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Coronavirus Is Giving Livestreaming the Chance to Prove Itself

“We are absolutely overloaded — we’ve never had this much interest in our entire existence,” says one livestreaming-company founder, as the previously shunned technology gains steam

photo illustration images: Shutterstock (guitar), Getty Images (room, computer)

It’s taken some time — and the unfortunate circumstance of a pandemic — but concert livestreaming could finally be having its moment. Amid major festival cancellations and hundreds of tours and concerts getting the chopping block due to COVID-19, artists and their teams are scrambling for new ways forward; and because waiting isn’t much of an option for those who need the income or can’t afford to cancel, the fledgling livestreaming industry is finding itself in the spotlight. 

In the past week, several concerts and events elected to stream rather than perform for a larger, in-person crowd. Organizers for the fourth annual Love Rocks NYC benefit concert, featuring Jackson Browne, the Black Crowes’ Chris and Rich Robinson, and Leon Bridges, went the livestream route, limiting in-person attendance to media, artist personnel, and friends and family. British singer and songwriter Yungblud streamed a concert early Monday on YouTube, featuring Machine Gun Kelly and Bella Thorne. And over the weekend, the Los Angeles and New York city-government mandates for all bars and clubs to close may drive a new stampede of musicians to the format.

Big Room TV, a livestreaming service that can air from individual venues without camerapeople, says livestreaming was already growing more popular, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put more eyes on its potential than ever. Co-founder Sammy Rubin says the company has had to completely modify its business model to fit venues’ needs as they try to put on crowdless shows to make up for lost revenue. Big Room is now constantly in and out of phone calls with venues trying to make the shows an option, and while it won’t be straightforward with ongoing travel restrictions, they’re working toward a answer. “We’re the only solution to be able to scale this, so, yeah, there’s been a ton of interest in what we’re doing,” Rubin says. “It’s nutso; it’s totally nuts.”