COVID 19: Is monetization of virtual concerts the future of the local music industry?

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“After the silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” These words uttered by the 19th-century novelist Aldous Huxley have never been more accurate in this anomalous period for humanity. The emergence of the novel coronavirus has fed the world with a hefty dose of silence and schism amid the chaos concurrently served. The world has been thrown into a state of shock with the pandemic touching base in most parts of the world.

Everything that made the human race vibrant and active before the outbreak of the virus has wholly been brought to a halt. The contagious virus makes it almost impossible for people to gather since one of the means of spreading it is by coming into contact with an infected person. To avoid its fast spread, most countries around the globe have placed bans on physical and social gathering of all forms.

The art industry is among the many sectors that have suffered massive blows from the precautionary measures set to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. It has had everything coming to a standstill; from movie screening at the cinemas, shooting of movies to entertainment shows, among others. The music industry was equally not left out since most concerts around the world were all abruptly brought to a halt.

Music enhances one’s mood, making it one of the reasons why people patronise musical concerts. In the absence of physical contact, it is almost impossible to hold such shows. Nevertheless, this narrative might be a thing of the past with virtual concerts proving to have the power to redesign the future of musical concerts.

With the pandemic still raging on, maker of the hit RnB song ‘ALL OF ME’, John Legend, hosted a virtual concert through Instagram live on April 18th. The activity formed part of “Together at Home,” a series of online concerts presented by Global Citizen and the World Health Organisation (WHO). It starred a long list of celebrities in America’s entertainment industry including Amy Shark, Charlie Puth, Chris Martin, Common and Camila Cabello.

Relatively, K-pop supergroup BTS kept their fans entertained amid the coronavirus lockdown by streaming hours of old concert footage on their YouTube channel from April 18 to 19. According to a report released after the show, close to 51 million viewers tuned in to catch a glimpse of the event titled Bang Bang Concert. In that, a staggering 2.24 million viewers tuned in at the show’s peak. On April 23rd, American rapper Travis Scott shattered records with his virtual ‘Fortnite concert’ hosting over 12 million fans.

In Ghana, Dancehall act, Shattawale in his virtual live-band performance dubbed “Faith Concert”, thrilled over 130,000 fans on May 4 amid the lockdown. Ghana’s Ministry of Communication, adopted this measure while launching the COVID-19 Tracker app to ensure that Ghanaians were entertained. Prior to that, Sarkodie also championed the “#BehindTheHits” challenge where famous music producers like Appietus, Jay Q, KillBeats, among others, entertained fans with back to back performances via Instagram Live.

Comments gathered from some social media platforms revealed general approval from users about the whole concepts of virtual concerts. Essentially, this has opened a new phase in the music industry with many asking if virtual concerts are the future considering the many benefits they carry.

One of such benefits of a virtual concert is accessibility. Like the many virtual performances held in Ghana within the past few weeks, people from all walks of life across the globe had an opportunity of enjoying the acts and performance of these artists.

Unlike live concerts where people miss out on watching because they are hosted in different regions or countries, virtual concerts on sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram Live, are easily accessible by all and sundry. Primarily, this proves to be beneficial to not only the consumer but the artiste as well as they get the opportunity to spread their work across the world.

In hindsight, Ghanaian artistes can inculcate initiatives such as virtual fan meet-ups as part of their virtual concerts. The feasibility of this exists as the BTS K-pop group who made waves with their viewership on YouTube resorted to a similar approach to interact with fans. In a commercial sense, monetising the innovation to give fans a life-time experience meeting and greeting a favourite artiste can be explored.

To a more significant extent, achieving satisfaction among consumers of virtual concerts is not far-fetched. This is true in the sense that viewers will be able to watch from the comfort of their homes, all the stress of standing in crowds to catch a view will be taken away. The distractions as well some artiste have to endure as a result of the behaviours of the audience that affect their performance will be taken away. This will allow the artiste to perform freely without external distraction, and the consumer is free to enjoy the concert anywhere they find themselves.

Adopting a virtual concert will mean an opportunity to monetise content on digital platforms by the artiste and an opportunity for telecoms to make much profit. A negotiation between the two parties can present a win-win situation in increasing viewership while boosting the sale of internet data for that period.

“On a scale of one to five, I think I will give Ghanaians three in terms of their readiness to embrace virtual concerts when the pandemic is over,” renowned producer, sound engineer and rapper-singer Nii Kommetey Commey, also known as King of Accra, stated.

“This is because people are always ready to watch something online, and what captures their minds is what retains them. But the availability of internet and smartphones will largely influence this. I am thinking 500, 000 to 800,000 in terms of viewership on a grand scale. But for starters, we are expecting between 30,000 to 100,000. I think an artist can easily get that kind of viewership.

“We are ready because if our way of life changes in such that we can’t mingle socially, we may have to adopt virtual concerts as the new normal. With virtual concerts, the possibilities of making money are endless. I can name a lot of ways off the top of my head.”

Indeed, the feasibility of this new phase in the entertainment industry has to be considered, especially when a lot will be needed digitally. Albeit doable, a cut in the cost of data and a provision of a common free to air media spectrum by the arts ministry will be a step in the right direction to move the entertainment and art industry forward. This will cut expenditure for artists as well as fans alike in the organisation and participation in these events. Also, online ticketing platforms such as Viagogo, Eventbrite, will come in handy and contribute to the generation of income from these virtual concerts.

“The monetisation of a virtual concert is so easy, and it should be every creative person’s responsibility to plan and execute their own show so they can benefit from the brand they will build from doing this consistently,” King of Accra added.

“The major stakeholders could help by subsidising data fees for the b TA creator, and the consumer but I don’t think it’s a needed help.”

As we envisage a different way of life in society when the pandemic is over, it is prudent we learn from some of the opportunities presented in these times to change our ways of doing things. There is no better moment than now to embrace digitisation as a country and an industry and reap its endless benefits.

>>>The author is a Level 300 student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism

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