In terms of reach, Facebook is a hugely powerful platform for livestreams, which is why many artists have been using it during the Covid-19 lockdown period for performances, fan Q&As and other live broadcasts. Making money directly from those broadcasts (as opposed to indirectly through promoting streams, merchandise etc) hasn’t thus far been the goal.
Could that change? Check out Facebook’s announcement on Friday about “more ways to connect when you’re apart“, but scroll down past the main part about a new ‘Messenger Rooms’ feature (in short: the Messenger app getting all Zoom-like) to the section on ‘New Live Video features for Facebook, Instagram and Portal’. And specifically this part:
“You’ll be able to mark Facebook Events as online only and, in the coming weeks, integrate Facebook Live so you can broadcast to your guests. To support creators and small businesses, we plan to add the ability for Pages to charge for access to events with Live videos on Facebook – anything from online performances to classes to professional conferences.”
The ability to charge for Facebook livestreams is, in theory, a big deal for artists. The caveat is that we don’t have any useful data yet on how many fans will pay for them once the option is there. Remember, too, that charging for access will not be the only way to make money from livestreams on Facebook: the social network recently announced that it would be expanding its ‘stars’ tips economy / donation system to musicians. That would support free livestreams open to anyone, but with a percentage of the viewers paying.
Even if physical lockdown measures start to ease in various parts of the world in the coming weeks, we still don’t know when physical music concerts will be properly coming back. That ups the pressure (or more positively, the opportunity) for more artists to make livestreams an income stream. Facebook’s move is good news then, although we’re keen to see Instagram deliver on its promise of “plans in the works to support creators and artists using Live” too, since many artists are preferring to stream live on Instagram rather than Facebook.
The bigger picture here: artists and teams who get to grips with the economics of paid livestreaming (including free streams supported by tips economies) now may well find that this can remain a useful part of their businesses even when they are physically touring again. The more options they have, on different platforms with decent scale, the better.