Updated March 30, 2020
tl;dr This living document contains three main sections:
My goal is to build a comprehensive, up-to-date resource for anyone seeking guidance on how to stage alternative music events in this moment of significant upheaval for the industry. If I’m missing any crucial tools or upcoming events, please notify me, the author, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, while this directory will always be free and is 100% a labor of love, any gesture to help support its creation and maintenance is welcome. If interested and able, you can donate whatever amount you wish via PayPal, Venmo or Buy Me A Coffee.
Thank you so much for reading! ❤️
You can either read through this document from start to finish, or jump straight to a specific section by clicking the corresponding link below:
(written on March 13, 2020)
Major international music festivals including SXSW, Ultra and Tomorrowland Winter called it quits within the span of just a few days in early March. Meanwhile, the world’s two biggest promoters, Live Nation and AEG, are now recommending that all U.S. tours be postponed until the end of the month. While certainly the right decision for public safety, these cancellations have also thrust many music-industry workers’ futures in limbo — particularly those of the independent artists and promoters who rely more than ever on touring to make ends meet.
But all that hard work and planning isn’t necessarily for nothing. There’s an opportunity for artists, speakers and event organizers to embrace a fan-engagement tactic that many had previously considered “emerging” or “niche,” but is now arguably one of the most practical paths forward for performing artists in the wake of virtually no other alternative: Livestreaming.
In fact, musicians in high-risk areas have been among the first to bring their performances online in the wake of coronavirus-related cancellations. For instance, as tens of thousands of events have been cancelled in China, costing the local economy hundreds of millions of dollars, artists and labels in the country have turned to local social and video platforms like WeChat and Bilibili to perform virtual showcases for fans. La Fenice, an opera house in Venice, Italy, has livestreamed several concerts from empty theaters for thousands of viewers online — a practice that other local artists will likely replicate from the comfort of their own homes, as Italy as a whole goes on lockdown.
More recently, I’ve noticed several artists and music companies working around the clock over the past week to organize virtual versions of what they would have presented in person at festivals like SXSW.
Since SXSW was supposed to start today (March 13, 2020), I wanted to compile a document that honors and promotes these commitments to seeing hard work through, as well as provide some practical information for anyone else looking to stage their own virtual events in the near future.
That said, before diving into the full list of tools and events, I want to discuss a few points and caveats about livestreaming as more people inevitably onboard to the format this year. In short, livestreaming is necessary, but insufficient, as a solution to the current concert industry’s woes.
1. Livestreaming is not a perfect financial substitute for real concerts
This point might seem like a no-brainer, but is worth reiterating in this climate: you likely won’t get the same amount of money you were expecting on tour in a virtual environment. Put another way, the reality is that the vast majority of artists and promoters won’t recover their touring losses via livestreaming alone, unless they genuinely commit to the format long-term.
This is in part because everyday consumers aren’t used to paying for musical livestreams. The format has a reputation either as a more casual, open and democratized channel for engaging with celebrities (e.g. Instagram or Facebook Live), or as a means of increasing accessibility to massive events for much wider audiences (e.g. Coachella’s livestream, which earned 82 million live views on its first weekend in 2019).
Virtual reality is especially far off from competing with brick-and-mortar live revenue, as the former sector has historically struggled from consumers’ unwillingness to pay for the proper hardware, let alone for the accompanying content. As I found a few years ago, the annual revenue from all consumer VR content is only around 0.01% of Live Nation’s annual concert and ticketing revenue alone in a typical year.
Secondly, even if you did want to put your livestream behind a paywall and have fans buy tickets for access just like in real life, there aren’t many platforms around with that capability anyway, as I’ll discuss later. Awareness of these platforms among both artists and consumers remains low, but will likely increase this year amidst ongoing coronavirus-related cancellations (and hopefully with the help of this document!).
2. Livestreaming is not a perfect cultural or emotional substitute for real concerts
Given the amount of preparation that goes into events like SXSW panels and Coachella sets, it’s tempting just to copy and paste those formats into a virtual, livestreamed environment. But unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple (it never is!).
Let’s consider Twitch as an example. In a recent interview with Music Week, Pat Shah, Twitch’s Head of Music Strategy and Licensing, argued that livestreaming in general “requires a different mindset than just uploading a video. It’s more like a FaceTime conversation. It’s a raw, intimate experience that creates a deep emotional connection with your viewers.”
