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Driift on The Smile’s game-changing livestream

Driift CEO Ric Salmon has told IQ that The Smile’s acclaimed trio of gigs in London point a new way forward for livestream shows.

The new group, comprising Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and Sons Of Kemet’s Tom Skinner, played three consecutive live shows in just over 12 hours at Broadwick Live’s intimate new Magazine venue in London’s Docklands on 29-30 January.

Performed in the round, each performance was held in front of a seated audience of 1,200 and livestreamed in real time via Dreamstage for a different timezone – 8pm UK time on Saturday for EMEA and Sunday at 1am for the Americas, with the band returning 10 hours later at 11am for APAC.

“I couldn’t have been happier,” Salmon tells IQ. “It’s been amazing watching the reactions to it and I have to admit I’ve been bombarded by a bunch of managers saying, ‘Let’s talk.’ So it’s interesting how it’s sparked the imagination.”

Advanced livestream tickets were priced £12.50 (€14.75), or £14.50 (€17.25) on the day of the show, while in-person tickets cost £79. The last few ticket sales are still being totted up as the event, which was filmed with nine cameras, is still available on demand, but Salmon puts the number of paid streams in the “tens of thousands”.

“There’s a two-day VOD window that finishes tomorrow, but suffice to say we’ve sold more tickets than we set out to sell,” he adds. “We had a target number that we set ourselves based on our hopes and expectations, given the fact that this is a new band. Yes, of course, there’s a couple of famous people in the band, but it is a new band and it’s music that hasn’t yet been released. So it was a realistic level that we thought we would hope to sell. We have probably oversold that by 20-30%, so I’m really chuffed with that.”

“We had to keep pushing ourselves creatively to reimagine what these type of events could be”

The UK-based livestreaming company was founded in August 2020 by Salmon and Brian Message and has since sold more than 600,000 tickets for livestreamed gigs with acts including Nick Cave, Niall Horan, Kylie Minogue, Biffy Clyro, Andrea Bocelli, Laura Marling, Dermot Kennedy, Courtney Barnett and Sheryl Crow.

It also partnered with the UK’s Glastonbury Festival on the Live At Worthy Farm event, which also featured The Smile, as well as artists including Coldplay, Haim, Jorja Smith, Idles, Wolf Alice, Michael Kiwanuka and Damon Albarn.

“We’ve been considering how we could evolve what we’re doing for the last year or so, and we were always cognisant of the fact that we had to keep pushing ourselves creatively to reimagine what these types of events could be,” reveals Salmon.

“This concept of a ‘hybrid’ event – where you have a traditional tour show, put some cameras in the venue and then hope to sell some livestream tickets on top of the physical tickets – that just doesn’t interest us at all.  It feels a bit of an afterthought and frankly, I just don’t think the experience would be very good for viewers at home. It would be no better than watching an old DVD or something you can get on YouTube for free. It doesn’t feel artistic, it just feels like a way of making more money perhaps, and that’s not really what drives us.

“Ultimately, we wanted to focus on all of the things that we’ve learned over the last 18 months of doing livestreams without an audience, because we’ve been super-proud of some of the shows we’ve done. The artists were filmed in such close proximity, so when you’re watching at home, it feels really special. So how do you continue to take that and achieve that when there’s an audience in the room? It sounds like a simple question, but it’s a fiendishly difficult thing to pull off.”

“I hope Driift is becoming the first specialist producer and promoter of live events for the digital era”

He continues: “Our singular challenge was to ensure that anyone who saw the show was blown away by it and enjoyed it equally, whether they were in the room or at home, and I think we got close to achieving that. I don’t think that’s ever been done before. And that’s really exciting because, as an industry, it gives us a new format that we can make use of.

“What I hope Driift is becoming is the first – and at the moment only – specialist producer and promoter of live events for the digital era. If you think about it – and this isn’t a criticism – the live music industry is ultimately almost entirely non-digital. There’s hardly anything about the live music industry that is focused for the digital world. And there are very few industries you could say that about in this day and age.

