Leadership / 10.15.18
Why Live Music Is an Antidote to ‘Sensory Deprivation’
Live music growth is outpacing recorded/streaming music: By 2020, live music is set to bring in $28 billion in revenue, while recorded/streaming music is set to bring in a mere $19.5 billion. Live music attendance also continues to grow, with more than two-thirds of today's 13- to 49-year-olds reportedly attending live music concerts, festivals and other similar events around the globe.
These statistics come from a recent Live Nation global live music fan study called “The Power of Live,” in which approximately 22,500 people in 11 countries across five continents were surveyed about their experiences with live music. The study results come out during a time when the incentive to leave the house seems to be dwindling — why leave your couch when you have the entire world at your fingertips, digitally?
Based on the study results, people still seem to want an "experience." Sixty-six percent of global respondents for the study said they are starving for experiences that put them back in touch with real people and raw emotions.
Access caught up with individual live music fans to get some personal perspectives on the study’s stats. Just what, exactly, makes live music so powerful?
Emotional Intensity at Live Music Events
Seventy-one percent of the Gen Z, millennial and Gen X respondents in the study agree, “The moments that give me the most life are live experiences.” And INTIX PR Director — and frequent Access contributor — Christine Payne finds live music to be an unparalleled escape.
"I've seen hundreds of concerts; nothing beats the experience of getting together with other fans and becoming one with live music,” Payne said. “The hours I spend dancing and singing take me away from anything that may be happening in my life at that moment."
When fans in the study were asked to reflect upon a recent live music experience and rate their level of emotional intensity on a 0-10 scale, more than three-quarters (78 percent) said they felt an 8, 9 or 10. That’s 27 percent more intense than streaming music and 31 percent more intense than playing video games.
Denise Williams had a particularly impactful emotional experience at a live music event during her formative years. Williams has been able to experience Earth Wind & Fire live a dozen times over the past 20 years thanks to a family connection, but her most memorable concert experience came when she was a teenager seeing Michael Jackson on his legendary "Bad" tour at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena.
"I had always snorted at the MJ fans shown in documentaries, who swooned at the sight of his gloved hand, passed out during his performances or were simply reduced to a blubbering mess,” she said. "I was having a great time with my family, when about halfway through the show, Michael crooned a soulful, heartbreaking rendition of 'I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.' It wasn’t even one of my favorite songs, but you wouldn't know it. All of a sudden, after shaking my booty and cheering and singing along, I burst into tears! I became the blubbering mess — the very type of fan I used to laugh at. But that’s how music can move you."
And with this emotional movement comes dedication from fans — and it’s only continuing to grow. The Power of Live study found that live music event attendance spiked 21 percent between 2016 and 2017 to 86 million, and some people have taken witnessing live performance to an incredible degree. Take Gemina Del Costello, who has traveled across the country to see a grand total of 154 Dave Matthews Band concerts.
"Every set list is different," Del Costello gushed. "Songs vary from each venue. And if they play the same venue two nights or even three nights in a row, there are usually no repeat songs. Even certain songs, they have ways of tweaking and changing the music you hear something different every time."
Other fans have been so moved by a live performance that it's impacted their lives going forward in huge ways. Texas native Veronica Ortiz Li gave her baby daughter the middle name of "Jude" to honor the first concert she ever attended: Paul McCartney at the Alamodome in San Antonio, where he ended the evening with a stirring rendition of the Beatles' "Hey Jude."
"It ended with 46,000 people singing it in unison," Ortiz Li remembered. "I'd heard it on the radio countless times. But to feel it in a concert is an experience that is irreplaceable."
Live Music Creates and Strengthens Relationships
The Power of Live study conducted the first-of-its-kind research project by testing galvanic skin response, alpha power brain waves and synchronization through accelerometers on fans during a concert. Through this project, the study was able to demonstrate the impact on fans' level of excitement, emotional intensity, attentiveness, engagement and human connection. Live Nation combined biometric data with survey data to verify and correlate the link between how fans think they feel and how they actually feel.
Based on this project, the study discovered that live music strengthens our bonds and connections. The majority of participants exhibited movement synchronization at the concert — a proxy for oxytocin, “the bonding hormone.” Nearly 70 percent of biometric participants showed significant movement synchronization (or bonding) during live music; an almost three-times stronger positive correlation compared to pre-music baseline.
For Del Costello, her 154 concerts certainly aren’t just about hearing Dave Matthews Band's music — they’re also about connecting with others.
