Live Music, And What We Owe It Today

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“Thank you, thank you, thank you, you’re far too kind,” Jay Z chuckles in the opening lines of his track ‘Encore’, “but this is your song, not mine.”

In this, the mogul actually encapsulates quite nicely the relation between an artist and their audience. A concert, the musician’s performance, is the ultimate way to experience music.

But what role does live music play in 2016? A glass-half-full person may look at the music scene and be pleased: headline stars are continuing on their merry way around the globe, concert halls are packed, and promoters still have their pockets full of cash.

Sceptics, however, do have reason to be concerned.

The vibrant pub culture of the late 20th century is long gone, and even bars and clubs that stepped in to fill those large shoes often struggle to prosper. In addition, the Australian festival circuit is slowly becoming a graveyard thanks to the collapse of large scale festivals: such as Big Day Out, Future Music, Soundwave, and more. If it weren’t for our friend The Internet and the immediate exposure it provides, it would probably be harder than ever for amateur musicians to make it onto stage.

Hence, our support for touring artists can make a huge difference to the future of our favourite bands, particularly the less famous ones. In the murky music mega-industry where wealth is often not distributed justly, ticket purchases (where an average of 85% goes to the artist) become a defining factor.

The streaming boom of the last five years has chucked another spanner in the works – specifically referring to the almost laughable pay ratio between traditional purchases and online streams. The Guardian recently reported that an artist can expect US$0.0003 per view on YouTube. That means in order for an artist to get the same amount of money from streams as from the sale of 100 CDs, they would need (wait for it) over four million YouTube hits.

It hardly needs to be said that concerts can be visually stunning experiences, but mentally they can be so much more. Seeing an idol for the first time can be unforgettable, whether it be The Wiggles or Shannon Noll. There’s something special about a packed room of sweaty devoted fans, and it’s special-good, not special-creepy. It’s a melting pot of anticipation and emotion that’s unrivalled in any other entertainment medium.

This article is probably preaching to the converted; after all, I haven’t met many people who go out of their way to dislike live music. This, however, is not really the point. In our generation, entertainment is delivered with a tap of our phone screens or the opening of a new Netflix tab. A songwriter’s performance is a chance to see their artistic process in its most intimate and tangible form. The buzzing atmosphere, the ringing in your ears, the sub-par crowd banter: it’s unique aspects like these that makes musical performances so remarkable. For the live music industry to continue to flourish, it’s important that we be active: search out the gigs you want to attend, bring a friend, buy some merch. Your ticket could be the experience of a lifetime.