“Almost every industry has found a digital strand to it or developed a digital dimension to it, and bizarrely, the live music industry doesn’t seem to have really focused on that. So it’s cool that we’ve stumbled across this through the lockdown and through the pandemic – there’s no way we would have come up with it if we hadn’t have been forced into the situation we have. But I suppose through those great challenges comes innovation; when you’re forced to innovate, you innovate.”


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Italy’s live music biz launches #noconcert campaign

A raft of Italian trade bodies have joined forces to launch a new campaign drawing attention to the ongoing shutdown of the country’s live music industry.

AssoMusica, Arci, Assomusica, Bauli in Piazza, KeepON LIVE and MMF Italy have united to launch the campaign under the banner #Nessunconcerto (no concert).

Concerts have been banned until today (31 January) and the country’s state of emergency has been extended to 31 March 2022, amid the spread of the omicron variant.

The consumption of food and drink at concert halls and other indoor locations is banned until the end of March.

The use of FFP2 masks is also compulsory on public transport, in theatres, concert halls and cinemas and for sporting events until at least 31 March.

In a statement, the associations say that the enduring restrictions – particularly the ban on food and drink – render concerts “economically unstable”.

“The entire sector is once again forgotten”

The bodies point out that the sector has been almost “totally silent” since the very beginning of the pandemic.

“Although, last October, there was a faint hope that we could start towards a gradual, albeit slow, restart, in recent months an entire sector, that of contemporary live music, is once again forgotten,” reads the statement.

The #Nessunconcerto launched exactly one year after the associations’ previous campaign, L’ultimo Concerto? (The Last Concert?), a campaign that has been defined as ‘one of the largest webmobs’ the sector has seen.

The initiative launched on social media at the end of January 2021 when Italian venues posted images with the year of foundation and the year 2021 with a question mark to suggest that the crisis may force the permanent closure of these spaces sooner rather than later.

The culmination of the campaign involved 130 Italian venues livestreaming ‘silent’ performances from renowned artists including Lacuna Coil on 27 February 2021, marking a full year since the first venues closed and stages fell silent.

The campaign was originally launched in Spain to highlight the increasingly uncertain future of music venues.


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Rock in Rio launches ‘Global Experience’ ticket

For the first time in the history of Rock in Rio, the Brazil and Portugal editions will be taking place in the same year.

The organisers have decided to mark the occasion with a special pass for fans wishing to celebrate the return of Rock in Rio on both sides of the Atlantic.

For under €200, the Global Experience pass will give fans access to one weekend of the Lisbon edition and one day of the Brazil edition.

The Lisbon-based edition of Rock in Rio (cap. 80,000) will return after four years between 18–19 and 25–26 June, with Foo Fighters, The National, Liam Gallagher, Duran Duran, a-ha, Xutos & Pontapés, Bush and Post Malone.

For under €200, the Global Experience will give fans access to one weekend of the Lisbon edition and one day of Brazil

The Brazilian edition of Rock in Rio (cap. 100,000) will be held between 2–4 and 8–11 September 2022 at the Olympic Park in Rio De Janeiro, and will be headlined by Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato.

The Rio De Janeiro biennial, which is the largest festival in south America, will now take place on even years while new festival The Town will take place on the odd years.

The Town was announced in August 2021 and is slated to be “the biggest music, culture and art festival Sāo Paulo, Brazil, has ever seen”.

The inaugural edition will take place in September 2023, welcoming up to 105,000 people per day to the Interlagos race track in Sāo Paulo – the largest city in Latin America.

Rock in Rio is majority-owned by Live Nation after the entertainment giant increased its shareholding in the company, in 2019.


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Canadian live biz hits out over latest Covid rules

Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) boss Erin Benjamin has warned of further cancellations after Billie Eilish became the latest superstar act to postpone tour dates due to provincial restrictions.

Eilish’s planned 15-16 February shows in Montreal and Toronto are being rescheduled as a result of “local guidelines and an abundance of caution”.

The singer follows the likes of Dua Lipa, The Weeknd and The Offspring in shifting concerts in Canada in light of the latest Covid-19 restrictions issued by the Ontario government, which limit concert venues to 50% capacity until at least 14 March – despite other entertainment spaces such as cinemas, casinos and restaurants expecting to be given the go-ahead to host full houses from 21 February.

