Update: Futuresource Consulting continue to monitor the changes happening across the Professional Audio landscape during COVID-19. As part of this, we're providing a series of educational YouTube videos, the most recent of which covers the Professional Audio sector and can be accessed here.
The One World Concert was a touching and well-coordinated tribute to key workers and all those supporting front-line efforts during the outbreak of COVID-19. Artists from all around the world came together with various celebrities to thank key workers and promote the “stay-at-home” cause. Undoubtedly this was an uplifting experience for many viewers, and was a key demonstration of how music can bring communities and nations together, even at a distance. Music showed its inherent ability to promote good causes and convey emotional and important messages, whilst providing good entertainment for the masses carrying-out social distancing at home.
Not only was this broadcast a testament to the importance of music through this challenging time, but as an audio enthusiast, it's difficult not to think about the technology that made it possible, as well as how amazingly accessible that now is. This broadcast raises a lot of interesting points about professional audio in the home during the outbreak and beyond, how artists will weather the storm, and ultimately. identifies some key drivers of the growth expected in audio content creation over the coming months.
During the broadcast, it was interesting to see how artist’s set-ups varied significantly, with some just using microphones on consumer earphones and many using more expensive recording gear and instruments. Some even pre-recorded vocals through high quality microphones and then mimed through the use of consumer headphones, whilst Charlie Watts (drummer of The Rolling Stones), made an iconic air drum performance along to a classic track performed by his band mates from their homes. There clearly remains a significant proportion of musicians that don’t have high quality gear at home. However, the fact that something this professional can be created remotely is very exciting and a testament to the technological advancements in the portable recording space. Compare this to just a few years ago, and the level of quality would be much more varied due to both knowledge and technology factors.
Even with the right equipment, the idea of performing a virtual concert from home is still imperfect. Many of the performances do have to be pre-recorded, as internet speeds can’t handle real time live collaboration (although there are now many ways of collaborating incrementally online). Nevertheless, the project sheds light on what will be a short-term reality for professional audio and the creativity it helps to support. It also outlines the significant demand for audio equipment in the home during lockdown, the impacts of which are already being realised in product shipments from a range of manufacturers. Although some of this demand will be short-lived, there will also be a significant number of artists and other creators entering the market for the first time during lockdown, which will continue to provide trade-up demand for the industry in the longer term.
After lockdown, projects like the One World Concert will continue to evolve, moving into professional broadcast and recording studio settings. A significant period of time is expected where artists won’t be confined to their homes, but also won’t be able to return to touring. This will be a challenging period, but artists will finally be able to collaborate in real time, with access to all the equipment they need for professional recordings. At this point, there will be improved monetisation, with the potential to fill gaps left in the supply of video entertainment by the cancellation of sporting events and excess demand. Overall, this will be an engaging time for televised and video music performance.
During the writing of this article many more examples of remote performance have been created. Just last night, 23rd April 2020, the Comic Relief/Children in Need “Big Night In” in the UK featured reams of content created from home. This included a great performance from a range of artists covering “Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters, joined by Dua Lipa and Dave Grohl himself. It will definitely be interesting to see many more creative performances being published throughout lockdown and beyond. The creation of such content will be somewhat of a silver lining to the struggles the music industry and event markets are facing through these difficult times. Hopefully a positive from all this will be improvements in the monetisation of live performances through video content channels in the longer term, as well as new short-term and long-term increases in the number of content creators entering the space. However, the most important thing is that music and performances will find a way to continue through this time with the help of modern technology, and when life returns to normal there’s likely to be more demand than ever for those incredible live events which bring us all together.
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