UK live industry cautiously welcomes £1.57bn aid
British live music industry leaders have said they stand ready to work closely with government on the details of its £1.57 billion culture rescue fund, but cautioned that the whole live music ecosystem must be protected.
The financial aid package of emergency grants and loans must also be complemented by an exemption in VAT for the sector, a government-backed insurance scheme for shows and a conditional date for reopening, they say.
Sunday’s announcement about the support package followed the hugely successful #LetTheMusicPlay day, which saw 1,500 artists write directly to culture secretary Oliver Dowden and tens of millions of fans posting online about the importance of live music, a £4.5bn sector that employs 210,000 people.
The campaign, coordinated by members of the UK Live Music Group and Concert Promoters’ Association (CPA), with additional support from UK Music, trended at No1 globally on Twitter and attracted media coverage around the world.
“Thousands of artists, venues, festivals, managers, agents, promoters and production crew came together for #LetTheMusicPlay, and we must ensure that all of them receive the support that they so desperately need,” says Phil Bowdery, chair of the CPA.
“We stand ready to work closely with the government to ensure that this world-class industry survives”
“We stand ready to work closely with the government to ensure that this world-class industry survives.”
Live music was one of the first industries to close as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and concerts are not expected to return in full force until well into 2021. According to member research compiled by live music associations over the six month period between October 2020 and March 2021, the operating costs of the broader live music sector will be £298.8million. This figure is in addition to the £47m required by grassroots music venues, called for by Music Venue Trust.
“The government’s £1.57bn package for the arts is welcome, but we lack detail of how funding will be allocated for music,” comments Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of the Music Managers Forum. “The thousands who work and perform in our sector desperately require comprehensive support if their jobs and livelihoods are to be sustained.”
Kilimanjaro Live MD Stuart Galbraith, co-chair of the CPA, adds: “We are ready to work on the details of the scheme, and our other requests – a VAT exemption for the sector, a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead, and a timeline for safe reopening without social distancing – at the government’s convenience.
“We look forward to this ongoing discussion shortly.”
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Industry reacts to €1.7bn UK rescue package
Yesterday evening, the British government announced an unprecedented financial rescue package for the UK’s hard-hit cultural sector, promising £1.57 billion (€1.74bn) in grants and loans for arts and creative businesses to get back on their feet post-Covid-19.
While many of the specifics of the scheme – including eligibility and how much money is allocated to music specifically – have yet to be revealed, the government intervention has been widely welcomed by the live music business, which last Thursday came together for the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign to ask for immediate assistance for the industry.
See below for a selection of quotes from various industry representatives…
Phil Bowdery, Concert Promoters’ Association:
“On Thursday the live music industry came together in an unprecedented way to ask the government for support, and so this announcement is both timely and warmly welcomed.
“We asked for three things, and today it looks like the first of those – a financial support package – has been granted. We’re looking forward to clarification that this package safeguards our whole ecosystem – from our artists and crews, to our festivals, venues and many professionals – and working closely with the government to deliver it.
“Everyone who lent their support to the campaign on Thursday should be extremely proud of the impact they’re already having. Now let’s move forward and #LetTheMusicPlay!”
“We’re looking forward to clarification that this package safeguards our whole ecosystem – from our artists and crews, to our festivals, venues and other professionals”
Mark Davyd, Music Venue Trust:
“Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes this unprecedented intervention into Britain’s world-class live music scene. We’d like to thank the secretary of state and the team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for the opportunity to work closely together throughout this crisis to develop genuine solutions to the challenges faced by grassroots music venues.
“This fund provides the opportunity to stabilise and protect our vibrant and vital network of venues and gives us the time we need to create a plan to Reopen Every Venue Safely.”
“This fund provides the opportunity to stabilise and protect our vibrant and vital network of venues”
Paul Reed, Association of Independent Festivals:
“The AIF has had close contact with DCMS throughout the lockdown period, helping them to understand the needs of UK festivals during this difficult time. We have urged government to offer a robust financial package to the sector to ensure its survival.
“The announcement of emergency support for the arts is clearly welcome but it is worrying that there has still been no specific mention of the UK’s festival industry – a sector that contributes so much to the economy and people’s lives, and one that finds itself in a uniquely precarious position during this pandemic.
