With Live Shows Still Off, Le Poisson Rouge Is Turning to Livestream Subscriptions

As the live music industry passes six months without shows, Le Poisson Rouge, the acclaimed independent New York music venue, announced on Wednesday that it is launching a new subscription livestream service in an effort to drum up some revenue while awaiting live music’s return.

The shows from the subscription — a $20-per-month service called LPR.tv — will be streamed to fans from the venue’s audience-less stage. While venues have been pulling off socially distanced outdoor shows, it’s an unlikely option for indoor venues in major metropolitan areas. Le Poisson Rouge said it plans on airing five or more shows per month from its empty venue space, and it has booked shows as far out as January, with acts like Cults and Laraaji as two of the first slate to play. With as little an idea of when concerts can return as when the pandemic started (and with a very limited time table before many venues will start permanently closing), Le Poisson Rouge couldn’t wait any longer and launched an alternative.

“There comes a point where standing still is a greater risk than making a move. A point where we have to put points on the board and playing defense simply will not cut it,” Le Poisson Rouge co-founder David Handler said in a statement. “Our venue has been closed for a half a year now and, like nearly everyone in our industry, we’ve battened down the hatches as much as possible to weather the storm, but still it feels like we are no closer to live music venues reopening than when this all began. We can no longer continue to wait in fear while others decide whether live music is essential or not. In short, we have to switch from defense to offense.”

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Le Poisson Rouge isn’t the first venue to take to the subscription format, or to try paid ticketed livestreaming as a whole: The Hideout, a popular small venue in Chicago, started a $25-per-month subscription on NoonChorus a few weeks ago and currently has about 100 paying subscribers, the venue tells Rolling Stone.

That’s far from enough to cover their expenses, and owner Katie Tutten and talent buyer Sully Lewis are quick to reiterate that getting the Save Our Stages bill passed and getting fans back in venues when it’s safe are still the only truly viable options. But along with individual livestream show ticket sales and hawking old merchandise, it’s a way to connect with fans and earn some cash while other options are scarce.

Elsewhere, several popular and established independent venues across the country have taken to livestreaming in an effort to drum up some cash, with venues like the Whisky a Go Go and Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles airing ticketed shows in the past several months. Paid livestreams have proven a potentially lucrative business for musicians well past the pandemic, and while venues seem to start trying streams out too, it’s unclear how much they can bolster concert sites, which have more overhead and rely more on in-person purchases like alcohol and food.

“We’ve reinvented our business model twice since we closed,” Lewis says. “As far as being hopeful in there being a real end to this, we can’t just wait.”

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