We’ve all seen some kind of live music event. Be it Glastonbury Festival, a Coldplay concert, a group of buskers warbling covers of Ed Sheeran in the high street, or even just the Ram Jam on a Thursday night. Obviously some resonate with us as more impressive experiences than others, but often even the most questionable of live performances have a certain charm to them. After all, it’s a more ‘human’ experience – people performing their music in the flesh, showcasing their flaws along with their assets; just some raw, musical passion and (mostly) no autotune. That’s incomparable, right?
However, with the accessibility of music becoming increasingly easier through a combination of Spotify, Apple Music, and some not-so-legal online streaming services that many of us will be familiar with, the value of the music industry has already come into question in this “digital age” we find ourselves in. With the launch of the UK’s first ever live music census this year, the cultural and economic value of live music is being assessed on a national scale; an attempt to uncover challenges facing both artists and music venues. Along with this comes the concern of its results; the deciphering of whether live music should still be considered relevant, or simply a strain upon industry organisations and policy bodies.
…the overwhelming fear of tumbling into a black MIRROR-ESQUE MUSICAL DYSTOPIA
So – should it be relevant? The UK Live Music Census, a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, aims to address a variety of issues raised by live music events. Volunteers will be surveying all aspects of live music performances; musicians, venues, promoters and audience members, in order to provide a comprehensive dataset to assess the value and scope of live music across the UK. In other words, it will help local councils make more informed decisions than ever before about the relevance of live music in their areas, and therefore help the preservation and the flourishing of what is considered a most valuable component of local character in towns and cities all over the UK.
As for the question of the overwhelming fear of tumbling into a Black Mirror-esque musical dystopia, living in a ‘digital age’ can be seen as inescapable but not necessarily the end-all for live music. In fact, there are numerous ways digital technology has worked to its advantage. Live Nation Entertainment, for instance – the largest producer of live music concerts in the world, and owner of Ticketmaster. Using today’s technological advances to create more opportunities for live performances, they’ve been able to optimise the live music experience through methods such as simplifying the ticket-display process through mobile apps, to expanding the ways brands and advertisers can reach audiences. Obviously there are downsides to the technologies these companies employ, one being the rise of pesky automated bots buying and re-selling tickets. Nevertheless, the benefits suggest that live music doesn’t have to be compromised, but rather enhanced by the innovations in today’s digital world.
THE COMMITMENT REQUIRED FOR A WHOLE LIVE SET KEEPS UP AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE AS WELL APPRECIATION OF THE ART IN THE PERFORMER’S CHOICES
Lastly, to reiterate the more emotional aspect of live music, regardless of its industrial and economic outcomes, should live music as a concept still matter to us when we have access to music in so many other forms? To put it into perspective, think about the last time a song made you cry, or one you adored so much you put it on repeat for a week. Now think about hearing that song live; whether by the original act or the impressive cover by a budding artist, reverberating around others who’d been just as moved by that track. Certainly there are moments when we’d rather enjoy that in solitude; being able to incessantly skip songs to whichever song we please due to our needs for instant gratification. The commitment required for a whole live set keeps up an element of surprise as well as appreciation of the art in the performer’s choices; something unique and different from simply listening to them on a daily basis through headphones whilst walking to lectures. Live music is the sort of thing that would make you want to attend a gig even at the Lemon Grove if it meant you could hear your friend’s band covering your favourite songs all night long.
To put things plainly, the novelty of live music is a musical experience unparalleled by any other, and will undoubtedly matter regardless of whatever new ‘age’ we’re thrown into.