Quarantine darling Verzuz is one of the most effective major music promotion shows for artists looking to boost their streams, bar none.
Since the pandemic began and Swizz Beatz and Timbaland decide to start Verzuz on Instagram Live (it’s now airing on Apple Music too), what was originally intended to be a casual quarantine stream to entertain fans stuck in quarantine has become one of the most influential shows for artists’ streaming numbers, leading to higher increases than the likes of more ubiquitous marketers like late night network talk shows and popular music programs like NPR’s Tiny Desk.
When placed against other common music programs, Verzuz leads the pack, and it isn’t even close. The most recent Verzuz, a faceoff last week between Empress of Soul Gladys Knight and Godmother of Soul Patti LaBelle, drew in over 3.7 million views across Instagram and Apple Music, according to Verzuz, and it helped both LaBelle and Knight more than triple their streams. In the three days following the show, Knight saw a 252% increase in on-demand audio streams, while LaBelle saw a 219% lift, compared to the previous three days.
On average, artists’ streaming jumped on average by 88% in the three days following the show compared to the previous three days, according to Alpha Data. By comparison, artists who performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, television’s highest rated late night network talk show, in the six months before the pandemic started saw their streams go up by on average by 5%. Colbert’s At Home shows that started in April give a 7% average stream increase.
Streams from Tiny Desk before the pandemic would go up about 16%, while the streams since quarantine show around 9% increases. Surprisingly SNL, which has its coveted musical performance spot, was at the bottom of the pack among the shows, with streams nominally changing after a show.
This is a particularly impressive feat given that, with a few exceptions, Verzuz showcases artists’ catalogs rather than debuting new tracks, meaning the show is driving fans back to artists’ older work and new song or album drops aren’t pushing the numbers.
Still, new music can be a major factor too, like in the case of the August 31st face-off between R&B heavy hitters Brandy and Monica, which drew in 6 million viewers between Instagram and Apple Music to mark Verzuz’s most-watched show to date. Brandy landed on Rolling Stone’s Trending 25 chart following the show, with streams from her catalog jumping about 240%, or by about 5.2 million streams as she was promoting her latest album B7, which came out on July 31st. Monica, who debuted new song “Trenches” on the show, saw a similar boost, with her streams rising about 260% in the same time frame.
Rolling Stone narrowed its analysis to artists who’d garnered at least 10,000 streams in the three days leading up to the show, which removes consideration for artists with few streaming numbers whose streaming percentage changes would be disproportionately high. We also removed any artists who released new music during the six day window analyzed.
Verzuz is one of the most prominent in a livestreaming landscape that’s growing exponentially as live music has been halted indefinitely amid the pandemic. Beyond free shows like Verzuz, many artists have been taking to ticketed livestreams as a means of drumming up revenue while their lucrative tours aren’t an option. Even concert promotion giant Live Nation seems to be dipping its toe into the concept, producing paid shows for Lil Uzi Vert, Megan Thee Stallion and Scarypoolparty.
“This isn’t just live. It’s something else,” ICM Partners booking agent Mitch Blackman previously told Rolling Stone. “It’s going to be a whole field. A whole ‘nother music industry.”