Blog: Can technology help improve live music access for Deaf and disabled fans?

Niels Footman (pictured), co-founder of Living Indie, wonders whether tech can help make live music more accessible, in this exclusive blog for Access All Areas.

Back in the mists of time, around early 2012, our founder, Andres Sanchez, had “a moment”.

Prevented from going to the Primavera Festival by a combination of penury, workload and general disorganisation, the then MBA student invited a bunch of us around to watch highlights of the event on TV at his halls of residence. A few beers to the good, it struck him: wouldn’t it be great if there was a channel like this all the time, offering fans the chance to see all the best gigs that they couldn’t get to in person.

In that moment, Living Indie was born: a startup that streams concerts directly to a digital platform and lets viewers watch them on any connected devices. We would bring fans together from across the world on social streams and Twitter feeds, recreating the experience that makes live music so magical. Whether on a mobile phone or gathered in groups in pubs or living rooms, we envisaged a new social setting for watching gigs that was every bit as ubiquitous as Sky TV has become for football matches.

Fast forward three years, and we’ve streamed concerts from Nile Rodgers, John Grant, Ben Watt and more, reaching hundreds of thousands of fans in the process. We’ve worked with the likes of O2, Sony and Universal – and we’re only just scratching the surface. Ultimately, our goal is to become the Netflix of live concerts. 

However, one important element of the gig-going community we hadn’t directly considered when developing the platform was disabled music fans. On the one hand, we know that increasing numbers of disabled people are going to live music events (4m each year in the UK, according to government data); while on the other, for some individuals, there are big challenges even getting through the door at certain venues. In many ways, the service offered by Living Indie, which can open up previously inaccessible spaces, is tailor-made for disabled audiences. 

Following this line of thinking led us to the door of Attitude is Everything, the charity that works to improve disabled people’s access to live music. And, on March 24th, we will have the opportunity to test our theory when Living Indie live streams their annual Club Attitude gig at Islington Assembly Hall, with performances from TOY, Hatcham Social and Hulkenburg. 

We believe this could be an incredibly important step. And just as the music industry is fast discovering the untapped potential of live streaming, it is also waking up to the spending power of disabled fans and the importance of inclusivity.

In 2013 alone, more than 70,000 disabled people attended venues and festivals signed up to Attitude is Everything’s Charter of Best Practice, generating ticket and concessionary sales worth more than £3.5m. Even this is a drop in the proverbial ocean: government figures released last year suggest that UK households with at least one disabled person have a combined income (the so-called “purple pound”) of some £212bn.  

Though the circumstances are of course very different, it was this drive to make concerts more accessible, while recreating the magic of live music, that drove us to take Living Indie where it is today. We believe passionately that concerts should be as accessible as humanly possible, allowing music fans the chance to see their idols no matter where they are or whatever their personal circumstances. For this reason, we couldn’t be more thrilled to be streaming Club Attitude and showing that when it comes to seeing Live Concerts, Everywhere, attitude really is everything.

Club Attitude is now officially sold out, but you can sign up for Living Indie’s live stream here

We are also crowdfunding on Crowdcube – please help spread the word.