From Beyoncé’s Homecoming to MTV Unplugged, it seems that the trend for artists releasing live albums and concert films is unlikely to die down any time soon. Some argue that such media offers a unique, immersive experience for music fans, allowing them to experience a ‘live’ performance, without the inconvenience and expense of having to attend in person.
However, others claim that live albums and concert films are little more than a cynical excuse to make even more money out of music fans, on top of the high prices already charged for concert tickets and merchandise.
It’s easy to see why such allegations are aimed at concert films. At the end of the day, they are little more than scenes of concert footage, mixed with occasional backstage interviews. Ultimately, viewers gain little that they couldn’t have gained from watching YouTube videos of their favourite acts performing, or seeing them interviewed on TV. Plus, if someone is so dedicated a fan of an act that they want to sit through a two-hour long film on them, it seems likely that they may have shelled out to see them in concert anyway, meaning the film doesn’t actually offer them a new experience.
Live albums don’t pretend to be a substitute for a concert
Then there’s the issue of financial gain- concert films are relatively inexpensive to produce, since producers simply film an event that is occurring anyway, yet tickets to see them and DVDs are sold at high prices.
Beyoncé was recently praised for her decision to release her Homecoming film on Netflix, meaning it is available for free for all Netflix subscribers. Yet, let’s not forget that Netflix will still profit from this venture, since some of Beyoncé’s army of fans are likely to have signed up for new subscriptions to the streaming service just so they can watch the film.
Live albums, however, are a different experience altogether. They don’t pretend to let audiences experience a concert from the ‘point of view’ of an artist, or pretend to be a substitute for attending an actual concert- they simply offer an alternative way of listening to some of your favourite tracks. Anyone who’s listened to a live album will know that they contain little quirks and ‘imperfections’ that make them different to any other recording, from Bruce Springsteen laughing mid-song to Elvis chatting to his audience.
Live albums don’t pretend to be a substitute for a concert, and are aware that they are simply a slightly ‘different’ way of enjoying our favourite tracks. For this reason, they will always be a better experience than an underwhelming concert film.