Are Streaming and Piracy Good for the Live Comedy and Live Music Industry?


When was the last time you paid for a music or movie download? When was the last time you pirated a movie? If you are like the majority of Americans, the last time you pirated will come to mind as quickly as the last time you paid. This is GOOD news for the live entertainment industry.

Live entertainment has grown exponentially since the release of the numerous notorious music streaming and downloading websites out there. Everything from live stand-up comedy shows (including famous comedians and the rising stars), to music, to famous speeches (think George W. Bush speaking at Yale’s graduation ceremony), can be downloaded on the web.

Yet, it seems that the more artists and comedians give music away, the more their comedy shows and concerts sell out. Perhaps the key to it is in a quote based on a study of 16,000 individuals that “the majority of the music that is consumed illegally…would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available”. Some people will pay for comedy shows, but only for the comedians they really know and trust. Yet the same people will listen to a lot more recorded live comedy shows if the comedy shows are made available to them for free. Furthermore, one study found that for every ten-percent increase free audio downloads, a two percent increase in legal audio sales followed. Another source, Columbia University’s American Assembly, goes as far as stating that music downloaders and peer-to-peer sharers have “significantly higher legal purchases of digital music than their non-P2P using peers–around 30% higher among US P2P users.” So it’s actually those who sometimes pirate comedy shows who are spending the most on comedy downloads.

Another important factor is that streaming sites actually generate a significant amount of capital for comedians and their publishers (assuming that they are played repeatedly). First place for revenue goes to ITunes, with a close second from a popular streaming site (Spotify, anyone?). Comedians earn between $5,000 and $7,000 per million plays on streaming sites (roughly $0.005-$0.007 per play), versus $0.07-$0.09 on a $0.99 online download. One expert points out that “Artists didn’t make big money from CDs when they were introduced, either…They were a specialty thing, and had a lower royalty rate. Then, as it became mainstream, the royalties went up. And that’s what will happen here.” As the streaming industry evolves, so will its ways of generating revenue, for comedians and industry magnates alike.

So what about live comedy shows? Well, much of current debate in the recording industry (comedy, music, live comedy, live music, etc.) centers around improvement of the quality of live performances. It is no longer a question of whether people will stream, or even pirate, but how the industry can exist and even thrive in a market where that is standard practice. The chief executive of BMG Rights Management said that “no artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business”, since the majority of income for comedians and musicians alike comes from their performances. Comedian Tom Segura’s “Thrilled” and Christina Pazsitzky’s “It’s Hard Being a Person” have done exceptionally well on ITunes. Yet these comedians are continuing to perform on their live comedy tours. In fact, their comedy sales are perhaps the largest contributing factor to their success on recent comedy tours.

Furthermore, these comedians are more than willing to put their shows on streaming sites. Comedian Joey Diaz reached #1 bestseller on ITunes, yet is available for streaming on any of the well-known streaming sites, as are Christina Pazsitzky and Tom Segura’s live comedy shows. The truth is, their streams, downloads and comedy track sales drive their comedy ticket sales. Making up-and-coming comedians available for free or for streaming allows potential comedy ticket purchasers to check out a variety of rising stars. As the saying goes, “adopt, adapt, and improve”; in this case, it is the comedians who have harnessed the turbines of free and streaming music, not the ones who are available for purchase only (if that’s even possible), who end up selling the most tickets.

As a result, the comedy shows you see, whether local or national, are going to be the best ones out there, since everyone has already listened to the comedians and only then purchased the tickets (thereby weeding out the boring or minimally funny comedians). Perhaps the best part of all this is that comedy fans can check out world famous as well as emerging comedians online first, after which they can purchase live comedy tickets for the best comedians.

By Jacob Maude


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