Over the last 7 months, we have seen our lives in 2020 be very promising as we entered the new decade, only then to go completely upside down, where we are now forced to stay inside of our homes.
Within the past few months of lockdown many events have been forced to cancel due to the pandemic and this alone could lead to 80% of venues being at risk of shutting down after COVID-19, if the recently announced Government emergency funding for the performing arts doesn’t reach organisations soon.
Recently, streaming platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime have seen their usage increase; with Netflix having added more than 10 million users to the end of July. Some theatres are using these platforms to live stream their plays and events.
Recently, streaming platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime have seen their usage increase; with Netflix having added more than 10 million users to the end of July. Some theatres are using these platforms to live stream their plays and events. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Chris Martin have even used these methods to do virtual concerts for their fans and charitable causes.
But with many of us turning to online distribution what about the cost and how long before all of these arts content requires paid subscriptions or one-off rentals?
Disney has recently stopped the free 7-day trial on their Disney+ streaming service at exactly the time they were premiering Hamilton and The Old Vic is currently experimenting with a variety of pricing approaches for their virtual tickets at different prices for their online performances, despite the online experience being the exact same.
Being able to access the arts at a time of crisis, without having to leave our homes seems like a miracle enabling West End and Broadway lovers to enjoy these shows. But with Disney+, YouTube and Netflix monopolizing these sectors, will this lead to corporations taking advantage of the situation and exploiting struggling industries for their own benefit?
We have seen this recently with creators on platforms such as YouTube, struggling to earn a steady income due to the terms of service and copyright rules (the platform requires to be friendly to advertisers to earn more money), which is helping videos be forcefully removed and demonetized due to these rules, making it harder for creators to make content.
However, watching online performances can help the sector to steadily get back on track as this could lead to new startups on online productions and potentially increased monetization for creators. But as the usage of these services increases, there is the possibility of a decrease in traditional performances as the economics could prove it is cheaper to see an online gig rather than attend an actual gig in person. This could then lead to a cultural shift in the performing arts with digital audiences dominating commissioning and programming decisions, making paid digital shows a common concept.
But there’s a chance that it could affect local creatives and venues as they may struggle to get their content to appeal to a larger audience due to high costs and therefore become reliant on funding services such as Patreon. However, as these sites are still enabling the capitalist practices of social platforms, this can lead to users being forced to produce paid online content and with not everyone having the funds to help creators; this could lead to a less free internet and the death of theatre as it means that people are not able to have access to free content in the future but also those with low income having less access to the arts than ever before.
How The Entertainment Industry After Covid-19 Could Change Unexpectedly is a Boundless Ideas commission for 15-25 year olds to write opinion led pieces that speak to themes of Politics, Identity and Theatre.
Xena is a writer and photographer from London who specialises in writing about society, culture and politics.
Xena on Instagram @bluey_rose366