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Driift co-founder Ric Salmon discusses Bocelli's hugely successful live stream, the newly proposed PRS tariffs, and why the format is here to stay
By IQ on 15 Dec 2020
In the space of just six months, Driift has promoted and produced 15 (and counting) hugely successful ticketed live streams with stars including Niall Horan, Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave, Laura Marling and Biffy Clyro.
The UK-based business, co-founded by ATC Management’s Ric Salmon and Brian Message, has been on an upward trajectory since formally launching in August and has recently scaled new heights with Andrea Bocelli’s Christmas show.
The online concert, titled Believe in Christmas, took place on 12 December at the 1,200-capacity Teatro Regio in Parma, northern Italy and featured special guests including Zucchero Fornaciari, Cecilia Bartoli, Clara Barbier Serrano and Virginia Bocelli, with visuals provided by creative director Franco Dragone (Cirque du Soleil).
The concert sold more than 75,000 tickets (priced at US$25/£25) to fans in 120 global countries, earning the title of the most successful classical music live stream to date.
For Driift, that achievement is doubly impressive as it was the company’s first show outside of the UK, as well as its first foray into the genre of classical music – something Salmon says was “a bit of a gamble”.
“The great beauty of this format is that you can really democratise and globalise live music price points”
“We had no idea how this show was going to do – whether it was going to sell 1,000 tickets or 100,000 tickets. We went on sale not really knowing whether or not this audience, an older demographic, would buy into live streaming and whether it would be a technology that they’d be able to get their heads around,” he says.
Marketing and ticketing were “the biggest unknowns” according to Salmon, who was unsure whether the company’s 99%-online advertising would reach an older demographic which has “very different consumption patterns” to that of the previous artists Driift has worked with.
Marrying Driift’s contemporary format with the traditional characteristics of opera was also a daunting challenge for Salmon and co.
“There was some nervousness around taking opera back to contemporary, but at the same time we wanted to make sure that we were pushing the envelope of the creative in the way that we do for our shows so that the show still felt traditional enough and comfortable enough for Andrea’s audience to watch without going ‘why the hell is Bocelli doing a music video’,” he explains.
“Livestreaming has established itself as a new format that will be here to stay – even when life returns to normal”
However, as Salmon points out, classical institutions around the world such as the Berlin Philharmonic and the UK’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra had embraced live streaming and the hybrid model long before the pandemic, making concerts for the elite more geographically and financially accessible.
“The great beauty of this format is that you can really democratise and globalise live music price points. It’s a beautiful notion, being able to present live music to people wherever they are in the world,” he says.
Salmon cites the financial aspect as one of the many ways the livestreaming “has established itself as a new format that will be here to stay – even when life returns to normal,” and not just for the fans, but for the artists too.
“Don’t forget that the undertaking of a tour for an artist is a huge financial risk for everyone in the ecosystem, including the promoter. It’s also a huge undertaking in terms of time and the environmental impact. I think there are so many artists out there that live streaming suits and there are so many opportunities for artists to do it,” he says.
While there many continue to be plenty of livestreaming opportunities, PRS’s recently proposed tariffs for livestream concerts which would see a fee of up to 17% of gross ticket sales levied on livestreamed events, and would apply retrospectively to events, has cast doubt over the format as a viable revenue stream.
“The economics of what some are suggesting has a real danger of killing or neutralising this revenue stream”
“I really hope that the industry music industry doesn’t do what it is, unfortunately, quite good at doing which is to wrap itself up in knots for three years trying to fight through this stuff. It shouldn’t be that complicated,” says Salmon.
According to the co-founder, Driift has been in conversation with performing rights organisations (PROs) around the world and are pushing hard to be an officially licenced provider to pay songwriters fairly.
“I think if the PROs around the world don’t take an open-minded view on livestreaming, the economics of what some of them are suggesting has a real danger of killing or neutralising this revenue stream for artists before it even really started, which would be a great shame,” he says.
With that said, the co-founder expresses confidence that livestreaming and Driift will continue to grow exponentially over the next few years and says the team are aiming for 35–40 shows next year with a view to hit 100 shows per year thereafter.
“Crucially, we want to limit our output to a certain number of shows so we can really deliver the level of detail and kind of artistic curation that we’ve delivered so far. It’s crucial that it doesn’t become a commodity in that sense,” he says.
Driift will wrap up this year with its first show in Australia – where it’s recently opened an office – featuring Courtney Barnett at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building, as well as a UK show with Katie Melua at London’s Rivoli Ballroom and a re-run of Kylie Minogue’s Infinite Disco on New Years Eve.
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