Benjamin told The Canadian Press the policy was “really hard to understand”, and would likely deter other top international acts from visiting the country this year.

“We’re hearing things like outright cancellations and conversations being paused until 2023”

“I think the growing sentiment is that Ontario is closed for business,” she said. “The idea of doing business in Ontario is so uncertain that folks are just not interested in constantly trying to navigate the rules. We’re hearing things like outright cancellations and conversations [regarding future tour dates] being paused until 2023.”

The CLMA is also appealing for the government to extend relief for live music businesses via the Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF).

“We thank the government of Canada for its support of small business recovery through the recent extension of the interest-free repayment period for CEBA and RRRF loans from their previous end date of December 31, 2022 to December 31, 2023,” says Benjamin in a letter to the ministers of finance and international trade. “However, since the start of the pandemic, many live music businesses have taken on debt that will take at least two years to resolve; our members continue to report a bleak outlook for the future. As such, while this extension will provide some relief, it will not be enough.

“In support of other associations, such as the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), and on behalf of the CLMA, I urge you to consider increasing both CEBA’s and the RRRF’s maximum loan forgiveness amount by up to $10,000 if the balance of the loan is repaid by the end of the 0% interest free grace period; and extending the interest-free repayment period for CEBA loans and RRRF loans to December 31, 2024. These changes will help reduce the financial burden many businesses and organisations are currently facing.”


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Sónar Lisboa unveils debut line-up

Sónar Festival has unveiled the line-up for its inaugural Portuguese edition in Lisbon.

Sónar Lisboa 2022 will be held between 8–10 April at Pavilhão Carlos Lopes, the Coliseu dos Recreios and the Centro de Congressos de Lisboa, featuring artists including Arca, Bicep, DJ Shadow, Partiboi69, Overmono, Dixon, Richie Hawtin, The Blaze, Charlotte de Witte, Nina Kraviz, Floating Points, India Jordan, Honey Dijon, Héctor Oaks, Nicola Cruz and Thundercat.

Meanwhile, the Hub Criativo do Beato will host the Sónar+D programme, which will be announced next month.

The 25,000-capacity Sónar Lisboa is organised by Pixel Harmony and is supported by Turismo de Portugal, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa and Turismo de Lisboa. A two-day pass costs €110, or €175 for VIP tickets.

Since being founded 1994, Sónar has hosted more than 100 festivals worldwide, with 76 editions taking place in 34 cities in more than 20 countries. As with its global counterparts, Sónar Lisboa will be split into Sónar by Day and Sónar by Night programming.Sónar Lisboa 2022 is organized by Pixel Harmony, which brings together the partners Made of You
(Gustavo Pereira, Paulo Amaral, Raul Duro), João Wengorovius Meneses, Patricia Craveiro Lopes, Gonçalo Félix da Costa and Kiss. Sónar Lisboa 2022 is supported by Turismo de Portugal, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa and Turismo de Lisboa.

The brand’s marquee festival Sónar Barcelona will return from 16-18 June

The iconic brand’s marquee festival Sónar Barcelona, which is majority-owned by Superstruct parent Providence Equity Partners, was called off last year but will return from 16-18 June. Sónar will present festivals in Istanbul from 18-19 March. It has also confirmed two new in-person festivals for Barcelona in autumn 2021, the AI and Music Festival and SónarCCCB.

Portugal reopened nightclubs and bars in mid-January and is one of the few European markets to be effectively open for live music at present.

Covid passports certifying full inoculation, recovery from Covid-19 or a negative test result are still mandatory to access events, restaurants, gyms and other leisure and hospitality businesses. Masks are still required for indoor spaces.


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Modern Sky plans virtual version of China’s biggest festival

Chinese powerhouse Modern Sky Entertainment is planning to launch a virtual edition of its Strawberry Music Festival.

Launched in 2010, the annual event takes place across cities in China each spring. The Beijing edition is the largest music festival in the country.

