The shape of the music industry is always changing, but perhaps never more so than over the last five years. If you go back to the 1980s and 90s the picture of the industry was very different. Record companies were king. They’d invest huge amounts of money into marketing, sales and publicity for the music acts they thought were going to be profitable, and these acts were often then catapulted into the major league. At Great British Glamping we remember heading to Woolworths to buy 7” vinyl singles and recall fondly when cassettes took over (meaning with a Walkman you could take your music with you…)
Now, in 2018 a very different picture has become evident in terms of how we purchase, listen to and find out about the acts that we love. The record industry is becoming more and more unstable, with the rise of online portals such as Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon etc and the big record companies simply don’t wield as much power anymore. Music choices are diversifying as people can find and listen to whatever they want, whenever they want, and pretty much wherever they want. This has had an impact on live music too, with the number of festivals increasing significantly year on year. It is also now common to see major acts from the past reform to take advantage of the new interest in live music.
So, the question now is how do artists both new and established make their money, given they cannot rely on single and album sales alone? The answer is live gigging. In fact, according to report by Mintel, since 2008 musicians now make more money from live performances than from record sales.
“Live music has become a key route to profitability and as an artist, touring income is and should be where you make 80-90% of your money.” Mintel, 2017
Another reason to rely on live gigging is the change in technology and the explosion of the online world. It’s easier than ever to ‘steal’ music from various sites and listen to your songs via other methods without paying a penny to the artist. Live shows cannot be stolen! And although it’s a long road perhaps to get your music heard, each festival or show that you perform at, you are showcasing to more and more people. Word of mouth and personal recommendations cannot be underestimated, especially with the rise of social media and its live functionalities, gigging means that it’s not just the people at the festival that may be hearing the show. The media, and the internet, have also helped to make live music events seem unmissable. Appearances at these festivals and shows can help musicians to gain international and even global recognition. In the UK, the broadcast of such events is now and established feature of summer television, where, with use of the red button you can flick between stages and performances with ease, right from your sofa.
For the vast majority of artists, playing live is as natural as a chef being asked to prepare food. It’s why they became an artist in the first place; a chance to get immediate feedback from their fans about their music and grow a following. But, perhaps surprisingly for other artists, those that are a bit more ‘manufactured’, it’s actually often not automatically assumed to be part of their job.
There is no such thing as an overnight success like there perhaps was back in the late 20th Century. Playing your music to new and established audiences is the route now that a lot of musicians must take. For new artists and those looking to get signed to any kind of record deal, playing at live shows is essential. Many festivals have a new acts section or stage which is a great way of getting yourself out there, learning what works, which songs people respond to and how it all operates. There are a huge number of scouts that spend their days visiting festivals and shows to source new artists. And you never know what can happen from just one gig, it only takes one person to like you and put their faith in you. Also changed are the days when you’d have to post your demo tapes to every radio station in the land. The rise and success of entities like BBC Introducing mean it’s much easier to get your work in front of the right ears.
Live gigging has, and will continue to play a huge part of an artist’s route to success and It should be what artists want to do. Even superstar artists endure endless weeks, months or years on the road because they love being in front of an audience. Without audiences there wouldn’t be a music industry. We look forward to seeing you in an audience this summer somewhere…