artists from their own channels generated significant lift in follower growth.
- Artists making guest appearances on other artists’ live streams also saw meaningful engagement lifts, though perhaps not as substantial as consistent live streamers.
- Future analyses should monitor premier live stream appearances (e.g., Verzuz or Quarantine Radio) for a higher rate of daily follower gain beyond a few days after each event, to better understand their long-term impact.
- Once fan behavior adjusts to “expect” planned live streams, a potential residual effect of consistent live streaming is a reduction in non-live content consumption.
Coming Out of the Woodwork
With most areas of the world instituting some form of enforced or encouraged quarantine, the coronavirus pandemic has inadvertently thrust live streaming into the music industry spotlight. But now that hip-hop titans, pop stars, and metalheads are embracing live streaming full-force, a brief nod to live streaming’s history might help us better understand how to make sense of COVID-19’s new normal.
Live streaming’s origins are varied. For sports fans, ESPN Sports Zone broadcast the first sports live stream between the MLB’s Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees in 1995. For gamers, the moment came in 2011 when Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) technology became available, allowing Justin Kan’s Twitch platform to begin operations. For movie buffs, American filmmaker David Blair streamed his indie cult hit film Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees from a VCR player into a digital stream in 1993.
That same year, Silicon Valley party band Severe Tire Damage put on the world’s first live streamed music performance, utilizing a technology called Mbone, which was then used for internet-focused video and audio meetings. In 1994, the band “opened” for the Rolling Stones, who decided to promote their upcoming per-per-view concert via the same live streaming technology, which was open to anyone who knew how to use it.
With some of the demanding technological requirements needed, and more importantly, the time and effort required for artists to actually do it, it’s worth considering what the benefits of live streaming actually are for artists. The raw and revealing medium has been pushed to the forefront on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube, and it’s all enough to make your head spin. But if it indeed helps artists build more engaged fanbases during COVID-19, then we’re all ears.
Artists have been leading the way as the focal point in this new era of online performance. To develop a deeper understanding of how this previously ignored tool is evolving today’s music industry, we turn to artist-level data.
We first identified a range of live streaming artists, attempting to include performers of different genres and backgrounds. This was limited by cross-referencing the few artists who had enough of a following to analyze substantial change with those who had begun live streaming on a consistent schedule. This led to a fairly varied group of 12, which included popular stars like Miley Cyrus and Tory Lanez, as well as big catalog names like Metallica.
Given the small sample size, this analysis is limited to the case-study level, in the hopes that there may be individualized takeaways relevant to your particular sound, roster, or act.
We paired some live streaming artists with a comparable non-streaming “counterpart” (i.e., artists who were of similar genres but who had not been live streaming on a regular basis themselves), in order to isolate any potential effects of live streaming. For others, we simply compared similar artists who were both active in the medium.
We focus primarily on Instagram followers and YouTube subscribers as our metric for long-term fan engagement. With Stream Day “Zero” representing the first day an artist or their counterpart began live streaming, the negative and positive numbers to the left and right, respectively, show each performance day before and after.
Similar to Part 1 and Part 2 of our analysis on COVID-19’s effect on the music industry, normalization was the final key. This helped ensure that we accurately transformed the different ranges across each artist’s following into a uniform scale where we could reliably compare artists and highlight any intriguing dynamics and trends.