April 20, 2024

Mainstream musicians have made a trend out of going on tour and releasing documentaries shortly afterward documenting the tour, which could perhaps compensate for their concerts’ skyrocketing ticket prices.

Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lil Nas X, Blackpink and more are have all recently filmed while on tour for upcoming documentaries. This trend is not new, as artists such as Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande have also released films, in addition to the many iconic music documentaries of decades past.

“When they filmed their documentaries, in a way, it kind of feels like my serotonin.”

Joanna Medina,
junior public relations major

‘Taylor Swift: The Era’s Tour” will be released on Oct. 13. So far, no set date has been announced for the other artists, as many are in early production.

“It’s often a behind-the-scenes look at the artist and how they make their music, or what goes into producing engaging concert experiences for audiences. In some cases, it can give fans a better perspective on who the artist really is, in the eyes of God, so to speak,” said Michael Eaton, professor of film studies and production. “From a filmmaker’s perspective, there is a long history of compelling documentaries being made about musical artists by major filmmakers.”

A documentary aims to bring awareness to a broader audience and tell important unknown stories. Documentaries about artists on tour allow fans to explore the backstage and get behind-the-scenes footage. Though these artists have released documentaries in the past, these projects are being released at a faster rate while, in some cases, tours are still ongoing. The reasoning could be due to lost revenue.

“Spotify notoriously pays very little to the artist per song played, and artists primarily get paid through their concerts and other live performances,” Eaton said. “I think the documentaries of concerts are primarily a way to increase revenue from the concerts by fans who didn’t see the concert or even fans who did see it.”

While they can be viewed as a way of making money for larger artists, tour documentaries can have multiple applications.

“I think it works as a money grab and a way to include fans who couldn’t make it to the concert or who joined the fandom later and want to see a show they never could without it,” said Brooke Donovan, senior film production major. “I think most things in any entertainment industry do things that have multiple intentions and can guarantee revenue, so I believe it serves multiple purposes.” 

Documentaries and live music are arguably different experiences. 

However, some would say it is worth seeing the documentary instead of the live performance for financial reasons or simply because tickets to see major acts have become difficult to secure.

“I think both are worth it. Concerts are fun to attend with family and friends. Sometimes we’re just not able to get tickets to a concert for whatever reason, including the fact that Ticketmaster is not an efficient system for purchasing tickets and it often takes hours of your time to secure tickets for concerts such as Taylor Swift,” Eaton said.

Concerts are known for the adrenaline rush one feels from seeing one of their favorite artists live. But the cost of when resale tickets skyrockets as high as it has for major tours, it becomes harder for potential concert-goers to prioritize the joy of sharing that immersive experience with their friends. The most expensive resale ticket to see Taylor Swift during her Eras Tour was $11,000, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The concert is also about more than just the artist. It is about all the fans and people you meet and the things that happen before and after the show,” Donovan said. “Those are the best parts of a concert experience, all of the interactions and memories you make surrounding the show.”

Joanna Medina, senior public relations major, has been to approximately 25 concerts within the past six months. She has experience seeing artists and smaller bands in smaller venues, and she said the experience is more personal.

“No, I don’t think [larger tours are] worth it. If I had the money, then I would go,” Medina said. “Because of the experience you’re going to get at a smaller venue. This is my mindset, and you’re only going to see them [in person] one time.” 

A documentary, though, can be rewatched. 

“The thing with the documentaries is that I feel it’s too soon. It’s way too soon because the artists are still young. I go back to a lot of these live concerts with the artists who are dead,” Medina said. “[Take] this band called Soundgarden — they don’t exist anymore. When they filmed their documentaries, in a way, it kind of feels like my serotonin.” 

Medina said she enjoyed watching a documentary featuring one of her favorite grunge bands because she knows she will never see them again and that feeling was “bittersweet.”

Documentaries and live music are two completely different worlds. Both Medina and Donovan said they would look back on newer documentaries for memories of concerts they attended or older films to see a band that is no longer around. 

Listeners are faced with a trade-off. One may be a cost-effective experience, while the other is an intimate, in-person, immersive experience. The choice is ultimately up to the listener. 

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