“The time for lip service is over. UK festivals have, to date, largely fallen through the cracks when it comes to financial aid and business support. Boris Johnson has told parliament that he is doing all he can to support our ‘very, very valuable sector’ but we are yet to see evidence of that. We need the prime minister to back this up with meaningful action and confirm that festival organisers will be eligible to access this emergency support package.”
“It is worrying that there has still been no specific mention of the UK’s festival industry – a sector that contributes so much”
Tom Kiehl, UK Music:
“A £1.57bn support package for the arts is a huge step forward and should be a lifesaver for many music venues. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden, chancellor Rishi Sunak and DCMS minister Caroline Dinenage are to be warmly congratulated.
“The music industry was one of the first sectors to be hit by measures to tackle COVID-19. UK Music has long called for sector-specific support to ensure live music can recover. Eligibility for grants and loans must be as broad as possible to ensure maximum take-up from across the industry from those in desperate need of help.
“Those that don’t have a track record of public funding must also not be put at a disadvantage. We are seeking urgent talks with Arts Council England to discuss further.”
“Those that don’t have a track record of public funding must not be put at a disadvantage”
Annabella Coldrick, Music Managers Forum:
“After months of discussions, meetings and advocacy, culminating in the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign last Thursday, it feels that government has accepted the importance of art and culture to our society and economy. Obviously £1.57bn is a substantial sum of money, but we still need to see the full details of this package and how it will be allocated to reach those most in need.
“It is absolutely essential that funding stretches beyond cultural institutions and can equally benefit artists and their teams around the UK, many of whom have fallen through gaps in support, despite seeing a complete collapse in their live income.”
“It is absolutely essential that funding stretches beyond cultural institutions and can equally benefit artists and their teams”
Michael Kill, Night Time Industries Association:
“This is an unprecedented commitment from the government and [this] long-awaited financial support reflects the importance of the sector to the UK and internationally.
“With many neighbouring European countries investing heavily in the culture and arts sector, the UK government had been under mounting pressure to mimic the actions of their international counterparts.
“We will await further details of the announcement in the coming days to gain a greater understanding of the businesses which will benefit from this investment. We hope it will also include the vital supply chain businesses which are fundamental to the creative and cultural sector, of which the night-time economy businesses are very much a big part of.
“We also look forward to receiving updated guidance with regard to the phased return of the night-time economy sectors.”
“We hope this investment will include the vital supply chain businesses which are fundamental to the sector”
Caroline Norbury MBE, Creative Industries Federation:
“This unprecedented £1.57 billion investment is a seismic step forward. Our creative industries are teetering on the brink of cultural collapse, and this could be the game-changer we need.
“The voice of the creative sector has been heard loud and clear by the government and we warmly welcome their response. This investment acknowledges the mission critical role that the UK’s creative industries will play in recovery and growth in all parts of the country.
“However, while this support will rescue many, so much has changed during the pandemic; there won’t necessarily be an easy return to normal. It is particularly heartening to see the reference to supporting freelancers, who are a phenomenally important part of the creative-industries ecosystem.
“But there will be so much more to do to ensure that our world-beating creative sector can thrive once more – and as we move forwards through the challenging days and months ahead, it will be crucial that the creative industries work together to reimagine all of our futures.”
“It is particularly heartening to see the reference to supporting freelancers, who are a phenomenally important part of the ecosystem”
This article will be updated with more reactions as we receive them.
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#LetTheMusicPlay: UK biz mobilises to call for aid
The leading lights of Britain’s live music industry – including some of its biggest touring talent – have today (2 July) issued an urgent plea for government aid to the sector, warning that a lack of support and continued uncertainty around reopening is having a “devastating” impact in one of the world’s biggest live music markets.
The appeal is centred on a letter to the UK’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, signed by 1,500 artists and bands, including Ed Sheeran, the Rolling Stones, Dua Lipa, Sir Paul McCartney, Skepta, Rita Ora, Coldplay, Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, Sir Rod Stewart, Liam Gallagher, Florence and the Machine, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Lewis Capaldi and Little Mix.
In the joint letter, the artists say: “UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade. But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.
“Until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry.”
New research shows the live music sector added £4.5 billion to Britain’s economy in 2019, and supports 210,000 jobs. While the UK is the fourth-largest music market in the world by value of ticket sales – and the second-biggest per capita – the appeal notes that state support for live music lags behind other countries, with other European governments such as France and Germany using public money to kickstart their concert industries post-Covid-19.