Maintaining a FaceTime conversation with your fans remotely is a vastly different kind of labor from just showing up onstage and performing a choreographed routine in person, in a way that not all artists might be ready for. The former is much more interactive, intimate and personal, yet also more casual and lower-stakes.
Aside from considering the financial upside (or lack thereof), artists who want to take livestreaming seriously as an alternative to cancelled shows need to ask themselves: Will fans who bought a ticket to your brick-and-mortar show necessarily be equally interested in a more stripped-down, casual experience online? And on the flip side, will fans interested in watching your livestream necessarily be interested in the same, high-production show that you would stage in person, or are they looking for something else? There isn’t always a direct equivalence there.
The artists who have been able to build a significant following and a (partial) living on Twitch — e.g. JVNA, HANA and Flux Pavilion — aren’t just performing live virtual shows for their fans. They’re also bringing fans behind-the-scenes in their music production and recording processes, or even just hanging out in their bedrooms and answering fans’ questions about their careers and lives, regardless of whether those conversations are related to music. And especially if they’re playing games or producing music, they’re often streaming for several hours in a row — a much longer duration than a typical live show.
Other potential livestreaming channels warrant the same scrutiny, in terms of whether they fit an artist’s given personality and needs. For instance, if you’re choosing to broadcast your panel in VR but all you’re showing is a PowerPoint presentation, why not just share your screen on Zoom, a much easier technology to navigate? If you want to embrace live audio-only streaming instead, are you comfortable talking “on the air” like in a podcast taping or radio segment?
The big takeaway here is that livestreaming works best when artists take the time to become familiar with the medium.
3. Livestreaming is no longer a “niche” strategy — it’s an accessibility imperative, and a potential catalyst for other kinds of virtual innovations
While livestreaming is an imperfect substitute for the brick-and-mortar concert industry for the reasons described above, I think it will become more commonplace for concert promoters and conference organizers to incorporate livestreaming into their future events, for the sake of accessibility at large.
It may be somewhat unfortunate that it took something like a global pandemic for people to start thinking about how to make live events more accessible to a wider, more global audience. But we’ve seen this before, in terms of extreme situations encouraging long-overdue adoption of new technology. For instance, Facebook and Twitter weren’t popular in Japan early on, but both turned into lifelines for local populations in the wake of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that rattled the country in 2011.
I also think a shift towards virtual events will be a catalyst for other adjacent innovations, such as augmented-reality avatars and integrated content partnerships with gaming companies. Suddenly, Marshmello’s DJ sets in Fortnite and Minecraft’s DIY, in-game music festivals (Coalchella and Fire Festival) look less like cutting-edge stunts, and more like practical, scalable responses to the real-world restrictions we’re facing today.
At this point, it seems like a gargantuan, virtually impossible task to try to collate every single event that’s been affected by COVID-19, especially as governments around the world instate bans on any local events drawing a few hundred people or more (e.g. New York, Ohio, Seattle in the U.S.).
That said, here are a few of the most comprehensive lists I’ve found of major event cancellations and reschedulings — spanning music, film, theater, sports, technology and other verticals — in case that info interests you:
There may be an opportunity for many of the events on these lists to collaborate and share resources around a virtual experience, given that they are technically no longer confined by geography.
The following list of livestreaming tools is organized by format (video, audio, virtual reality), then by revenue model (free, free-to-play and ticketed/paywalled). Where appropriate, I include some bullet points with more background on the company and its goals, and/or links to examples of artists and music companies using the tool in practice.
Pro tip: If you want to broadcast to more than one of the below video platforms simultaneously, I recommend using one of the many simulcasting tools available online. You can view a preliminary list by jumping to the Simulcasting section of this document (<-- click there!).
If you’re looking to make your livestreaming experience available for free, below are the best options, which are already pretty popular among people in the music industry.
The platforms below are able to host “free-to-play” livestreams — meaning that the streams are free for anyone to access, but include the ability for viewers to contribute financially to the streamer if they so wish, usually through some kind of in-app “tipping” mechanism and/or direct monthly subscription.
The term “free-to-play” comes from the gaming world, which is important to keep in mind because many of the below platforms originally targeted online gaming communities. Hence “free-to-play concerts” work best when they act like games and have highly interactive, game-like mechanics built in.
