The Music Business Is In For A Change: A Look At What Might Happen When The Coronavirus Lockdown Ends

Thu May 21 2020

It's downright scary when you look at the list of tours and festivals that have been canceled or postponed because of the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19. Asia alone reportedly has had more than 20,000 cancellations since January, amounting to an estimated $286 million loss of revenue. Giant festivals like SXSW, Ultra and Coachella—with more joining every day—have taken big hits because of the outbreak. While this is bad news up and down the music business food chain in the short term, there may be long-term benefits if we can all hold on until we get through this.

If we look into the crystal ball, here are some ways the music business might be affected and how it could change because of what we’re now experiencing.

Festivals, Tours And Venues Get Lean And Mean

If you think that the concert business was business-like before, you ain’t seen nothing yet. In order to make up for lost profits, tours will cut overhead to the bone. Productions will get smaller and less elaborate and will be able to get away with it with few repercussions since an audience starved for live entertainment because of virus containment will be less demanding. Ticketing moves into the future as service charges are decreased, paperless tickets increase, and on a concert level, concession prices are brought in line with competing entertainment choices in order to get more meat in the seats. The name of the game is survival first, and that may mean lower prices all around in order to attract a cash-strapped audience.

The Streaming Herd Is Thinned, But User Numbers Grow

A drop in the economy will see many users cutting unneeded subscriptions, which will hurt the Tidals and Deezers of the world first. Streaming is cheap entertainment, but only the strongest (Apple, Google, Amazon) will thrive while scooping up or casting aside the weaker music-only services that depend on advertising and subscriptions to survive (yes, Spotify, too). The Big 3 have the resources to withstand a downturned economy while the smaller music delivery services do not.

Work From Home Brings Economic And Social Change

With so many new home workers, employers see that they can cut overhead by keeping employees at home after the crises abates. That means fewer people commuting, eating out for lunch, and having that morning Starbucks. It also means that music listening habits and consumption changes, in some cases for the better, along with a general change in what now constitutes a workplace. That could actually help live music venues, as fewer people commuting keeps them fresher at the end of the day and more willing to step out in the evening to check out the scene once health concerns and finances stabilize.