Some say the music industry is dying. Others blame Spotify, but not all is lost. To deal with the shifting profit models imposed by music streaming services, most high-caliber musicians have been riding the tailwinds of a global increase in concert attendance to perform their art, live. As more artists cash in on gigs and festivals, ticket prices have skyrocketed, urging fans to take long before they choose to go that Radiohead concert they’ve always wanted to attend.
Needless to say, now more than ever live performances can make or break artists. People aren’t happy with a good show; they also want talent. So for the university dropout forming a band in his parents’ garage, delivering half-decent lyrics and wonky guitar solos isn’t enough anymore.
Fortunately, some radios and music enterprises have made it easy for people to choose whom to see live and whom not to: say hello to live session culture. A quick search on YouTube and you’ll come around tens of channels that invite artists to perform live in a relaxed, intimate setting. The live nature of the sessions allows the artists’ talent to shine through, making it ever so simple for people to make their minds up and purchase their concert tickets.
Not every live session channel was made equal, though. So here is a comprehensive list of the 8 live session channels on YouTube that we liked the most.
BBC Radio 1: Live Lounge
BBC’s Live Lounge produces unique content. Many artists, famous and emerging, come to the English broadcaster’s studio to perform not only their own hits but also covers of songs they like, with an original twist.
KEXP is a Seattle-based radio with a great YouTube channel. While they ask artists like Florence & the Machine, Alt-J, and Macklemore to perform their own songs, they also give longer performances that show a broad perspective of the artists’ songs, genre, and overall vibe.
NPR Music: Tiny Desk Concerts
NPR is more than a radio or a YouTube channel; it represents a career milestone for many singers and musicians. Once you perform at NPR, you can safely say that your road to success has been paved out for you. The homely atmosphere of the Tiny Desk Concerts provides an intimate, friendly space for artists to not only showcase their talent, but to have fun while doing so.
Pitchfork is a bit different in its content. While the YouTube channel releases full concerts and live sessions, it also engages in quirky interviews with selected artists, asking them to describe what they think is over- or underrated. On top of that, Pitchfork compiles a series of skillfully handpicked music “Top 10s”.
Triple J: Like a Version
Like a Version is a weekly segment of Triple J, an Australian indie radio. Similarly to KEXP, artists perform their hits with a combination of interviews and covers. All welcomed with the nonchalance and friendliness of the land down under.
At Audiotree they “grow music”. What a banger of a tagline. Arguably the most aesthetically pleasing and curated channel of all, Audiotree presents itself as an artist discovery platform. And they are right about that. Their YouTube channel is perfect for discovering new talent, with a twist. Their Far Out section invites artists to perform in unusual settings, providing the viewers with some fresh scenery along with the music.
All the way from Santa Monica, KCRW is a small radio station that differentiates itself from the rest by inviting truly novel artists, those that aren’t even emerging yet. Here, you can be sure to find someone you’ll love before they become famous, allowing yourself to taste their music before it becomes tarnished by fame and money.
This channel doesn’t have the number of followers it truly deserves. Its twist consists in inviting musicians to perform inside trams that roam around Melbourne’s busy streets. Call that an intimate setting. They have managed to attract artists of the caliber of Passenger, Vance Joy, and Xavier Rudd, performing live. But be sure to find many more interesting indie singers playing, too.
Cover Photography by Alessandro Fabbrini