Last week, concert tracking pioneers BandsInTown launched BandsInTown Plus, which the company bills as a "first-of-its-kind live music streaming subscription service." With livestream entertainment surging over the past year, BandsInTown aims to curate a consistent experience for fans, featuring more than 25 exclusive live concerts per month and access to additional content.
Naturally, the announcement led to a lot of questions from artists and managers about the process. So we asked a few.
How BandsInTown Plus Works For Fans
For music fans, the model will feel pretty straightforward. It's $9.99 per month or $99 per year. You get a free 7-day trial. It's only available in the United States. You can watch on your computer or in the app, and you can also send it to your TV via third party devices.
Artists may choose to also offer a Q&A during the show, giving fans an opportunity to connect on a slightly more "VIP" level. BandsInTown says there's no strict rules for fan interaction. "It varies," a spokesperson for the company tells RootNote, "But most interactions are chosen spontaneously by the host based on the fan's question."
Unlike other streaming subscription services, however, you can't currently watch shows after they've aired on BandsInTown Plus. There may be a few key reasons for this, including the platform's technological bandwidth and the agreements it has with artists (more on that in a second), but that may be the platform's achilles heel in its early state, because in most cases users don't really get that instant gratification when they sign up (unless they sign up 5 minutes before a show).
How BandsInTown Plus Chooses Artists
Eh, that's still a little foggy. "Our artist lineup is driven by culture, not genre," the company tells us. "It's a mix of emerging talent and festival mainstays." So, uh, your guess is as good as ours.
We assume that having a decent presence on BandsInTown can't hurt. Because the platform's value currently comes from curating good exclusive experiences, the talent team probably has their own methods of reaching out to artists — and will likely be learning a lot over the next several months.
However, as of now there's no streamlined way for artists and their teams to "toss their hat in the ring," so to speak. In that essence, it certainly feels more like the traditional agent-based model of booking shows.
How BandsInTown Plus Pays Artists
This is always the most interesting part, since the economics of livestreaming still seem to be very fluid depending on the platform. And this is also where BandsInTown Plus functions most like the old-school talent buying model. "Artists are paid flat guarantees," the company tells us.
And that's that.
We have to assume not all guarantees are the same and that somebody like Phoebe Bridgers or Wallows command bigger checks than We The Commas or other up-and-comers.
But livestreaming is an entirely different landscape than traditional ticket sales. Much of the success of a livestream depends on an artist's ability to make the digital crowd feel "seen," as well as the ability to actually communicate to their fans beforehand where to watch. There's a real chance that seemingly smaller bands can command a much stronger digital audience than one of those festival mainstays.
Not having some level of performance-based incentives for artists may be a double-edged sword. But as with any business model, results are TBD. And of course, BandsInTown has its own built-in opportunity to market the shows. (You'll never guess where you can catch all the featured upcoming live streams that pop up on the BandsInTown home page...).
That said, these flat guarantees may also play into the "no replays" situation right now. Depending on who actually owns the livestream content, there could be value in some playback-based money down the line. Or, BandsInTown could act more like a Netflix and pay to produce the entire show (and own the content into perpetuity).
What Are The Technical Aspects And Lead Times For Putting On A BandsInTown Plus Show?
That's another big question for artists, many of whom (at least on the initial lineup) don't seem to have a regular livestreaming presence on other platforms like Twitch or YouTube.
And again, the response from BandsInTown hinted at a bit of a "for those who need to know" basis. "We love the time to produce and promote properly but are always open to opportunities to present great music," the company says.
The word "produce" there may suggest some significance, though. After you sign up for the platform, you'll notice most of the concerts take place wherever the artist is. Some are in venues, like Joe Bonamassa shredding at Nashville's Bluebird Cafe. Others might just be a regular room. The company says some of the performances may also be taped, but that there will still be some aspect of "live interaction" between the fans and artist, such as the artist appearing in the chat.
But as anyone who has put on a livestream before can attest, quality (particularly audio quality) make a huge difference in the entertainment value. And understanding the technical aspects takes practice. Do there need to be multiple cameras? If so, who line produces? Do you need to pre-load graphics and assets the company provides? What are the set length requirements? None of that is readily available information.
So the degree to which BandsInTown truly produces the event? Not sure (though if you or somebody you work with are currently going through the process, feel free to send us a message about your experience and we'll gladly update the article).
What About This Artist Affiliate Referral Program?
A lot of BandsInTown artists received an email saying they could earn money for referring their fans to the platform. Specifically, they can get $2 for every fan that signs up for BandsInTown Plus (whether they complete the free trial and pay or not).
As far as affiliate referral programs go, it's very low-risk for both sides. On the one hand, artists only get $2 for each sign-up. For most platforms with referral programs, this number is closer to anywhere from $20 for basic monthly services to $200 for financial products like credit cards and bank accounts.
But on the other hand, artists get the money even if the person who signs up ultimately cancels their trial before paying anything. That's a gamble on BandsInTown's side, though one they're ultimately willing to take. If they figure the average customer stays subscribed for at least 3 months, that's about $30 in revenue, meaning if an artist gets 14 people to sign up and only one ends up paying, it's still a net positive for BandsInTown.
BandsInTown is using a popular platform called AWIN to run the affiliate referral service. Artists can forego AWIN signup fees using a code BandsInTown provides. The company also tells us, "We will certainly provide AWIN sign up along with payments to any affiliate."
It's hard to say how much sway any one artist will have with an affiliate program if they're not also on the upcoming BandsInTown Plus lineup.
Anything Else To Know?
It's early. There will still be plenty of answers coming out around the platform — and a lot more questions, too. BandsInTown bills Plus as an opportunity to "get back" to live music while supporting artists at the same time.
The scale to which that is actually true compared to platforms like Twitch, Sessions, and YouTube, where thousands upon thousands of artists have already been trying to "get back" to live music and make money, remains to be seen.
It's a big experiment, but an admirable one. Hopefully BandsInTown Plus can create the type of experience that feels unique enough to maintain its own place in entertainment, even once live concerts and festivals come back in full swing.