The digital version of the festival will feature digital versions of real-life artists, as well as wholly virtual artists from Modern Sky’s new virtual artist label No Problem.

Virtual idols have been thriving in China over the years, with its market value reaching 3.46 billion yuan (US$540 million) in 2020, up 70.3% from the previous year, according to the consultancy group iiMedia. The metaverse hype was expected to push its market value to nearly 107.49 bn yuan ($16.8 bn) in 2021.

Modern Sky revealed that developing virtual artists will be a key part of its strategy for 2022 along with organising virtual music festivals and selling original digital works in the form of NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

Thc company, launched in 1997, already comprises a number of sub-labels, covering music publishing, artist management, live music, visual and product design, retail and performance venues, recording and production, media, design hotels and other sectors.

Tencent Music last month launched TMELAND – dubbed ‘China’s first interactive virtual music festival’

Modern Sky isn’t the only Chinese entertainment conglomerate making moves in the music metaverse. Tencent Music last month launched TMELAND – dubbed ‘China’s first interactive virtual music festival’.

The Chinese tech giant is also planning to acquire gaming smartphone manufacturer Black Shark in a move that could help the company build its own metaverse.

The company already owns a stake in video game company Epic Games – the maker of Fortnite which has hosted virtual concerts from the likes of  Travis ScottAriana GrandeMarshmello, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5, Easy Life and J. Balvin.

The company also entered into a strategic partnership with Roblox, in May 2019, in which Tencent holds a 49% stake. Last year, Tencent filed for two Metaverse-related trademarks.

Modern Sky and Tencent follow in the footsteps of Decentraland and Roblox which have helped pave the way for festivals in the metaverse.

Virtual blockchain-based world Decentraland hosted the ‘world’s first multi-day festival in the metaverse’ last October.

In that same month, Roblox and event promoter Insomniac, meanwhile, brought one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world – Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) – to the metaverse.


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OVG unveils Palm Springs arena naming rights deal

Oak View Group (OVG) has announced a 10-year naming rights deal with financial services firm Acrisure for its new arena in Palm Springs, California.

Located in the heart of Coachella Valley, the 11,500-seater Acrisure Arena is projected to open in the last quarter of 2022 and will host more than 150 major events annually.

The partnerships also includes permanent exterior signage, entitlement to the arena’s largest premium private hospitality space, and prominent Acrisure logo placement on the roof and throughout the venue. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“Acrisure Arena will be the crown jewel of the entire Coachella Valley and a major destination for the biggest artists”

“We are proud to announce our naming rights agreement with Acrisure,” says OVG chief Tim Leiweke, leader of the arena project. “Acrisure Arena will be the crown jewel of the entire Coachella Valley and a major destination for the biggest artists, concerts, and sporting events in the world. Acrisure and Oak View Group are dedicated to using this platform to improve the lives of everyone in the Coachella Valley.”

OVG has pledged the venue, which will be home to the Coachella Valley Firebirds ice hockey team, will focus on “prioritising technology, sustainability and green initiatives”.

In addition to sports and entertainment, the arena will accommodate conventions, large meetings, international events as well as award shows and exhibitions.


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WMG to create ‘music-themed world’ in Sandbox metaverse

Warner Music Group (WMG) is to create the first music-themed world in The Sandbox gaming metaverse, following a deal between the two companies.

The Sandbox, which is built around blockchain and NFT (non-fungible token) technology, has been described as “part virtual real estate, part amusement park”.

According to WMG, its virtual ‘Land’ within The Sandbox will be a “combination of musical theme park and concert venue” and will host concerts and musical experiences featuring its roster of artists.

These immersive experiences “will empower WMG artists to engage with their fans, as well as to reach the global community of The Sandbox”, in addition to generating “new revenue streams and new forms of virtual entertainment”.

The strategic partnership marks The Sandbox’s first deal with a major music company and what WMG says is its “first entry into the NFT metaverse realm”.

“WMG has secured the equivalent of beachfront property in the metaverse”

To mark the occasion, The Sandbox will hold a Land sale in March 2022, which will allow music fans to buy coveted Lands adjacent to the WMG property.

