What makes live music so special? Man singing and crowdsurfing

What Makes Live Music So Special?

Kavina Kumar
Kavina Kumar

When expressing how music makes us feel, we may recall the quote: “where words fail, music speaks.” But what is it that makes it so special? Countless fans, communities, artists and inspirational Pinterest quotes would agree on a few things: live music speaks to our very souls, fuels our sense of identity and, as Madonna said best: “makes the people come together.”  

Music is the soundtrack to our most-treasured life moments, and 1 in 3 Australians declare it is their number one passion. Since live music is a crucial part of what makes our hospitality venues so special, we thought we’d break this down. 

Live music dominates our earning and spending

Live spending in Australia has a 3:1 cost: community benefit ratio and provides almost 70,000 job opportunities within the entertainment industry. When creatives and hospitality come together, the entertainment sector brings more of a draw than any other sporting or national event, regardless of size, and continues to grow every year! 

When we think about an enriching experience that guarantees a good time, we think of live music. Fans consider live music experiences to be an investment, alongside essential items, bills and insurance. Music is something they are happy to sacrifice for and prioritise spending a large portion of their yearly income on attending gigs. Global entertainment company; Live Nation reported that ticket sales had surpassed $1.8B for the first half of 2022, which unsurprisingly correlates to music artists relying on live performance as their most viable source of income. 

It has the ability to regenerate

Even as the live music industry faced a temporary shutdown during our earlier COVID years, we witnessed the dynamic shift to altered live music experiences such as live streaming and virtual events to fill the void left for fans. We saw more support for artists via merch and recorded music sales and a rise in fan-funding platforms such as Patreon, Onlyfans and even the simple, Buy Me A Coffee. 

After facing a 75% setback, our booming music industry will continue to grow to $2.83B by 2025. As the consumer demand for immersive live music experiences meets the new realms of possibility that the digital age brings to each performance, it will enhance it, not replace it. 

As we adapt to the post-pandemic life, gig attendance is rejuvenating faster than ever, in no small thanks to the return of Harry Styles’ ‘Love On Tour’ sell-out shows that will encourage audiences to get back out there. The value of the live music experience is irreplaceable. It IS the glue and THEE main character.  

“Live music is better.” – Neil Young

The Power of Live report uncovered that out of 22,000 participants worldwide, 73% said they were craving IRL performances over digital more than ever, even as Spotify welcomed a record 31M in new subscribers last year. Following this, 67% reported feeling happier from live music than listening to a recording at home. 

We will travel into the middle of nowhere for Coachella and Glastonbury and plan holidays in Ibiza and Austin to immerse ourselves in the music culture and back-alley bars where our favourite stars once graced the stage. We’ll stay up to watch Nick Cave perform a lonely gig at the Alexandra Palace and try out our first VR-reality concert with Travis Scott, to try and emulate the experience, but it just isn’t the same.

Music enthusiasts want music to be a part of their everyday lives, and grand festival life isn’t sustainable either. The atmosphere of a smaller venue delivers an incomparable live experience, with intimate settings and the opportunity to bear witness to our favourite musicians up-close, not to mention the unbeatable sound quality and feeling that comes from a live show.   

“Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise. I said “listen, man, life has surface noise.” – John Peel

The surface noise that we call life is in the vibrance and energy of a live performance. We hail vinyl for its warmth and crystal clarity, but we love it because it emulates the closest sound quality to experiencing music in a live performance setting. The unique acoustics of each venue, audience participation, and the captivation of our five senses all add to the magic. 

Live music fuels identity and urban culture

Besides an economic benefit, music positively affects its surrounding environment. Live music nurtures talent, helps define our identities, gives us a sense of belonging and fosters pride in the local music achievements of our music cities. 

Victoria Music Development Office’s Consumer Insights report for 2019 stated that 40% of Australians prefer local music over other artists, and we don’t blame them. Just off the top of our heads, the Bee Gees, Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave seem synonymous with what it means to be Australian and constantly emerging, diverse Aussie artists are giving us many reasons to celebrate our home talent.  

