How to find performances from the likes of Bowie, Beyonce and Billie Eilish to enjoy from the comfort of your own home.
Festival season would normally be kicking off about now (mid-May), but all of them have been cancelled (or will probably be) for this summer, along with any other live music concerts.
And it’ll be a long time – potentially 2021 – before we get to attend any gigs or concerts again. I saw classic Britpop band Supergrass a few weeks before lockdown came in, so at least I managed to get a gig fix in this year.
Yes, there could be innovations that allow us to experience some kinds of live music while social distancing (there’s been a drive-in concert in Denmark), but these aren’t going to widespread.
So what’s the alternative? Overall, the best place for us to get the live music experience is probably going to be in our homes.
There have been a number of live performances on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. They’re largely musician in their bedrooms gently belting out low-key acoustic numbers. Which are fine. But I much prefer something closer to a proper live show.
So I’ve been dipping into archive shows online and watching classic concerts on my TV.
Where to find free concerts & replays online
There are so many concerts out there you just need to get searching on one of the following platforms.
I’ve compiled a list of 50 performances which I think are worth watching. I’ve tried to cater to lots of different genres and tastes (including artists I know are popular but not really to my taste) so there’s hopefully something for everyone.
I’ll also share the best of any new shows announced in my weekly Cheap Night In round-up articles.
For the last five years or so, I’ve had my own mini-festivals at home using concerts broadcast on BBC iPlayer such as Glastonbury and the 6 Music Festival.
These have been great, but tend to disappear after 30 days leaving a limited selection outside the summer.
BBC4 does tend to broadcast the odd classic concerts through the year so it’s always worth a look to see what’s available. The BBC has promised to show loads of classic Glastonbury shows at the end of June in lieu of the proper festival.
During lockdown many artists (or their estates) have been releasing performances on their own YouTube channels, including Radiohead and Prince.
And this discovery has led me down a few online rabbit holes. There are thousands of archive performances uploaded to the internet – and since lockdown began I’ve spent hour after hour watching all sorts of classic performances.
I’ve been able to catch some of my favourite bands, plus watch artists in their prime with shows from the 60s, 70s and 80s. A limited release Prince show last week was the highlight.
Gigs on paid for streaming services
There are also a number of concert films on Amazon Prime, Netflix and Sky Arts (available on NOW TV and Sky TV).
These are subscription services so you will pay – but are worth checking out if you already have them. There are also ways to save money on each of these platforms.
Netflix has the smallest selection but they are newer shows from the likes of Beyonce and Taylor Swift.
Amazon Prime has concert films from mainly older acts. It’s harder to filter searches here to just live performances so it’s trial and error whether you’ll get a gig or a documentary.
Here’s a search for the word “live” in the music genre for titles included for free with a Prime membership.
Sky Arts / Now TV
The biggest selection is via Sky Arts, but again most of the performers are from the 90s and earlier, even if the performances themselves are more recent.
The cheapest way to get this channel is to ditch your Sky or Virgin subscription and instead get a monthly pass from Now TV.
How to watch the concerts at home
Obviously you can watch all these streaming services on your computer or via an app on your phone or tablet. But the best way to watch is going to be on your biggest screen with the best sound – which probably means your TV.
Most smart TVs, set-top boxes, games consoles and even newer DVD/Blu-Ray players will have a YouTube app making it really easy to stream on your telly. Whether you have the Netflix, Amazon Prime or NOW TV apps is hit and miss depending on your device.
If you don’t have any of these you can buy a smart stick to plug into a spare HDMI slot. Whichever device you use you’ll obviously need decent broadband.
Some of the videos will have adverts. Most of the time an advert is only “pre-roll” which means it’s at the start of a video.
However, sometimes it could appear mid-way through, and even on multiple occasions. If this bothers you there is the option to take out a 30-day free trial of YouTube Premium, which will allow ad-free viewing.
Deciding what to watch
Obviously my list will have some gaps, possibly your favourites, so I’ve got a few tips to help you find more.
Filter your searches
On YouTube select the filer tab and you will be able to just see videos over 20 minutes long on your search results.
Check the quality
I found quite a few concert videos listed which are just recordings from the mosh pit via a mobile phone. It’s not always clear this is the case until you watch them, so check them before you get excited about what you’re going to watch.
Finding out which songs are played
Sometimes you might only know a band’s early stuff, or perhaps you don’t want to sit through a three-hour concert (Hello Bruce Springsteen and Led Zeppelin!).
Well if you’re lucky, a handful of the videos on YouTube will not only list the songs played but also provide the times so you can skip ahead.
If not you can use the website Setlist.fm to see what songs are played on a particular gig. Armed with this you can pick one gig over another, or fast forward between songs.
Curating your own festival
if you’ve ever enjoyed the pub chat with friends to decide your “Fantasy Festival” lineup then you have the chance to curate your ultimate day of bands – and actually watch them!
YouTube has a playlist feature where the next video will autoplay. I’ve used this to compile a list of those I want to watch, and put them in the order I want them to play.
If you want to take it a little further I also found this website that will allow you to generate your own festival poster based on the bands you’d want to see.
Is it legal to watch these videos?
If you’re streaming on iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime or NOW TV then everything is absolutely above board. It’s less clear cut on YouTube.
Most of the concerts you find there aren’t official uploads by the artists, labels or events. Instead someone has just posted a copy they don’t have the rights to.
However, YouTube does have some clever licencing software and most copyright holders can demand videos are removed.
On that basis, try as much as possible to only watch those videos which at least have an acknowledgement of copyright and licensing.
This should mean the artists will get some payment. But if you want to make sure artists are properly remunerated then you can always choose to subsequently buy an album for any of the gigs you watch.
You could also argue that if a video has been left on there for years that the copyright holders aren’t overly worried.
50 live concerts you can watch online
To get you started I’ve looked through all the platforms to find a selection of bands and artists from The Rolling Stones to Taylor Swift to The XX all available to watch right now.