Live In Lockdown

The good, the bad, and ugly of music livestreaming

Amber Horsburgh
4 min readJun 30, 2020

I write about music marketing via my weekly newsletter, Deep Cuts [Subscribe]. Get daily tips on Instagram

Quarantine concerts are playing an interesting role in keeping public arts alive while life is on lockdown. When the lockdowns started artists and celebs started live-streaming as a way of staying connected and lifting people’s spirits. Some more successful than others.

Media criticism for artists and celebrities adopting live-streaming to stay connected with their fans. Source: The Atlantic

At this point, every concert is canceled through at least 2020 placing pressure on artists to make more of their business digital, live-streams included.

This is the good, the bad, and ugly of livestreaming.

The good

Many mistakenly approach livestreams as a video streaming platform or in place of live — mediums that both reward polished rehearsed entertainment.

Livestreaming is more akin to radio with a built-in social network.

It rewards relatability, unfiltered and spontaneity. It also shares a similar programming style — long-form content delivered on a consistent schedule. The closeness of the environment forges a connection with fans almost like a friendship.

Content that does best in this medium are peek-behind-the-curtains of creative processes, masterclasses, and intimate performances.

If you need ideas think about if KCRW gave you 20 mins to do whatever you wanted, how would you use the time?

For example…

Chance, the Rapper: A+ production for small screen concerts

Chance, The Rapper’s live-stream for Verizon’s Pay It Forward initiative to help small businesses affected by COVID-19 is a stellar example of how to do live-streamed performances. The production quality, interactive elements and reimagining of songs for the medium made for a memorable quarantine concert. Source: Twitter

Chance, The Rapper live-streamed for Verizon’s Pay It Forward initiative that helped small businesses. What made this particular performance memorable how it showed Chance in a new light, his singing voice fans rarely hear, and his reimagining of the songs adding gospel elements. It was funny, unexpected, and rare look fans don’t see.

Add to that the production quality — created with studio-quality audio with viewers encouraged by Chance to listen in headphones ensuring the viewing experience was the best it could be.

HANA: Building a feedback loop into her creation process

HANA live-streamed her creating HANADRIEL 12 hours a day, 4 weeks straight.

HANA’s highlights from week 1 of livestreaming the making of her 2019 album, HANADRIEL on Twitch. A process she complimented as helping to break new creative territory, giving confidence to finish songs and correct brand misperceptions.

In an interview with PAPER she described working on music alone had become overwhelming so she opened it up. Throughout the stream she conceptualized songs, produced, laid down vocals and brainstormed with viewers.

The viewers pushed her to keep working on songs she would’ve abandoned some of which became her favorite tracks and helped with themes and tracklisting. The experimental nature of working like this pushed her to new creative territory.

The live-stream helped correct brand perception problems, i.e.: many believing HANA relied on external

Laura Marling: Staying connected through education

Laura Marling goes live every Sunday at 2 PM EST to teach inexperienced guitarists using her own overture as a jumping-off point. She demystifies her tuning techniques and takes viewers step-by-step through her most popular songs.

The bad

Monetization and licensing are the key issues of livestreaming.


For ~1 week there were talks that livestreaming could replace lost touring income but that’s not the case. Since then platforms added monetization options like tip-jars and artists have done ticketed events to explore monetization options.

Erykah Badu was an early winner when she essentially built her own livestreaming company to execute 3 quarantine concerts at $1, $2, and $3 per ticket 2 weeks after her tour was canceled. She drew a combined audience of 100,000 and described it as “an experiment to erase the lines between her as an artist and her fans — a magnificent feeling.”

Erykah Badu’s stage production for her Quarantine Concert series. Image: Tony Krash.

But issues remain around if livestreaming can be a significant source of income, especially at the emerging artists' level.


Publishers and labels have their own deals in place livestreaming platforms. Some of which don’t allow music to be livestreamed if it’s pre-recorded or ticketed. This depends on the individual organizations’ deals and varies by territory. Meaning, some artists cannot perform their own songs on YouTube without obtaining a license.

Independent artists are uniquely positioned to execute livestreams more than major artists since they own their rights and don’t need to seek clearances from major publishers and labels to use their own songs.

The Ugly

I won’t call out anyone specific because I don’t want to criticize any artists’ creativity in already negative times. But, livestreams go up in flames with bad production and risk being boring when they’re not interactive. High-speed internet, good lighting, good audio, and a plan to incorporate the viewer are essential.

Think about the viewer’s experience. If you’re doing a performance then encourage the viewer to wear headphones or listen on external speakers.

How to utilize livestreams in your marketing mix

Frame livestreaming as a marketing tool that’s like radio with a built-in social network. Content that works best for this format are unpolished, relatable and feel a sense of friendship with the audience like songwriting sessions, educational content, Q+A/performance hybrids, intimate access that breaks the fan-artist wall.

There are a ton of resources about livestreaming since its rapid COVID adoption. Here are a few relevant tactical resources like each platform’s guide to livestreaming, plus articles outlining best practices of and tech requirements so you can execute the best quality livestream:

YouTube’s Livestreaming Guide

Bandzoogle’s Livestreaming Guide

Going live on FB from personal page, fan page, group,

Zoom’s guide to livestreaming

Vimeo’s guide

Twitch guide for musicians


Eventbrite Everything You Need To Know About Livestreaming Concerts



Amber Horsburgh

Music marketing consultant. Downtown Records & Big Spaceship alumni. Writes about music, strategy and feels at Deep Cuts