“Government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry”
To coincide with the letter, hundreds of artists will today begin posting films and photos of their last live show using the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay. Fans will also be encouraged to post about the last gig they went to, in a mass show of support for the UK’s on-pause live business.
“It’s incredibly important for artists like myself to speak up and support the live music industry in the UK,” says Dua Lipa. “From the very start, playing live concerts up and down the country has been a cornerstone for my own career. I am proud to have had the chance to play through all the levels: small clubs, then theatres and ballrooms, and into arenas, and, of course, festivals in between each touring cycle.
“But the possibility for other emerging British artists to take the same path is in danger if the industry doesn’t receive much-needed government support in the interim period before all the various venues, festivals and promoters are ready and able to operate independently again.”
The UK live music industry is asking for:
- A clear, conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing
- A comprehensive business and employment support package and access to finance
- Full VAT exemption on ticket sales
The business and employment support package should include, they say, a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead; an extension of the furlough scheme and help for the self-employed to prevent mass redundancies; rent breaks for venues to allow them to reopen; an extension of business-rate relief to the entire live music supply chain; rolling over fees for single-premises event licences for festivals; and financial support for lost box-office income.
“Every day, literally, I hear of another friend in music losing their job, shutting up shop or switching careers. This pandemic has affected everyone; it has taken many lives and forever changed many more,” says Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and Venue Group. “Live entertainment has not been the headline, nor do I believe it should’ve been – at least until now.
“We really have to pay some attention to what our cultural landscape is going to look like on the other side of this, and we’re hoping that #LetTheMusicPlay will pull some of this into focus for a minute.”
“If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever”
Other artists to have signed the letter to Dowden include Take That, the Stone Roses, Foals, James Bay, Genesis, the Chemical Brothers, Johnny Marr, Slade, Biffy Clyro, Bastille, Muse, Sir Tom Jones and Manic Street Preachers.
“The UK’s venues, festivals, performers and crew bring so much to this country’s culture and economy, but they are now facing desperate financial challenges,” says Emily Eavis, organiser of Glastonbury Festival. “If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever.”
“July would normally see the UK embarking on a world-famous summer of live music, but this year the lights are switched off and the microphones unplugged,” adds Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters’ Association. “Live music has sought to play its role in helping tackle coronavirus, with many artists providing entertainment for people from their homes. But our shutdown is likely to go on for much longer than most, with many concerts and festivals unable to operate until 2021 at the earliest.
“Without rapid government support, the long-term impact will be devastating, with the loss of hundreds of thousands of highly-skilled jobs and billions of pounds from the UK economy.”
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Beyond Rhetoric: BAME execs on boosting diversity in live
The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, looked at the lack of racial diversity in the live music business, as well as practical steps the industry can take to begin turning the tide.
Hosted by Live Nation International diversity lead David Carrigan, the session welcomed UK Music’s Ammo Talwar, Metropolis Music promoter Kiarn Eslami, ICM agent Yves Pierre, ATC Management’s Sumit Bothra and Earth Agency’s Lucy Atkinson to discuss the overwhelming whiteness of the concert industry, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter and #TheShowMustBePaused campaigns for racial equality.
Talwar, who leads UK Music’s diversity and equality taskforce, said that while the industry’s front-facing components are hugely diverse, its workforce is not.
In London, for example, over 40% of the population are non-white, he said, compared to around 18% in the UK music industry. At the executive level, he added, companies are still overwhelmingly staffed by “middle-aged, white heterosexual males”.
Comparing her own path into the business, Atkinson said she speaks to a lot of white men “who say they just kind of fell into this job, and that hasn’t been my experience at all. Even now, I still feel like I have to fight to get taken seriously as an agent.”
“A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”
On the artist side, Pierre pointed out that lot of artists aren’t allowed to “live” in traditionally white spaces – they have to start in a black/“urban” genre and then go pop or rock when they are already established. “We have to acknowledge that these artists exist and that there’s space for them,” she said.
Looking at practical measures to promote a more representative industry, Atkinson said: “A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”: for example, the ‘Rooney rule’ in the NFL that requires at least one ethnic-minority candidate be interviewed for a job.
