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With 5m+ views and nearly 300,000 ticket sales, Dua Lipa's kaleidoscopic tour of Printworks is one for the record books. IQ goes behind the scenes with manager Ben Mawson
By IQ on 02 Dec 2020
Last weekend, Dua Lipa became the latest global megastar to dip a roller skate into the livestreaming water with her first ticketed virtual show, Studio 2054.
Described as a ‘“kaleidoscopic, rocket-fuelled journey through time, space, mirror balls, roller discos, bucket hats, belting beats, throbbing basslines and an absolute slam dunk of the best times in global club culture”, Studio 2054 eschewed the computer-generated digital FX seen at previous similar events for a neon extravaganza that strutted its way through multiple physical spaces in a specially constructed set at London’s Printworks.
Featuring guest appearances from the likes of Kylie Minogue, Miley Cyrus and Sir Elton John, the 28 November show is believed to have attracted the biggest-ever audience for a paid live stream, with over five million people tuning in live, according to a post-event release put out by organisers.
But what turned out to the biggest streaming event to date wasn’t originally an easy sell to the star involved, says Lipa’s manager, Ben Mawson of Tap Music. “Initially, Dua told me, ‘I don’t want to do one,’” recalls Mawson, who originally pitched Lipa the show that became Studio 2054 shortly after another Tap client, Ellie Goulding, wrapped up her debut live stream, The Brightest Blue Experience, in late August. “She said, ‘I’m waiting for live to come back.’
“I told her to think of it like a movie, or a live music video, and that captured her interest. And in the end she really enjoyed the experience, being back performing live.”
“There’s a lot of cost that goes into into explaining to an audience that it’s not just another live stream”
For the artist, meanwhile, preparations for Studio 2054 began in earnest a few weeks before the (non-socially distanced) show, when Lipa formed a ‘bubble’ with her dancers and other live performers, spending two weeks in a “quarantine house” to ensure the event’s Covid safety.
Tap estimates that 5m is a conservative estimate for the total viewers, with over 2m people tuning in in China alone. Another major hotspot was India, where Tap and livestreaming partner LiveNow struck a deal with domestic music streaming platform Gaana to provide the show to its subscribers, of whom 95,000 accessed the stream on Friday night alone, and numbers have grown since.
In China, meanwhile, a deal was done with another local streaming giant, Tencent, with fans able to watch the stream via QQ Music, Kugou, Kuwo and WeSing.
“Unless you count pre-internet events like Live Aid, I think we may well be the most-viewed live stream to date,” says Mawson.
Total ‘hard’ ticket sales for Studio 2054 current stand at around 284,000, although LiveNow is still selling on-demand tickets for the show, so that number will likely go up in the coming days.
The final general-admission tickets for the live event were priced at £13.99/€13.99, while catch-up passes are available for a discounted £7.50 until Sunday (6 December).
Tom Middleditch, chief product officer of LiveNow, says it’s crucial that ticketed streamed events like Studio 2054 go off without a hitch. “When people are paying for tickets, the experience has to be good,” he explains. “Livestreaming can always go wrong, but this was about as seamless as it can get.”
“When people are paying for tickets, the experience has to be good”
“I was terrified of the stream freezing,” adds Mawson. “I’ve tuned into some of the other big live streams and a few had major problems. Dua places huge importance on her fans’ experience, so it was key we didn’t get any complaints from users, and we didn’t.”
Middleditch reveals that, at its peak, the broadcast had viewers in 150 countries, with LiveNow’s platform localised towards fans depending on where they were in the world. “I have a lot of experience in sports, so I’m used to high peaks,” he says, “but when you have so many people [watching simultaneously all across the world] it’s a different challenge.”
For Mawson, it was important that Studio 2045 offered a fan experience beyond that of a basic livestreamed concert, as The Brightest Blue Experience – filmed inside the Edwardian V&A Museum in London – had in August.
“It’s hard because you’ve got to get balance right between the scale of idea and the costs,” explains Mawson. “You can’t just say to people, ‘Your favourite artist is doing a performance online,’ because everyone’s doing it, and they’re free.
“The model now has to almost like a TV special, with creative and marketing behind it – there’s a lot of cost that goes into into educating and explaining to an audience that it is an experience that they’re going to want to see, rather than just another live stream.”
The show’s marketing was helped no end by Lipa herself, Mawson says, who was tireless in her promotional efforts in the run-up to Studio 2054. “She kept putting trailers up, announcing guests… It was a very good marketing roll-out that helped to get the word out there.”
“The most important thing was that we didn’t do a show that’s ‘just’ a live show”
“The most important thing, as a manager, was that we didn’t do a show that’s ‘just’ a live show – it wasn’t just a concert in an arena that you can’t go to because of Covid,” Mawson continues. “The focus was on doing something different, and letting fans know we’re bringing something new to the market.”
Equally key to the show’s success was getting the price point right – something both Mawson and Middleditch believe the Studio 2054 team achieved, and which is borne out by the number of people who tuned in. “I’ve seen other shows priced much higher, and that affected their viewer numbers,” says Mawson. “Dua was the right pricing.”
“No one complained about the price, which is very unusual for this kind of event,” Middleditch adds.
While undoubtedly a successful second effort for the Tap-LiveNow partnership, Mawson says there’s still room for improvement with future live streams, noting that while the show “got massive visibility” in certain territories, there were some that underperformed. “I want to get better at the international thing,” he says, given that “Dua is the number-one star in the world”.
“There’s a lot music can learn from sport” when it comes to realising the full potential of the livestreaming model, adds Middleditch. “[Live streams are] never going to replace live – seeing something live is better than watching it on any device – but these kind of events provide so many opportunities for artists and fans.” Whether it’s instead of, or an addition to, an in-person live show, “people will be able to see artists live that they never could previously,” he concludes.
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