Live music can transform a neighbourhood into a cultural hub. Accompanied by local hospitality, it adds the perfect complement to the rich heritage of a city, attracting people from around the world to come and immerse themselves in the unique soul of the region. 

Identities around pop culture and the local sound bring curious musicians of aspiring genres to the city where their music fits best, hoping for the opportunity to play amongst their peers. Just as the Ministry Of Sound and Fabric made London the epicentre of Underground dance music culture, cities like Austin and Melbourne became world-renown music capitals with the most live music venues per capita. 

It improves our mental health and wellbeing 

2018 UK study jointly conducted by O2 and Patrick Fagan from Goldsmith University found that the fortnightly attendance of live music could add a whole decade to our lives and fight off depression. After attending music events for a period of time, the study participants were less stressed and felt an increased sense of self-worth, with their overall mental stimulation raised by 75%. 

“Live music is the cure for what ails ya.” – Henry Rollins 

 There is no shortage of studies linking regular live music attendance with improved mental and physical wellbeing. Children participating in singing classes can help them feel less displaced at school, and music-inspired levels of optimism can stretch the life expectancy of older demographics and ward off symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Live music really is THE cure. 

It enriches our connection to music artists

While music now accompanies us in all walks of life, it’s hard to imagine a time before recording equipment existed. Back when the only connection between a song and a person was through the firsthand experience of a musician playing directly to an audience.

“Musicians are there in front of you, and the spectators sense their tension, which is not the case when you’re listening to a record. Your attention is more relaxed. The emotional aspect is more important in live music.”- Brian Eno

And while we can have whatever music we want right at our fingertips, there is nothing quite like seeing an artist perform. Even when we come to see our favourite DJs, being in the presence of their charisma and personal energy gives us a whole other dimension and understanding of the music. 

Musicians are some of the most followed artists on social media because we crave the social connection that comes with our personal connection to their music.  

Sharing the experience strengthens community bonds 

Regardless of gender, culture or occupation, the universal language of music speaks to us all and concludes scientist findings that live performance was used as a vehicle to communicate well before the invention of language. Fast-forward a few million years, and now 9/10 of social media users consider it important to share their live music experiences online, with 75% believing that the live music experience-sharing extends well past the actual event. 

“With so many ways to communicate at our disposal, we must not forget the transformative power of a live music experience and genuine human exchange.” – Jon Batiste

This prolonging effect is a direct product of the movement synchronisation that occurs when experiencing live music together. Otherwise known as bonding, 70% of participants at a music event showed signs of synchronisation, which was x3 stronger than that experienced from everyday interaction.  

Live music is transcendent 

Standing in a muddy field listening to music in the freezing rain would sound like the absolute worst idea of a good time if we hadn’t all done it at some point and found it akin to the most euphoric events in our lives. Live music has the power to take us further than our immediate surroundings and transport us into the world created by the music a.k.a “the journey”. Therefore getting drenched in a muddy field listening to Radiohead becomes parallel to being serenaded by Thom Yorke while cascading daisies descend over sun-drenched pastures. It’s the same. 

The beauty of experiencing live music in our local venues is that we don’t have to travel far to feel like we’re in a completely different place. Our favourite inner-city whisky haunts feel as reminiscent as the days we spent lost in the streets of NOLA, chasing jazz and sipping Hurricanes. 

With the addition of music to a grungy pub or an exotic cocktail lounge, along with our venue’s decor and sumptuous and exotic cocktails, customers can enjoy the ride to every corner of the world.  

Live music is THE best

Yes, we just one-upped Neil Young, and it’s because we really just proved it. Blame it on our national pride, our favourite neighbourhood music haunts, or the way it instantly makes us feel uplifted whenever we’re around it. We get to share it with all our mates, it features in all our best memories and gives our lives meaning. If we could see it every day we would, which is why it belongs front and centre in our venues! Play on!