Since livestreaming has taken over in the COVID-induced absence of live music, major and upcoming artists alike have gone to the platform in droves to perform, fundraise for charity, and stay close to fans. But can online shows be properly monetized — and can that revenue stream be a significant one for music creators?
Global superstar group BTS answered those questions this week with a resounding yes. The band held its much-anticipated Bang Bang Con on Sunday, drawing in around 756,600 viewers, marking what the band’s label claims to be the largest paying audience ever for a livestreamed concert. BTS charged $35 to catch the show, or $26 for members of BTS’s Army fan club, which means the band drew in between $19 million and $26 million in ticket sales. BTS’ label Big Hit Entertainment did not respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for official revenue figures.
To put into perspective just how much money that is, though, Ed Sheeran’s Divide tour — which Pollstar ranks as the highest grossing concert tour of all time — grossed $775.6 million over 2.5 years and 255 dates, or about $3 million per show. BTS’s virtual show would reach that same gross in under 40 dates. And with considerably fewer expenses than what comes with a traditional, multi-date tour across the world, BTS can likely keep much more of that cash.
If there was still any doubt over the profit potential of paid livestreams, BTS just trampled it. But it’s worth noting that most acts do not have the K-pop group’s level of astronomical worldwide success: Smaller performers tend to offer livestreams through services like StageIT, Wave, or BeApp, or through indie festivals like Live From Out There, and may have to spend a while building up a fan base before they can command BTS’s figures.
“Livestreaming is a new genre, a new form of entertainment. It is not ephemeral,” says Bandsintown managing partner Fabrice Sergent, whose platform has hosted some 28,000 livestreams in quarantine thus far. “People will doubt it — but I believe that it will stay and be a complementary form of entertainment that will compete with playlists and videos and live shows.” Major tech companies are also growing support for the paid shows; Facebook announced in late April that it would be adding a feature allowing creators to charge for access to users’ streams.
Indie acts like Angel Olsen and Waxahatchee are currently offering ticketed streams on streaming platform Noonchorus, charging $15 per ticket; British artist Laura Marling also started experimenting with exclusive paid livestreams last month. Adult contemporary singer Josh Groban will host a paid concert on June 27th, which will be another more prominent litmus test for how paid streams can perform. VIP ticket packages, which include access to soundcheck, have already sold out. The general admission ticket packages, which include access to the stream or a more substantial stream and t-shirt combination, are still selling for $20 and $55, respectively.