THE FUTURE OF LIVE ENTERTAINMENT BOOKINGS
Live Streams, Virtual Events, and New Ways to Monetize
It’s no secret that the pandemic has had a crippling effect on the music industry. Specifically, the live entertainment sector where festivals, concert tours, and award shows have either been canceled or postponed. As the live entertainment industry has come to a pause, agencies, venues, and artists have been adjusting and learning new ways to adapt to this “new normal.” Industry professionals are resilient and always seeking new ways to stay active and engaged. We wanted to create an opportunity for industry professionals to think, share, and explore new ways to advance in the right direction.
Recently Gigwell and the Advance hosted a webinar bringing together a fantastic panel of some of our top clients to discuss this very topic. Titled “The Future of Live Entertainment Bookings: Live Streams, Virtual Engagements, and New Ways to Monetize”, we had the pleasure to sit down with the booking heads from three major territories. Each of our speakers are leaders and trailblazers in their respective industries. They shared their experiences and gave us valuable insight as to where they feel live entertainment is heading, and how they’ve been dealing with the drastic changes happening throughout this pandemic.
Jack Forman - President, BiCoastal Productions (USA)
Morgan Ross - General Manager & Senior Booking Agent, UMG Live (South Africa)
Andy Raeside - Senior Booking Agent at Colluded Talent / Defected Records (UK/EU
Antonio Sierra - VP, Agency Relations, Gigwell
We’ve included a few highlights from our discussion below:
Antonio: Regarding Live streaming, do you think this will be just a trend or adopted as some sort of normality as live events start coming back?
Andy: I have mixed feelings about this but I think what will happen is we will take the best of both worlds. I think live streaming is great, it has connected a lot of people. There was something to look forward to since people couldn’t leave their homes. We’ve had shows every weekend. However, moving forward you always got that live element. People want human interaction. People want to go to the venues and feel the energy. I think we can incorporate the positive of the live streaming for people who can't get tickets for events, or there is limited capacity- so I think live streams are definitely of the future, but I still think we need that live element as well.
As many artists are resorting to different social media platforms, the question arises whether live streams are devaluing artist’s performances since concertgoers used to pay for live entertainment. Now that we have access to these artists performing in our living room, the million-dollar question is: Can live streaming save the music industry during the lockdown?
Antonio: With all the free content out there in the world, is anyone else concerned that they are devaluing future ticket sales?
Jack: I think it started out just for having something. Especially venues like a performing art center to be able to output something. To keep their message going in their local communities, as a local art center whose mission is to serve their local population with wonderful programming. Just keeping something, just keeping output from the venue even if it´s a virtual stage rather than a real stage. I think if it continues as free indefinitely it will devalue it, however, I believe you can only go so long with live content. I mean pre-recorded shows you can keep for free because the performance aspect of it is very minor, but I believe if it goes on for very long you will see a devalue in it, so I don´t predict it lasting much longer. More and more people are starting to embrace ticketing even if it´s a simple “pay what you can” type of experience.
The fear of the unknown is among us but artists have always been resilient to this aspect of life. As the pandemic progressed so has live streaming. Artists started to be a bit more creative with their performances rather than just pushing the record button from their living rooms. It's a crucial time for artists to turn to online solutions for fan engagement and revenue.
Antonio: We are finding during our live streams that it's hard to keep people engaged in the stream due to ‘screen fatigue’. What ways do you suggest keeping people engaged for longer periods of time? Are you finding that there is a sweet spot for the length of live-streamed events?
Morgan: It's not fatigue for one for creativity and entertainment. I think people have a little bit of digital fatigue. We´re all stuck behind zoom all day long in conferences and. There’s a need for a personal connection with people in your day to day, and what I found is that the punchier events that are happening in virtual are the shorter ones. Fifteen to twenty minutes; punchy and impactful performances, those are the ones that people are going to sit through. So what we´re finding is the good price point, short and sharp. That’s kinda where the sweet spot is.
It's been a difficult transition for us globally, as our outlets have been cut short in regard to hosting events. Promoters, agents, and artists have begun to be more creative with events, a perfect example is drive-in concerts. With so many different technologies out there, we were wondering which is the best approach to make the experience worthwhile paying for without feeling ripped off.
Antonio: There has been an incredible amount of live streams from promoters and artists themselves. With such an oversaturated amount of content available. How do you suggest standing out and making the content worth paying for?
Jack: If there is a way you make it feel more authentic, and if there’s a way you can make the ticket buyer feel like they are getting an elevated experience if they are buying a ticket to it, we found that to be very promising. Especially where there is a new line of closures, there is a new line of spikes, unfortunately. It is causing a lot of disagreements and everybody has a different opinion as to when they will open. We have partnered up with a company platform called VEEPS. The platform was founded by Joel & Benji Madden from the band Good Charlotte. Joel’s whole idea behind it was that you can buy a ticket to the live stream but then why not buy a ticket and then something else? You know, find ways of enhancing it. Be more interactive with your audience, and maybe offer to upsell offers to virtual meet and greets, or specialized merch that the artist can provide all under one roof. Now we´ve been able to open this up to a lot of venues.
Andy: I think creativity is key. For example, after the defected virtual festival we actually created first-ever virtual clubbing experience, where we partnered up with Twitch, and what we did there, we basically offered 3 or 4 rooms with different DJ´s so you could come as you were going to the club and maybe and you could pop into one room and see your favorite DJ or jump in to the next and that just added a little different substance rather than normal live streams. Ideas like that are really working. I've seen people like AWAKENINGS going to great lengths and great scale putting up productions and I think if you´re monetizing that and putting a place on it there are definite ways to generate revenue.
Morgan: These deals are going to be like a hybrid. So you can select whether you want to have a virtual experience or a real one. The same thing applies to merchandise. You know when you're at a concert and you´re feeling cool you go and buy a shirt. The same thing applies to virtual, you can click on a little button at the top to buy your branded mask, just to have some kind of ¨take home¨merchandise. And on the mask thing, it's definitely going to go that way. Even if you go to a physical venue, you buy your ticket and you get your mask, and that way you get to enjoy the show and you get to have that a little bit of added value with your mask which will then be walking advertising.
Antonio: Have you guys seen or had any requests on any other out-of-the-box ideas for events?
Morgan: I think from a label perspective, if artists were to have a launch and invite media, we´re now doing that virtually and it's actually been really cool. Seeing a hundred people responding to your music right there and then via ZOOM. So you know album launches are still going ahead, whether or not it's becoming a little bit samey I dunno, maybe it´s the gimmick for right now but this has been really cool use as a band-aid until we can host proper shows.
Antonio: Do you think that festivals such as the defected and other ones will take their festival experience to a higher level once festivals and shows can happen normally again?
Andy: Yes a hundred percent. I think it will help us. I think just from the reach of the virtual festival like I spoke about before it reached about 1 Billion people. We got such great feedback! I wouldn't be worried in any sense but I think there will be a little bit of fear from people at first. People will be scared to go to festivals and socialize in big groups but I also think after a certain amount of time people will want live interaction. So yeah I think if anything we will benefit from it down the line and certain artists will benefit from it as well.
The Advance began with the intention of creating community and dialogue around what the future of live entertainment looks like, how we are pinpointing places for growth, streamlining processes, highlighting advancements, and shaping it as a collective. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org