Why Free Live Stream Performances Can Hurt Artists Long-Term

Why Free Live Stream Performances Can Hurt Artists Long-Term

Wait, what did Ryan from Afton just say? Free Live Stream performances can actually hurt independent and major artists in the long run?

Yes, you read that right. Each Live Stream performance should have a specific goal in mind. There are times when incorporating a free Live Stream may be a good idea. But it’s not always the best route to go.

Even if you are doing a Live Stream and donating all of the donations to a charitable organization… You probably could make that organization much more money in donations if you had a pay-per-view ticket price.

Free Live Streams Can Devalue the Artist’s Performance in the Fans Mind.

Why is your real-world concert $10 or $20, but your Live Stream is completely free? If your live concerts are $10 or $20, why isn’t your Live Stream $5 or $10?

The perception of a “FREE” event subconsciously devalues the event in people’s mind. Why is it free? It is not good? Is it not worth people paying for?

Fans will assume you’re not planning to put much effort into your Live Stream – because the price of “free” makes them think it’s not something you think is worth paying for.

Fan Retention Throughout Live Stream is Much Lower for Free Streams

Free Live Streams typically have Fans hopping in for a few minutes and then they leave.

For example, the Dave Matthews Band has done a few Live Streams on Facebook Live (and I’m a big Dave Matthews fan). However, it wasn’t on my calendar since it was free, so when it came on I was on the go, jumped in for 2 songs, and then left. If he had done a $9.99 or $19.99 pay-per-view show, I would have bought a ticket, put it on my calendar, and blocked off that night to watch it on my big flat screen TV with a drink in hand on my couch. Did I tip Dave Matthews Band during their Live Stream? No, I was distracted, on the go, and only watched a couple songs – I didn’t even think to tip.

Remember, the retention of viewers during the stream is extremely low. But, if fans pay $5.99 or $9.99 for the Live Stream they tend to put it on their calendar, they are ready to watch it, and they STAY THE ENTIRE DURATION OF THE SHOW.

This Can Lead to Far Fewer Fan Tips

Free shows generally have far less Fan Tips than a pay-per-view Live Stream show. I believe it’s because any “mild” fans that hopped in because it was free are not into you enough to tip you. Whereas the type of fans that will tip you during a Live Stream, are the very same fans that would have happily paid $5.99 to $9.99 to buy your Live Stream ticket.

Not only that, but when Fans watch your entire Live Stream and are committed to it, they tip more, and tip more often. Most pay-per-view Live Streams see the same fans tip multiple time throughout the set. The artist thanks them, gives them a shout out, they feel good about it, and 3 songs later they send the artist more money.

This is the power of pay-per-view Live Streams. You make money off of the ticket price and your fans are much more likely to tip you throughout the performance. This all equates to a more engaged crowd – and more money in your pocket.

You can get 1,000 fans hopping into a free stream, not committed to it, and then they’ll leave after a few minutes without even being engaged enough to remember to tip you.

What Habits are You Forming for Your Fans?

When I was in a band, I had some friends that I would always give a free CD to every time we released an album. After our 3rd album was released, we spent 3x the recording budget on it. But my friends who were “trained” to expect my CD for free in the past, now had a hard time understanding why they should pay me this time for my new CD.

Don’t form bad habits with your fans. Be gracious to them, connect with them, do nice things for them – but don’t train them to expect your music and your live performances as a “freebie” not worth paying for!

This is why many times you’ll see a local band put on a FREE show in a park have much lower attendance than a paid concert in a music venue with a $8 or $10 ticket price. A flyer that promotes a “free” show in many ways tells the person this event was not worth paying money for.

Anytime you offer your live performance to fans for free (Live Stream or in the real-world) you’re training them to get used to not paying to see you perform… That’s a dangerous habit to put your fans into.

If you promote your Live Stream effectively and plan out your Live Stream to be unique, special, and an event not to be missed you can easily get your fans and friends to spend a few bucks and buy a pay-per-view ticket!

So When Should You Live Stream for Free?

Good question. The MyAfton LiveStream team believes that a full performance FREE Live Stream should be rarely given.

A better idea is to use short Free Live Streams on social media (Facebook Live, YouTube Live) as a PROMOTION MECHANISM for your upcoming pay-per-view Live Stream. It’s like a teaser. Play a song, then engage with your viewers and tell them why your upcoming pay-per-view Live Stream is not to be missed. Play another song, or a medley of songs. You don’t want to give them your whole show – just a taste.

Show your fans, this is just a taste of what to expect in your upcoming paid Live Stream. This is where you tell them about your contest, that they get to help vote on your set list, why this next Live Stream is special and COMPLETELY WORTH the $5.99 or $9.99 price point.

Short Live Streams can be good for marketing purposes or to gain new fans. But again, don’t give them the whole show for free. Give them a taste, get them interested, and then promote your upcoming pay-per-view Live Stream.

Another time you may want to Live Stream is if you are just doing it for fun for a charitable organization. If you are not promoting to your fan base and a charity wants you to perform for them to help raise money for their organization, that could make sense.

But think about what the goal of your Live Stream is. There is so much money left on the table by artists that are continuously Live Streaming for free. Their hearts are in the right place. But if you think about it – fans of an artist don’t want to milk the artist for freebies. Real music fans of an artist WANT to give them money, support them, and keep fueling their music career.

Now that you have the confidence to start charging for your Live Stream performances, and now that you’ve seen some of the disadvantages to performing full Live Streams for free – let’s get you paid. Head over to MyAfton LiveStream and let’s see what you can do!

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Ryan Kintz
Co-Founder of Afton at Afton Shows
Since starting the company in 2004, Ryan has held to our founding principle, that every talented unsigned artist deserves a chance to get onstage. When he’s not working, Ryan likes to play guitar, golf, disc golf,
snowboard, travel and spend time with family and friends. He’s been an avid animal lover, and Vegan, since 2013. Ryan is a Booking Manager, runs day to day operations, creates new artist services, and constantly optimizes how our booking and ticketing platforms can help our artists succeed. He also is the head of our national tours division for signed, nationally touring acts.