“Our partnership with The Sandbox adds a new layer of possibility in the metaverse, with the ownership of virtual real estate,” says Oana Ruxandra, chief digital officer & EVP, business development at WMG. “As a first-mover, WMG has secured the equivalent of beachfront property in the metaverse. On the Land, we’ll develop persistent, immersive social music experiences that defy real-world limitations and allow our artists and their fans to engage like never before.”

Sebastien Borget, COO and co-founder of The Sandbox, added: “We’re shaping The Sandbox as a fun entertainment destination where creators, fans, and players can enjoy first-of-a-kind immersive experiences and be more closely connected to their favourite musical artists through NFTs. This strategic partnership with WMG brings the open metaverse one step forward in the direction of fan-owned and community-driven initiatives – the possibilities are very exciting.”

WMG joins over 200 existing partnerships including The Walking Dead, Snoop Dogg, Adidas, Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, Richie Hawtin, The Smurfs, Care Bears, Atari, ZEPETO, and CryptoKitties.

The Sandbox, which is a subsidiary of Animoca Brands, raised US$93 million in a Series B funding round, last November.


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Drakeo family to sue promoters over stabbing

Family members of Drakeo the Ruler are to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Live Nation, C3 Presents and Bobby Dee Presents after the rapper was stabbed to death backstage at last month’s Once Upon a Time in LA music festival.

The three companies promoted December’s ill-fated festival at the 23,500-cap. Banc of California Stadium. Drakeo, real name Darrell Caldwell, was attacked by a group of masked assailants prior to his scheduled performance at the event, and later died in hospital from his injuries.

Organisers are accused of providing insufficient security in the lead up to the attack, with attorney James Bryant, lawyer for Caldwell’s family members, telling a press conference Drakeo had been “essentially lynched” due to the lack of precautions, reports Billboard.

“His life was taken way too soon,” said Bryant. “This should never have never happened if those promoters had actually had the proper security protocols. This was a preventable death.”

The lawsuit is seeking “at least” $20 million in damages

A criminal investigation into the incident is still ongoing.

“Those who failed Drakeo the Ruler, they’re going to be held accountable,” added Bryant, who said the lawsuit is seeking “at least” $20 million in damages and would be filed in the coming week.

Live Nation, C3 and Bobby Dee Presents have not commented on the claim.

Staged on 18 December 2021, Once Upon a Time in LA was due to be headlined by Al Green, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, YG and Ice Cube.

“There was an altercation in the roadway backstage,” said Live Nation in a statement at the time. “Out of respect for those involved and in coordination with local authorities, artists and organisers decided not to move forward with remaining sets so the festival was ended an hour early.”


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New promoter F7 Entertainment launches in Canada

A new full-service national music promoter has launched in Canada.

Founded by Sarath Samarasekera, Emmanuel Patterson, Nhaelan McMillan, Timur Inceoglu and Ryan Penner, F7 Entertainment Group plans to promote music across all genres, with a view to becoming “a leader in universal content and media”, according to Pollstar.

“At our core we are an organic group of music lovers and professionals who have seen a gap in how music is being promoted in Canada and in particular, how emerging music markets across the country are being underserved,” says Samarasekra. “We aim to bring a more holistic, enjoyable and affordable experience to Canadians while exposing them to new and exciting forms of music.”

“With the landscape changing in live entertainment, I am elated by the opportunity to bring together and partner with an incredible team of talented people,” says McMillan. “F7 for me is the idea and vision of a uniquely creative and highly competitive company now coming to life.”

“Our goal is to innovate at both a cultural and technical level”

Upcoming events include shows by artists such as Rise Against, Death From Above 1979, Daniel Romano and Pup.

“The opportunity to build a new voice and fresh perspective on how live music is promoted in Canada and internationally is thrilling, and I couldn’t be more excited with the team we have assembled for this journey,” notes Patterson, president of talent and touring.

“Our goal is to innovate at both a cultural and technical level,” adds co-founder and senior talent buyer Timur Inceoglu. “It’s really exciting to build a fantastic guest experience, a direct human approach to event production with the goal of quickly developing into the biggest independent producer of content/events in Canada.”


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