"For me, and a lot of the DMB fan base, [live shows are] more than the music," Del Costello said. "I've met some of my best friends over the years at shows. It's the excitement of planning for summer; hitting the road; having an amazing tailgate with friends; and then being able to go into a show and watch this band play for, in some cases, three hours of nonstop music."
Live music brings spouses, significant others, groups of friends, and family members closer together through the shared experience. Greg Cox of Brandon, Mississippi, bonds with his wife through live music events.
"My wife has had a concert bucket list for the entire 16 years we've been married, and we've knocked them off year by year. The only artist left on the list was Phil Collins, and we really thought he was done touring in the United States. When he announced his North American tour, I immediately bought tickets to the opening show in Ft. Lauderdale in October. We drove from Mississippi to Fort Lauderdale and knocked that last concert off her list."
Kort Kramer of Boca Raton, Florida, also uses live music to bond with his wife.
"My wife and I make a point of going to a local pub each Friday to enjoy whatever band is performing. It can be just someone with a guitar or it can be a full ensemble. But the live experience is so different from listening to something on YouTube. The interaction between the band and the audience and the overall more personal feel makes it special."
Technology: The Good and Bad
Seventy-nine percent of global live-music-goers in the Power of Live study agreed that the experience extends well beyond the actual event. As said in the whitepaper, “Memory making doesn’t stop at the experience; fans capture, share and relive live music memories with their social network.” Payne’s personal thoughts support this finding.
"When I can't go to a show, I like knowing that I can watch it as a livestream or through fan recordings posted online," Payne said. "I also think that social media is an excellent artist-to-fan communication channel. It's especially effective when it's authentic and the artist is posting behind-the-scenes moments from their tours while engaging with fans digitally. Andy Grammer does this really well.
"That said, I do think that virtual reality has the potential to really augment the fan experience, putting us on stage and backstage like never before. I also think some of the technology being used in bigger venues, at festivals, and on large tours — like RFID — will start moving to smaller venues."
Richard Doria, operator of music website OftenWitty.com, recalls a time in which an artist used social media for an engaging fan-performer experience.
"I remember attending a John Mayer concert years ago in Toronto, and it was right around the time that Twitter was really popular,” Doria said. “He said to the audience, 'I'm taking requests! Tweet me!' And he would refresh his feed, see a song, and play it! That was very impressive fan engagement with a large crowd of 16,000 people."
Of course, sometimes technology isn’t so welcome at live events. This could be since almost three-quarters (73 percent) of 13- to 49-year-olds surveyed globally for the Power of Live study agree with the statement: “Now, more than ever, I want to experience real rather than digital life.” Laura Rust Vetock, a big Pretenders fan in suburban Baltimore, shared a concert experience in which technology had to take a break.
"We saw the Pretenders back in June,” Rust Vetock said. “Chrissie Hynde makes you turn off your cell phones so that you can enjoy the live experience. She lets you take pictures for about two minutes, and the bouncers then shine flashlights in your eyes if they see a phone."
Many music fans themselves, like Del Costello, also don’t like the intrusion of technology at the live shows they attend.
"For some people, they want to see the show through their phone,” Del Costello said. “That upsets me. I wish concert attendees could just put their devices away and experience the music. Why do people have to take excessive pictures and video the entire time? They are missing half of what is happening!"
According to the Power of Live research team, Del Costello’s frustration could point to something larger: People today are starving to connect with the "real world." This craving is the result of what Live Nation and some psychologists have termed "Sensation Deprivation." Payne sees this as true.
"While people interact with each other on social media, it's not the same thing as connecting with someone in person,” she said. “The same can be said for live music. Watching a video or livestream on YouTube is nothing like being there, live, in the venue. You can't reach out and hug a new friend — or a random stranger — when you find out you share the same favorite song. You won't be there to offer comfort when tears are rolling down someone's cheeks because of the memories evoked by another song. If it's you doing the crying, it's better to do it with others instead of alone at home.
"You also can't create a chain of glow sticks that spans an entire amphitheater in memory of a beloved band member who passed away. The virtual world just doesn’t give us the same real human connections or feelings as a live concert."
The Power of Live research found that “Live music increases our excitement, emotional intensity and lifts our mood long term.” Doria supports this finding.
"To me, it feels like the most important thing in my social life,” he said. “My weeks are planned around which events I have. It's as if the live experience is the 'new cool.' So much of live is seen already, as people view tour videos before the tour even reaches their city. The element of surprise is lost to many. But because of this digital world, people still feel the need to experience live for themselves."
Tags: Music, Social Media, Market Research, Venues