Photo by Wolfgang

Originally published on Soundfly

The music industry has changed — a lot. It’s practically unrecognizable from what it was a decade ago, or even 5 years ago. Yet, one thing has remained the same, through all the countless iterations of the industry we’ve seen. That is the power of live music.

Without it, we, as a society, a community, an entire industry, would be lost. Because for as long as concerts have been around, we’ve seen the ability that live music has to bring people together and create a lasting, shared experience. One that inspires, uplifts, and changes lives.

Because live music isn’t just one of those things that’s nice to have — it’s the backbone of a musician’s career. It’s what makes everything else possible.

So while things may change, the live music scene still presents as one of the key ingredients to a successful DIY career, and because of that, we have to do everything we can to protect it. That means attending shows both big and small, supporting independent venues and artists, and buying locally from the musicians and venues we love. We have to take care of our industry and recognize the power it has over an indie artist’s career.

Here’s why it can be such a total game-changer for you.

It’s a fully immersive experience.

There are very few things that allow us to be fully immersed in something. Most of the time we’re easily distracted by our phones, our environment, or the thoughts in our heads. It can be difficult to truly disconnect and focus on what’s right in front of you. With live music, that’s never a problem. When you attend a show you’re instantly transported to another world.

It engages all your senses and transports you into an experience that allows for full engagement. For those few hours, the music is all that matters. The outside world melts away and in that venue, we are surrounded by others who understand us.

All of this is great news for the fans of course, but the musicians as well, who are often vying for attention. For the length of that show, they don’t have to battle the outside world for your focus, and that means capturing fans becomes a lot easier.

It turns fans into super fans.

Live music has always had the power to take a casual or first-time listener and turn them into a superfan. I’m a firm believer that there’s nothing else — not social media, not marketing, not anything — that can replace what a great live show can do in just 30 minutes.

If you can get someone in a room to see you, their whole world can change and in turn, yours. Because if you give them a great show that resonates, they’re going to feel it, and they’re going to become addicted to that feeling. Why else do we spend exorbitant amounts of money on concerts and drive hours on a random Tuesday night to see our favorite bands for an hour on stage?

It’s because it fulfills something in us that we can’t get anywhere else. And if you can give that to your fans, they’ll always come back for more.

“You can do a lot of amazing things to bring your community together online, but social media will never make you drive 34 hours in 3 days.”

Speaking from experience, many of my favorite bands were bands I had only listened passively to until I saw them live. Their live show is what made me want to buy tickets to the next show (and every show after), support them with merch (even when I didn’t like the merch), and tell all my friends about them.

It’s what inspired me to drive 8 hours to Hamilton, Ontario to see Arkells at their annual hometown show. And what made me recruit my mom to road trip with me from Boston to Colorado, a full 34 hours away, to see Frank Turner play Red Rocks.

That’s the power of an amazing live show and the promise of a great experience.

You can do a lot of amazing things to bring your community together online, but social media will never make you drive 34 hours in 3 days. Live shows however have the power and they’ll turn fans into super fans that are willing to do those things.

It gives fans a chance to connect with one another.

One of the subtle but powerful things about live shows is that it creates instant community with your fans, which is crucial when you’re talking about building a sustainable career as a musician.

A concert can put hundreds of people with similar interests together in the same room and almost instantly there’s a kinship. A sense of belonging. Even if you don’t interact with anyone there, you’ll still feel like you’re part of something; like you belong.

That sense of community is a huge part of what makes live music so important for a DIY artist’s sustainability. It’s also what makes live music so beautiful.

It’s still one of the best ways to turn a profit.

If we’re talking strictly numbers, live music is still one of (if not the) most powerful way to generate income. Ticket sales are a piece of it, but, especially as you grow larger and your show costs and touring expenses increase, it’s not just about the live tickets — it’s about everything that comes after.

“Without the income that comes from shows, you’re relying on everything coming in online, and in that, trying to battle the attention span of everyone around you.”

The merch you sell at the table, the VIP experiences, the licensing deals (which although not directly tied to live shows do spark interest in higher attendance).

It’s why during the pandemic so many bands, even very well-established ones, struggled. Because that live show revenue is crucial to their success. This is all the more true for an independent artist without label support. Without the income that comes from shows, you’re relying on everything coming in online, and in that, trying to battle the attention span of everyone around you.

Final Thoughts

Although live music has changed dramatically over the years, its power is stronger than ever. It still has the power to bring us together, to help us forget our worries and embrace what’s right in front of us. It is this sense of community, of belonging, that makes live music so special.

Without it, we’d just be listening to streams and trying desperately to connect. 

If the pandemic taught us anything about music, it’s that the industry and its artists are fragile, and that there really is no replacing concerts. Sweaty mosh pits and overpriced drinks and all — it’s still worth every moment.