The rise of livestream concerts was one of the past year’s key musical developments. But as the pandemic worsens, the question of whether they’re enough to support a whole scene remains unclear.
In the beginning, initiatives such as United We Stream raised huge amounts of money from widespread public interest. In those early days, it often felt that donating to livestreams came from a desire to support artists and venues, rather than payment for a special musical experience. As interest in the format dwindled, so did a key avenue for music lovers to support musicians during pressing times.
Established venues have invested heavily to launch their own personal streaming services. The Berliner Philharmoniker launched its Digital Concert Hall, while The Deutsches Symphonie Orchester introduced its own live player. In well-funded venues like these, the system works, and brings a touch of personality to institutions that might otherwise seem straight-laced. Ideas like the Symphonic Mob – an all-abilities, all-ages concert from over 170 musicians – showed that all of us, both musicians and fans, are in the same boat.
Livestreaming always seemed like a quick fix, reflected in the way public interest waned as it became clear venues wouldn’t reopen in 2020.
But finding ways to support Berlin’s smaller venues is a different story. Livestreaming always seemed like a quick fix, reflected in the way public interest waned as it became clear that venues wouldn’t reopen in 2020.
That said, there’s promise in concert series like Club Gretchen’s Living In A Box. Aimed at supporting Berlin-based acts, especially newcomers, it’s received funding from the Ministry for Culture and the Media. Viewers can decide how much of their payment is split between band and venue, an honesty-box system with a minimum ticket fee set at a reasonable price. Living In A Box will host its 45th edition in February, a remarkable achievement for anything created during the pandemic. The success suggests that, with state support, the livestream format can be revived – and even thrive.
There are less-publicised initiatives outside of streams that also offer valuable sources of revenue to artists and venues. One is the For The Culture project from the Friedrichshain record shop HHV. The simple yet effective strategy sees HHV partner with venues across the city to release a series of 7-inch singles, with all proceeds going to those venues. Every music fan has a favourite space, so why not buy a record from an artist chosen to represent its vibe? A string of sold-out releases from venues like YAAM, Panke and Humboldthain Club proves this concept works. With plans to expand the series, it feels like a natural way to channel much-needed support.
Neither approach feels like a truly viable solution for now, but it’s promising that the ideas are becoming more refined and organic. As uncertainty continues to reign, there’s enough evidence that the live scene will continue to operate in ways that feel genuinely valuable.