Beyonc brings it home: why concert films are big again
The genre makes financial sense for Netflix and artists, as well as offering stars the control they crave
As a camera makes its way through a sea of backing dancers, majorettes and marching bands, Beyonc appears in a sequined robe and headdress reminiscent of Queen Nefertiti. This is the climax of Coachella 2018, and for the next two hours of Netflixs Homecoming we are ringside for a career-defining performance from pops biggest star.
Welcome to the new era of the concert film: big, bold and eminently streamable.
Once the preserve of rock musics biggest names such as the Rolling Stones (Gimme Shelter), Pink Floyd (Live from Pompeii) and Led Zeppelin (Song Remains The Same) concert films have evolved in the streaming era, providing a valued income source for artists and an easy win for the streaming giants.
As well as Homecoming, Netflix is also releasing Amazing Grace the concert film of Aretha Franklins gospel album of the same name on 10 May. That follows Taylor Swifts Reputation, which came out on New Years Day, and the December 2018 release of Bruce Springsteens Springsteen on Broadway. In January Netflix announced Martin Scorsese would direct a documentary about Bob Dylans Rolling Thunder Revue tour, which is due out later this year.
The author and music industry expert Eamonn Forde says the resurgence of interest in concert films has been fuelled in part by streaming services need for content without the financial burden of drama. Game of Thrones costs HBO a reported $15m per episode, said Forde. [With concert films] Netflix are just going to an existing concert. You can get impressive footage for, comparatively, not that much money. If you compare that to a 90-minute episode of original drama, the overheads are really low.
Forde sees concert films as being similar to standup specials, which Netflix has invested heavily in, not only in that they are cheap to produce but also that they make sense for acts who want to squeeze more cash out of touring, which has notoriously narrow profit margins. The overheads for a tour are quite high you dont really make profit on a tour until the last 10% or 15% of ticket sales, he said. So if Netflix comes along and says Well give you x amount of money, the artists will take it. Its pure profit.
As well as traditional concert films, acts are also using Coachella to release more experimental projects. Such is the case with Guava Island by Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover), a film about a fictional Caribbean country ruled by a despotic factory owner which he co-starred in alongside Rihanna. Featuring a performance of his hit song This Is America, it was released on Amazon Prime last weekend to tie in with his headline slot at the California festival.