The platforms below offer the closest thing to putting on an actual, in-person show, in terms of the capability to charge visitors upfront to access a paywalled livestream.
To my surprise, there’s a relative dearth of livestreaming platforms tailored for musicians looking to stage these ticketed “virtual concert” experiences. One popular option in the past, Concert Window, shut down in August 2019. Two of the options listed below were just launched within the past few months.
Below is a list of online tools that allow you to stream to multiple different video platforms simultaneously from one central site, in case you’re looking to optimize for reach. By necessity, your streams through these services will be free of charge (although viewers on platforms like Twitch can still “tip” you as discussed above).
These companies in livestreaming cater more to organizations and brands rather than artists, and many provide more managed and hands-on rather than self-serve solutions.
If you’d prefer not to show your face in your livestream and just want to talk with fans or with friends on the air, in the style of a traditional talk radio, then this section is for you. There aren’t as many options as in video, as live audio is still an emerging category on a global level, but I see this becoming more common in the future as certain markets like China warm up to the format.
This is still an emerging model in the live-audio space, but I found one example:
This is also still an emerging model, but I found one example — also from a podcast hosting platform:
Again, because of its technical complexity, broadcasting a show in VR only makes sense if you truly know the medium, so tread carefully.
This is an emerging category that combines livestreaming with the ability to feature products next to videos and/or allow people to purchase products in real time as they see them in the stream. While it has yet to be truly proven in the marketplace, it may be appropriate for artists who are looking to combine a live experience with promotions for Bandcamp or merch pages.
One of the most devastating aspects of the SXSW cancellation for me personally is the breadth of educational content that’s just going down the drain because it no longer has a platform.
With that in mind, I wanted to include a few potential tools for those speakers looking to create online courses, webinars or other videos around more educational, industry-facing panels and workshops, as a safety net in the wake of ongoing event cancellations. There may also be an opportunity here to turn otherwise ephemeral, one-time panels into more long-term revenue streams by making the videos and courses on-demand.
As more tours get cancelled or postponed, one particular aspect of the concert experience is also suffering: fan meet-and-greets. Major artists like Niall Horan and KISS have canceled their recent meet-and-greets, forfeiting not just significant income from VIP ticket buyers, but also an opportunity to commemorate and interact with their biggest fans and supporters face-to-face, which has tremendous emotional value on both sides of the table.
Artists of all sizes looking to move their VIP fan meet-and-greet experiences online can use most of the platforms listed above, particularly those in the free-to-play or ticketed/paywalled sections. But there are also a handful of platforms with a specific meet-and-greet interface that looks and works differently from those of standard livestreaming platforms.
Below is a curated, regularly-updated list of artists and music companies putting on virtual shows, meetups and other events. This section was previously organized by date; now it is organized by type (to distinguish concerts and fan-facing events from industry-facing talks and panels). All times in EST.
Please note that given the surge of activity around livestreaming, this listing will not be 100% comprehensive. Below are some other virtual event listings for your reference, many of which are open to submissions:
11 E1even Group and nugs.net are hosting the couch tour series Live From Out There until April 26, featuring live sets, archival releases and other exclusive content from artists and bands like Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Twiddle, Aqueous, Cory Wong, Benny Bloom and Goose. Full subscriptions cost $49.99, but shows can also be purchased à la carte on the nugs.tv site. Proceeds of the series will both support featured musicians and crew workers directly and go towards donations to Sweet Relief.
New York-based bar and venue Nowadays is partnering with The Lot Radio to livestream shows on its website. You can browse the upcoming lineup here.
The 92nd Street Y in New York is livestreaming several classical performances, including a show by Third Coast Percussion live from their Chicago studio on March 28 at 7:30pm ET. You can view the upcoming schedule as well as archived livestreams here.
Seattle-based venue Nectar Lounge is hosting a series of livestreamed concert to help raise funds for local artists as well as Nectar’s out-of-work staff. Their next stream will take place on March 28 from 11pm–2am ET on Nectar’s YouTube channel, featuring the artist Swindler.
Nashville-based artists Allen Thompson and Rodney McCarthy are hosting a series of livestreamed performances and jam sessions through the end of March under the umbrella VirtualFestival. All events will have PayPal and Venmo donation links for the featured artists. More info can be found on the initiative’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
URGNT LIVE, a new, ad-hoc livestreaming series from empty venues in Toronto, Canada, is raising funds on GoFundMe to cover the costs of production and compensate the artists, venues and behind-the-scenes workers involved. Featured artists to date include Moscow Apartment and Quique Escamilla. You can also keep up to date with upcoming streams on their Facebook and Instagram pages.
