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Project led by MDX’s Julia Haferkorn receives major grant from UK Research & Innovation Covid-19 response fund

Research will produce Open Access toolkit to help musicians get performing virtually and engaging with online audiences

A project led by Middlesex University Senior Lecturer in Music Business and Arts Management Julia Haferkorn has won a £50,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of UK Research and Innovation's rapid response to Covid-19.

Haferkorn and her co-investigators, MDX Popular Music lecturer Sam Leak and Lecturer in Digital Innovation at King’s College London, Brian Kavanagh, will investigate optimum ways for musicians to monetise live streamed performances. The project is intended to be an immediately useful exercise in knowledge transfer, to enable musicians quickly and effectively to access new income streams.

An outcome of the research will be an Open Access report for musicians – a toolkit featuring best practice guidelines. This will cover areas such as the staging of virtual concerts; streaming platforms; methods of generating income; collaboration with venues and online audience engagement. The report will be published in April 2021.

“The vast majority of musicians have been hit very hard financially by the pandemic," says Julia. "We are hoping that our report will make it easier for musicians to use monetised live streams as an additional income source". The research includes a survey, conducted in partnership with the Incorporated Society of Musicians, producers Serious, the Music Venue Trust, Musicians’ Union and the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre (SPARC)  on what musicians and live music consumers expect back from livestreaming, and why musicians aren't currently doing more of it. Key findings from the report will be disseminated to over 50,000 UK musicians by the project’s partners.

The abstract for the project argues that “as live streaming of performances is a relatively new activity in the music sector, many musicians are unfamiliar with aspects such as the technology required, platforms available, and ways of engaging with audiences online”, adding that those musicians who are creating livestreams typically do not monetise them.

Live streaming opens up a number of opportunities, Haferkorn says – bringing together audiences for niche music from different locations and, for genres like classical music, reaching a younger audience put off by traditional concert halls. The researchers suggest much can be learned from other forms of self-expression and entertainment, including gaming, where monetised live streams on platforms such as Twitch form an essential part of the industry.

Sam Leak, a jazz pianist by profession who this year conducted a livestream "tour" for venues around the UK and set up a virtual jazz club for concerts he curated for the London Jazz Festival, says: "the internet is the Wild West when it comes to monetizing music. With this project I hope we will be able to provide the facts and figures necessary to help musicians to operate in this new and potentially intimidating performance format".

Brian Kavanagh says: “We want to better understand the logic of the economics that define online streaming models. This includes questions such as how are musicians generating income from online events and is this income compensating for loss of earnings during Covid-19? By engaging professional musicians, we intend to identify the potential barriers they face as they attempt to reimagine relationships with audiences in an online world in which it is hugely challenging to recreate the atmosphere of a live concert”.

Professional musicians or regular live music event attendees happy to fill in the survey about their experience and expectations of live streams and/or wanting to be notified once the report has been published can register at the project's website. Participants do not need to have watched or performed in a live stream to fill in the survey.

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