We have all heard the story about someone whose busy and stressful life is abruptly interrupted by a heart attack. They wake up the next day in the hospital and realize that they need to change. Unfortunately, it took a catastrophic event to make them see that they can not go back to their old ways. Right now, the live music industry is going through a similar thing.
The industry was in trouble before the COVID-19 pandemic and now, according to the Canadian Live Music Association, 96 per cent of live music venues are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Is it possible that live music is dying? Or is this the proverbial heart attack that will be a catalyst to new life? At Stagehand, we believe the latter. Music has been and will always be a meaningful part of the human experience.
Reimagining the role of live music
Live music will always be a source of entertainment and a reason for a night out with friends. Even as society becomes increasingly addicted to screens and services that keep us at home on the couch, live stage performances will always be the purest way for musicians to present their product. Unfortunately, this often does not put enough food on the table to make a sustainable living.
There is a new science emerging called “Customer Experience” (CX) and CX is about creating emotional connections with customers. Live Nation released a study in 2018 that talks about “sensation deprivation” and how music can put people in an emotional state that makes them open-minded to new ideas. It is not new for businesses to appeal to emotional decision making. What is new is the idea that local artists can play a leading role in helping businesses to appeal to local customers.
Reimagining live music venues
Do you know which venues presented the most hours of live music in Calgary and Edmonton in 2019? It was the two international airports and YYC won a prestigious industry award for customer service and their live music program to boot. Building on the previous discussion about the role of live music, the airports discovered that live music provides pleasant distractions for passengers that are waiting in line, it provides comfort for passengers that are stressed and it creates a wonderful first impression with visitors by highlighting local talent and culture.
The Calgary Downtown Association also worked with local musicians on a placemaking initiative that focused on revitalizing the busiest pedestrian mall in Calgary. If live music can create more human experiences in places like airports and city streets, imagine the opportunities at places like retail, hospitals, taprooms, coffee shops, and office towers.
Reimagining the process of presenting live music
Remember back when it was weird to stay in a stranger’s apartment when travelling or to get into a stranger’s car when you needed a ride? Companies like Airbnb & Uber have fundamentally changed those perceptions. Now anyone can list their spare room and behave like a hotel or use their own car and behave like a taxi. Similarly, Stagehand opens up the local music industry and allows anyone to behave like a music booker. It creates a unique opportunity that allows public spaces to position themselves as non-traditional music venues with access to the skills of local musicians who benefit from their talent being deployed in innovative ways.
There is no question that live music is going through a very difficult time. There is lots of change yet to come and our hearts go out to everyone who is struggling. But take heart, live music is not dead or dying, it just needs to be reimagined.