Speaking from a promoter’s point of view, Eslami described another simple change he has made on his shows – which, while not costing his employer any more, allows for greater investment in ethnic minority run businesses. “Every show we have has a budget, and one of those costs is catering,” he explained. “[I asked] why do we spend all our budget in supermarkets, when there are so many other caterers our there?
“It’s about looking at how we change the cash flow for these shows, whether it’s in catering, marketing or elsewhere.”
Pierre said it’s up to everyone in the industry to hold their own employers accountable when it comes to employing a diverse workforce.
“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation. We have to make sure that the companies we’re working for live up to those standards when it comes to racial diversity and gender equality,” she explained. “A lot of the time nothing gets done because you think someone else is doing it.
“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation”
“If I want to see the change, I have to be part of that change. I have to hold my colleagues, and my bosses and partners, accountable.”
“It’s time to do things differently,” agreed Eslami. “People often think, ‘If something’s not broken, why fix it?’, but we’ve all had a three-month time out and realised that now is the time to think about how we can do things differently in future.”
Bothra said ATC is looking at changes it can make to hiring processes to promote greater diversity. “For us as a management company, for example, we have to be aware that it’s incumbent on us to look in new places to find people,” he explained. “We can’t just go to the same recruitment agency, the same school, and do the usual thing, because that’s not going to make any difference at all.”
“The professionals are out there,” added Talwar. “We’re just not looking in the right places.”
“There are tons of kids who don’t know that an agent exists, or that there’s a management position, or a social media aspect of this,” said Pierre, emphasising the importance of getting the word out about the live industry to underrepresented groups.
“I think we have to expose people to these things, so they can understand there’s a whole workforce behind these artists and something for them to do beyond just being an artist or a producer or writer.”
“The professionals are out there. We’re just not looking in the right places”
“Before I started at Metropolis I didn’t even know a promoter was a job,” added Eslami. His advice, he said, is that “it doesn’t take long” to offer advice and mentorship to young people from disadvantaged groups. “There are 365 days in a year, and if you spare one or two” of them you can really make a difference, he said.
While the current zeitgeist feels like a “watershed moment” for diversity, real change needs to be about more than words – it’s got to be a “root-and-branch approach” that tackles “systemic” issues, said Talwar.
He added that he’s “just as interested in the block in the middle” – the one that stops industry professionals of colour attaining leadership positions – as the one that stops ethnic minorities getting into live music in the first place. “Where are the next CEOs, the next chairmen?” he asked.
Carrigan concluded by saying the conversation had been “a long time coming” and expressed his wish that debate will go on in future. “These conversations about race in the live music industry are not common, which illustrates the need to continue the conversation,” he explained.
Given the importance of the conversation continuing, future IQ Focus panels will revisit the topic in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, you can watch back yesterday’s session on YouTube or Facebook now.
Managers peg October as earliest return for live
The latest IQ Focus session saw a line-up of international artist managers discuss the timeline for reopening, potential changes to artists’ contracts post-Covid-19 and monetisation of live streams.
The session, presented in partnership with the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and hosted by MMF chair Paul Craig, featured Kaiya Milan (Off Balance Group/The Sorority House & Co.), Marc Thomas (Red Light Management/Go Artist Management), Meg Symsyk (eOne Management/MMF Canada) and Per Kviman (Versity Music/MMF Sweden/EMMA).
Thomas compared the constant cancelling and rescheduling of shows in recent weeks to “rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic”, adding that he has been “targeting markets” such as Australia and certain parts of the US, which are likely “to get back to live more quickly”.
Thomas said he has accepted two offers for artists to play in the US in October – the earliest dates he’s looking at – including at “a leading festival”. A caveat in the contract allows the team to reassess 28 days out, in case there is a second spike.
Artists will also need to weigh up whether to take the hit of losing a couple of weeks in quarantine in order to do four weeks of solid touring in countries such as Australia, he said, highlighting the obstacles of a post-coronavirus world.
“I’m not optimistic that these things are going to run smoothly”
“I’m not optimistic that these things are going to run smoothly,” said Milan, referring to events scheduled for the autumn. Managers have been receiving offers with clauses allowing the promoter to cancel at any point, she said, which works out ok for “more established artists” but is a big risk for lesser known acts.
“I’m in a space where I know anything can happen.”
Versity Music manager Kviman agreed that things remain too uncertain for now, saying he is not putting new tours out until September 2021 as “people aren’t ready to buy tickets at this point”. Tours that had already sold lots of tickets prior to the Covid-19 crisis are being rescheduled for May 2021.
