Spotify launches a virtual concert series with The Black Keys and more

The past year has been utterly devastating to the music industry generally, and live music in particular. Artists who make a living touring have been forced to find alternative ways to make ends meet, while those among us who once frequented live events have been looking for ways to plug the hole created by wide-scale shutdowns.

A number of music-related platforms have spent much of the pandemic looking to offer some semblance of the concert-going experience, ranging from live venues to services like Bandcamp. Today, Spotify is announcing the launch of a new feature designed to provide a live-show experience remotely. Venues in many areas are beginning to reopen, but even fans may be cautious to return to packed, indoor events.

The streaming service is announcing a series of shows starting with dates this month and next, including names like The Black Keys, Rag’n’Bone Man, Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff, Leon Bridges and girl in red. Spotify is billing them as “prerecorded livestreams” — a bit of an oxymoron, that. I recognize that livestream has become kind of a catchall, but it loses some meaning when the thing isn’t, you know, live.

Rather than streaming straight from a venue, the service is taking the somewhat novel approach of letting the artist choose the spot for the pre-recorded show. That means live-show venues in the case of The Black Keys and something more creative for Antonoff, who shot his segment on a bus traveling from Brooklyn to Springsteen’s old stomping ground, Asbury Park, New Jersey (greetings).

“We have always been a band that loves to play live in venues of all shapes and sizes,” The Black Keys said in a release tied to the news. “The past year has been tough for musicians and fans alike, so we wanted to find a way to share this live performance of songs from our new project, Delta Kream, from a place we love, the Blue Front Café, the oldest active juke joint in America. We’re excited to be a part of this new initiative with Spotify that will give fans a great way to connect with their favorite artists.”

The shows run 40-75 minutes and run $15 a pop. The price seems a bit high to stream a pre-recorded concert, but fans of the groups will likely appreciate what’s being billed as an “intimate” look at one of their favorite artists — though intimacy is, in part, limited as the company will be selling unlimited tickets to the events. The service isn’t revealing how large of a cut artists will get, simply telling TechCrunch, “All artists will receive a guaranteed fee for their participation in the livestream.”

Streaming the shows requires a Spotify account — either premium or free.