Ann Arbor, Michigan-based artist and band Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds are running the livestreamed concert series Live From The Bird House on Facebook until March 27. Fans can donate to the initiative on Venmo via @Erin-Zindle and on PayPal via email@example.com. You can see the full event calendar here.
The Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland, OR has organized the Portland Music Stream subscription, which gives subscribers access to 20 live concerts from local artists for $100 total. Concerts take place Wednesdays through Sundays at 10pm ET until April 18. 10% of the subscription proceeds will go to the Jeremy Wilson Foundation, a nonprofit supporting the health and wellbeing of musicians in Oregon and Clark County, Washington.
Groove Café, a Chicago-based initiative for supporting underground music communities, will be hosting artist and DJ showcases on Twitch featuring a mix of ambient, techno, soul and other music styles. The next set is on March 27 at 5pm ET, featuring artists from Numero Group, Patient Sounds and others.
Elton John will be hosting the iHeart Living Room Concert for America on March 29 from 9pm–10pm ET (the original time of the now-cancelled iHeartRadio Music Awards), featuring performances from the likes of Billie Eilish, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey and the Backstreet Boys. The show will air on Fox, on iHeartMedia radio stations and on the iHeartRadio app.
Music-industry network Balanced Breakfast will be hosting an online music festival every Sunday 11am–11pm ET from March 29 to April 19. You can check the full schedule on the festival’s Facebook page. Each day, a selected moderator will take over a two-hour slot of the festival, and present four musicians from their home cities who will each perform for 30 minutes. Represented cities include but are not limited to New York, NY; Portland, OR; Austin, TX; Denver, CO; and Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Diego and Napa, CA.
Cuarentena Fest will feature more than 50 Spanish artists and bands livestreaming performances from their homes on YouTube between March 16 and 27. Setlist info and YouTube Live links are available on the festival’s website and Instagram page. Those interested in contributing financially to the event can donate via PayPal; contributions will be split equally among all performing artists.
Clubcommission Berlin has launched United We Stream, a livestreaming hub for Berlin-based clubs, event organizers and artists affected by the local nightlife shutdown, in partnership with several local organizations including arte concert. They are crowdfunding on Betterplace, where interested fans can contribute a sliding scale of 10 and 30 euros a month in exchange for a “virtual club ticket”; all crowdfunding proceeds will go directly to a relief fund which will support clubs and event organizers in need. You can view the upcoming stream schedule here.
German dance label Kontor Records is streaming daily DJ sets live on its YouTube channel, under the umbrella “Kontor DJ Delivery Service.” Featured DJs include Scooter, Sans Souci, Hagen Feetly and Tom Shark.
Emma McGann has launched a virtual tour pass to accompany her upcoming brick-and-mortar tour in the U.S. For £20, fans can virtually access all the shows that will be livestreamed across the tour — alongside many other benefits, including but not limited to their name on McGann’s guitar case, a handwritten postcard, wallpaper artwork from each tour stop and access to discount codes for merch. Fans can also gift up to 500 virtual tour passes to the community, in exchange for even more personalized perks. The livestreams will only be accessible via a password-protected portal that links to a private YouTube Live link.
Twitch is hosting a virtual benefit festival called Stream Aid from 12pm–12am ET on March 28 featuring gamers, musicians and athletes, in part to help raise funds for the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Featured musicians will include (G)I-DLE, John Legend, Krewella, Ellie Goulding, Alec Benjamin, Charlie Puth and members of Bastille, The Head and The Heart, Empire of the Sun and Young The Giant.
Rolling Stone is hosting the IGTV performance series “In My Room” on the publication’s Instagram account. Artists who have performed in the series include Brian Wilson, Nicole Atkins and Angelique Kidjo.
The Global Citizen Festival is hosting a series of virtual, live music sessions with major celebrities under the umbrella "Together, At Home.” Participating artists to date include Chris Martin, John Legend, Charlie Puth, Noah Cyrus and H.E.R.
Sofar Sounds has organized an “online listening room” featuring livestreams from several artists who have performed Sofar shows. You can view the full schedule here.
