The live performance is a treasured experience for both the artist and their audience. There’s something about being up close and personal at a concert that just doesn’t compare to listening to an mp3 in your car or playing a CD in your home. A live performance appeals to multiple senses: sight, sound, smell (and even touch and taste if you are close enough to the stage and willing to buy food and drinks.) Audience members can feel the energy of the artist as she takes the stage and sings a song that’s meaningful to her. In the same way, the artist is at an advantage, as she can feed off the energy of her audience members to induce an even more compelling performance.

I recently heard about StageIt, a virtual concert or performance venue of sorts, where artists can sign up, create shows and perform for an audience from any setting. All you need is a laptop with a camera and you’re good to go. The built-in chat room lets you converse with your audience members. Every performance is live and never archived, so those watching get to experience something truly unique – a once-in-a-lifetime show that no one else will ever see again. Artists decide the details: what to perform, when to perform, where to perform and how much to charge. And when it comes to how much, in many cases, fans can pay what they want and may choose to tip the artist via the virtual tip jar.

It’s a cool concept, but how does it compare to the traditional live performance where the artist is right in front of you and not on a computer screen?

Pros of the StageIt Virtual Performance Model

1. It’s an easy way for artists to monetize without having to constantly tour, which can get expensive, especially for independent musicians.

2. Fans get access to artists in their most intimate settings, from the studio to their living room. This is something the traditional live performance is unable to offer.

3. Artists can perform more often, connect with fans from all around the world, and charge them less to be in attendance – without dishing out half of what they make to a venue.

4. The virtual tip jar lets fans pay what they want. This can increase the amount of money an artist is able to make and fits in well with the subscription model that more and more independent artists are choosing these days. (The subscription model basically says “if you love me, you’ll support me” and encourages fans to do so through a monetary subscription that’s paid at regular intervals in exchange for exclusive content released on a regular basis. It’s the model that AmericaXL artists are using to establish and maintain their true fan base.)

5. In addition to Kickstarter and other online campaigns, artists can use the virtual live performance as a fundraising tool for their next project.

Cons of the StageIt Virtual Performance Model

As stated above, this model does not appeal to all senses in the same way that a traditional live performance in a brick-and-mortar venue would. As a result, it may be more difficult for artists and fans to truly connect. At the same time, it could be argued that inviting your fans into an intimate setting like your home, through a virtual concert, creates a different type of connection, which is still very real and unique.

Using Online Concerts to Build Your Audience

Is it possible to use StageIt to build your audience if you’re a new artist with a very small fan base?

I’d say yes, it’s possible, but not likely to happen easily or quickly. I think you’d still need to create evergreen content like blog posts and videos to connect with others via the Internet. Because StageIt concerts are never archived, people who aren’t your fans at the moment you perform won’t likely become your fans unless they see your content prior to a performance. In the same way that artists must promote their live shows at brick-and-mortar venues prior to performing, I believe they would have to use sites that archive content to promote and market themselves prior to creating and playing a StageIt show. As an independent musician, I’d like to give StageIt a try, but not until I’ve built my audience online first.

What do you think? Is this the future of the live performance? Will artists be able to choose virtual concerts as an exclusive way to perform, or are live, brick-and-mortar venues still necessary to maintain true connections between artists and fans?