Netflix-style streaming platform and virtual reality gigs may help Scottish music offset Brexit and Covid impact

Scottish musicians are being urged to create new “immersive” concert-going experiences using virtual and augmented reality to mitigate the impact of Brexit, the pandemic and the climate crisis on their work.

Singer-songwriter Katherine Priddy was among the performers at this year's Celtic Connections festival, which was staged entirely online. Picture: Gaelle Beri

A new blueprint for the future of the industry suggests venues across the country are fitted out with the latest technology to allow high-quality pay-per-view concerts and events to be beamed around the world via a new Netflix-style streaming platform dedicated to Scottish music.

It urges musicians to embrace new technology amid warnings that if constraints caused by new visa restrictions, concerns about the environmental impact of touring overseas and prolonged Covid-19 restrictions become acute “live events as we have come to know them may change dramatically.”

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The creation of a new streaming service for Scottish music offering acts a much better financial deal than the likes of Spotify or Apple and a new “crowd investment fund” are suggested to help develop audiences and generate more income for artists.

Other ideas proposed include setting up a dedicated Scottish music export office to offer visa and permit advice to acts, agents and promoters, as well as coordinate “trade missions” on behalf the sector, and the creation of a Scottish music “talent bureau” to help new and unsigned acts get off the ground.

The ideas have emerged in “Moving Forward,” a major report published by the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA), the main voice of an industry worth £430 million to the economy in 2019.

The blueprint for the future states that the UK’s departure from the European Union and the Covid-19 restrictions which were brought in nearly a year ago had caused “a major period of reflection for the sector.”

However the report also states that, helped by the dramatic changes in how new music has been produced and consumed, there was now an opportunity for the Scottish music industry to “reimagine and reposition itself in such a way as to take a lead into a new and changed set of circumstances for the music industry globally.”

Retro Video Club are among the acts appearing in Live in Leith, a new concert series launching this month which has already been filmed behind closed doors. Picture: Rory Barnes

It states: “If it is the new normal that touring overseas will become more problematic because of Covid-19 constraints, concern about environmental impact and general friction from administrative costs and burdens, should this be embraced as an opportunity to showcase talent differently?

"The growth of live streaming platforms and their acceptability, and indeed preference to many consumers, is already a well established reality in the film and television production sectors.

“A series of venues across Scotland equipped with streaming infrastructure which feed directly into a centralised production hub would create a curated and dedicated rolling stream of Scottish music distributed to a global audience.

"Developments in technology present us with ever more enticing and attractive opportunities for creating ever more compelling digital experiences through the use of virtual and augmented reality and real-time, simultaneous collaborations, and so develop much more immersive experiences.”

SMIA chair Dougal Perman said: “The Scottish music industry is full of creative, entrepreneurial people. In order to move forward, we need to be positive and progressive.

"By adopting an innovative mindset, working together and focusing efforts we can find solutions to our problems and identify and exploit new opportunities.

"We want this report to stimulate new thinking, fresh ideas and highlight ways for us to move forward.”

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