The YouTube channel COLORS is hosting the livestream performance series A COLORS STREAM, featuring artists performing from their own homes, every day on YouTube at 1pm ET. Featured artists to date include Lil Halima, Glass Animals and Barney Artist. Viewers can donate to the stream via YouTube Live’s “Super Chat” functionality; 100% of the donated money will be split equally amongst all artists involved in the project.
Pronoun and her label Sleep Well Records are hosting a series of livestreamed shows on Pronoun’s Instagram page, under the umbrella Silent Nite Fest. Shows will take place at 7pm ET on weekdays and 2pm ET on weekends, up to April 4. Featured artists include Wolfjay, Sulene, Henry Nowhere and Crook; you can see the full lineup with set times here.
To celebrate the launch of its iOS app, Endlesss will be hosting a series of live, collaborative jam sessions on Twitch on March 31 from 5am–6pm ET (10am–11pm BST). Featured artists will include Imogen Heap, Flux Pavilion and KiNK.
Platoon, an A&R and creative-services company owned by Apple, will be hosting three open online meetups for the music industry on Zoom — on March 27 at 3pm ET, March 31 at 2:30pm ET and April 3 at 1pm ET. Anyone interested can join in via this Zoom link.
Conference producer Winston Baker is hosting several upcoming virtual webinars aimed at entertainment/finance professionals:
Musicologists Will Robin and Paula Harper are hosting Colloquium: Music Scholarship at a Distance, a virtual forum for music scholars (“broadly considered, including musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, and related fields”) to present papers that were going to be featured at now-cancelled academic conferences. Presentations will be livestreamed via Zoom on select weekdays at 4PM EST. Interested scholars can apply to present via this Google form.
Dae Bogan — Founder and former CEO of TuneRegistry, former SVP of Global Music Rights at Jammber, Lecturer in Music Industry Entrepreneurship at UCLA and now Executive Consultant at Rights Department — is moving many of his talks, guest lectures and workshops this spring and summer to an online format. He’s adopting an interesting model, selling virtual passes via Calendly at three price tiers: Silver ($50 for up to two online events), Gold ($100 for up to five online events) and Platinum ($250 for up to five online events, plus a 30-minute one-on-one consultation).
The Montreux Jazz Festival has made 50 concerts from its archives available to stream on Stingray Qello, an on-demand platform for concerts and music documentaries. Featured performers include Ray Charles, Wu-Tang Clan, Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Deep Purple and Carlos Santana. Interested fans can access the concert videos for free for 30 days by going to stingray.com/FREEMJF1M and entering the code FREEMJF1M.
Phish is hosting the “Dinner And A Movie” webcast series, which will air a full, free show from their archives every Tuesday at 8:30pm ET on LivePhish.com and on YouTube. The first live broadcast in the series was of their show on August 31, 2012 in Commerce City, Colorado.
Brooklyn-based venue National Sawdust has launched Live@NationalSawdust, which will serve as a “digital home” for free, weekly releases from the venue’s archive of live performances. Featured performers in the archive as of March 30, 2020 include Chris Thile (2015), Philip Glass (2015), Nico Muhly / Nadia Sirota (2015) and Tanya Tagaq (2015).
Freelance digital marketer Mattie Bennett has set up a dedicated radio station / listening room on Stationhead for broadcasting tracks by artists who were scheduled to perform at SXSW. He is currently open to any artists/bands, labels, promoters, etc. who want to be featured on the station through guest presenter slots, interviews, takeovers, etc. He posted about the opportunity on Twitter.
Suzanne Noble has created the open Facebook group Corona Concerts to help musicians who rely on gigging for their income to livestream, accept donations and share technical and business resources. The group now has over 1,000 members.
HowlRound, a free, open and global platform for theatermakers, is accepting submissions for livestreams for its online arts, culture and theater programming, and can provide training, marketing and technical support. Interested artists and organizations can learn more about programming themes and apply here, and browse a calendar of upcoming events here. HowlRound is also piloting a commons-based livestream infrastructure project in Central and Eastern Europe.
A select list of non-music conferences who have gone or are going virtual — many of which are using VR — in case you are looking for inspiration outside the music industry.
Whether you are an artist looking for emergency funds to cope with ongoing event cancellations, or a fan or supporter wanting to contribute to artists’ collective livelihoods in these tough times, here are some local resources you can turn to: