“Musicians Monetize Internet and Fan Power in the New Music Economy”

By: Jessica Brant

Verzuz battles and virtual concerts are some of the popular ways musicians have learned to make money during the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 was an excruciatingly painful year for many creative types, especially professional musicians whose bulk sales stem from touring, merchandise, and live concerts. With the entire world shut down, what was an artist to do? Enter Timbaland and Swizz Beats, two successful producers whose Verzuz battle series was a boon for the new music economy.

For those who don’t know, Verzuz is a webcast series where two artists go toe-to-toe or battle to prove whose body of work is the greatest. The platform’s popularity grew as more musicians hopped on board to boost their brands. “Without advertising, 30,000 people started to  pay attention. It was just us up there  going at it. Engagement on Instagram Live is usually 30, 40 seconds long—not four or five hours,” Swizz Beats told GQ earlier this year.

Brandy vs. Monica, and DMX vs. Snoop Dogg were among some of the fan’s favorite performances. According to Billboard, six million people tuned into the Brandy and Monica battle – the most-watched Verzuz to date. The duo garnered a combined 21.9 million streams for their respective catalogs. Monica’s 2003 hit, “So Gone,” skyrocketed from 356,000 clicks to 840,000 clicks after the battle. Brandy’s  2020 single “Borderline”  drew in 571,000 streams. DMX and Snoop Dogg also enjoyed impressively high streaming numbers. The East Coast vs. West Coast pairing garnered 1.4-million views during the July broadcast.

Recently, Verzuz was acquired by Triller, an entertainment-based platform used by musicians and celebrities. The acquisition means even larger viewership numbers, as Triller is reported to enjoy between 50 and 65 million active monthly users.  “By putting Verzuz in the Triller Network, it has expanded the Verzuz brand to go side by side with the powerful Triller app. We will be able to continue to grow and evolve the music business as a whole, as we have been doing,” Swizz Beats and Timbaland jointly told Complex magazine.

Also, online music subscription sales on platforms such as Spotify rose 70 percent this year.  Following the Vervez  trend, musicians are hosting live performances on Facebook and Instagram Live. These concerts provide more intimate interactions between fans and when they choose to release new music, perform old sets or host private shows. Virtual formats that existed before the pandemic, such as  NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, are thriving under COVID-19 restrictions. Concert apps have also adjusted to the new music economy. Songkick, Live Nation, and Bandsintown all feature up-to-date calendars of live stream events in every city.

Even as ticket sales increase for live events in the coming months, it is predicted that the popularity of Verzuz match-ups will continue to trend. People enjoy having perks at home, and the convenience of virtual concerts allows fans to buy a front row experience without the extra fuss.