Music News: Inside the livestream boom

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The Current Music News for May 14, 2020 (MPR Video)

We've been talking a lot about how and when live-in-person music will return — and we'll get back to that tomorrow, including an update on the developing showdown over a planned country-rock concert in Arkansas. For today, though, we're turning to livestreams: how online musical performances have become a new normal for fans, and one that's increasingly looking like it's here to stay in a big way even after the pandemic recedes.

The Verge has the numbers and yep, they're huge. Streaming platforms are seeing twice the traffic they were at this time last year, and while most of that gain is due to the coronavirus lockdown, that's far from the only thing going on.

As a music fan, maybe you did and maybe you didn't watch a lot of livestreams before the pandemic, but business has been booming for years on platforms like Twitch, where millions have been logging in to watch video gamers. Even more are now using the platform to rock DJ sets, and of course you've probably seen music live now on YouTube and Facebook.

Full-band multi-screen concerts: How do they do it?

At first, the livestreams you saw during lockdown were mostly solo, or maybe duos sheltering together. Now, though, we're seeing more and more multi-screen spectaculars with full bands, dancers, horn sections, you name it. How do they do it?

Billboard points out that musicians are working towards actual live collaboration, where they're actually playing at the same time: sales are soaring for the electronic equipment that facilitates remote jamming. In most cases, though, bands are not there yet — and especially not for a high-stakes performance that's going to show up on, say, The Tonight Show. So when you're seeing Dua Lipa and her band play "Don't Stop Now," or Joan Jett and the Blackhearts rocking "Light of Day," even if it looks like they're all live on Zoom, the reality is that those performances are built up and edited together ahead of time.

For a performance of their song "Godzilla," for example, Blue Oyster Cult started by having their drummer record his part. That file went to lead guitarist Buck Dharma, who recorded his part. Those files went to the band's other two members, then finally singer Eric Bloom recorded his lead vocal over the completed track. In this case, the band's own Richie Castellano was able to handle audio and video editing himself, but for more complex performances — for example, virtual choirs — professional video directors and audio engineers can spend dozens of hours getting everything just right for only a few minutes of final product.

Can livestreams help keep venues afloat?

Until it's safe for live audiences to return to venues, is it possible for them to use their stages for livestreams? We've already seen that at many venues around the world, and in Mexico, venues are organizing a coordinated effort that they hope will bring back more than a thousand jobs to create streaming concerts starting next month.

Fans anywhere in the world will be able to buy virtual tickets to live-streamed shows, which might have sponsors as well. Although the front doors of venues like Pepsi Center WTC in Mexico City will remain closed, staff running lights, sound, hospitality, and other logistics will be able to return to work. It's ambitious, but experiments in China have already demonstrated that it can work, at least for shows without a lot of musicians involved. As early as February, a livestreamed DJ set from the Beijing club SirTeen drew 1.2 million viewers and made $280,000. (Billboard)

Alanis Morissette to host Jagged Little Pill livestream for charity

While we're talking about livestreams, here's one coming up that might interest fans of '90s music and Broadway theater. Yeah, there's some overlap there — which is why Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill musical was filling so many seats on Broadway before it had to shut down for safety. Next Tuesday, May 19, Morissette is hosting a one-hour livestream special featuring conversations and performances with the musical's cast and creative team, including writer Diablo Cody.

The event is a fundraiser for theater artists affected by the pandemic. Announcing the event, the show's producers said, "Led by our spiritual guide Alanis Morissette, the entire Jagged Little Pill family is excited to come together to share music and our musical's messages of joy, healing, resilience and gratitude." (Rolling Stone)

OK Go share "All Together Now" video honoring frontline workers

You knew if anyone could nail this quarantine-video thing, it would be the auteurs of OK Go. A new video for "All Together Now" honoring frontline healthcare workers is personal for frontman Damian Kulash, who along with his wife has been diagnosed with coronavirus and recovered. (Billboard)


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