Craig asked whether any new opportunities had come out of the crisis for managers and artists, with panellists agreeing that livestreaming had presented a variety of options, if not always significant from a financial point of view.
Symsyk said live streams had, in general, worked more effectively for electronic or hip-hop acts. Bands have tended to face more technical difficulties and have often not been satisfied with the quality of streams. “[For bands, livestreaming] has worked ok for charity events, but hasn’t been worth it from a financial point of view”, she said.
Thomas, who works predominantly with electronic acts, said he has “leant into livestreaming a lot”. One act sold $15,000 in merchandise while playing in a virtual edition of Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Carnival festival.
“You can’t ask fans to pay for a ticket as a live stream doesn’t replace the experience of going to a festival, but you can sell off the back of it”
“You can’t ask fans to pay for a ticket as a live stream doesn’t replace the experience of going to a festival,” he said, “but you can sell off the back of it.”
Milan said there was more opportunity for grassroots artists to make money from paid live streams as audiences want to support them. “Livestreaming is the way people can see to help out and get something in return at the moment”, she said, which “works for a certain level of artist”.
Although the grassroots sector is one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus shutdown, Symsyk noted that the current situation is giving “a window of opportunity to focus on local talent” in Canada.
Turning to when live does return, Thomas stressed the need for “everyone to have a bit more give”.
“The reality is, in this situation, everyone needs to win, and I don’t win by getting the agent to squeeze the promoter so hard he has to pay me half the fee if the show cancels […] and he loses a load of money.
“We need everyone in this system for the system to function.”
Thomas said he accepted, to a certain extent, Live Nation’s recently expressed intention to adjust artists guarantees down for shows in the future.
“We need everyone in this system for the system to function”
“Promoters are the most exposed out of everybody and they’re not going to put these big guarantees out anymore,” he said, “it’s going to go on the backend.” This kind of “give and take” will be essential from all sides when rebuilding the business.
From a practical point of view, we can expect to see social distancing and other measures in place for a while as “not doing anything is not an option, however unpalatable the measures may be”, said Craig.
Outdoor shows seem to be a much better option than indoor shows, and a lot more scalable too in terms of keeping to distancing rules, said Thomas. Targeting the right age range is also important, as “kids think they’re invincible”.
For Milan, the deciding factor is whether people felt ready to go back into social situations as, “if they are, they will do whatever they have to” to get back to gigs or festivals, no matter how inconvenient the measures are.
Craig agreed, pointing out that we have all become accustomed to things that would have seemed unthinkable six months ago.
“If people want to go to a show, they will do whatever is necessary to go.”
Music managers step up for next IQ Focus
The next in the weekly series of IQ Focus virtual panel discussions features an international line-up of music managers, who will discuss the unique challenges the Covid-19 crisis has posed for their side of the business.
The session, IQ Focus & The MMF: Managing the Crisis, will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 18 June at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.
With the bulk of artists dependent on live music revenue and audience connection, the Covid-19 crisis has decimated livelihoods.
But what does it mean for their managers? The individuals thrown into salvaging campaigns, rescheduling tours, interpreting contractual changes and navigating the most uncertain of futures. How are their own businesses faring? And what do they see as the challenges – and hopefully opportunities – ahead for the live sector, in what we are all optimistically calling the “new normal”.
Drawing on expert global perspectives, and from managers working across multiple genres, Thursday’s session will be moderated by MMF Chair Paul Craig (Nostromo Management) and feature Kaiya Milan (Off Balance Group/The Sorority House & Co.), Marc Thomas (Red Light Management/Go Artist Management), Meg Symsyk (eOne Management/MMF Canada) and Per Kviman (Versity Music/MMF Sweden/EMMA).
WMG announces $100m social justice fund, IPO price
Following Black Out Tuesday yesterday, Warner Music Group (WMG) has announced a US$100 million fund to support charitable causes “related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism”.
The fund – jointly financed by WMG and the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the charitable foundation run by WMG vice-chairman Sir Leonard Blavatnik, whose Access Industries is the group’s majority owner – will support individuals and “organisations strengthening education, and promoting equality, opportunity, diversity and inclusion” in the music industry, according to WMG.
Along with the other two major labels, Universal Music and Sony Music, and all major live music industry companies, Warner Music was supporter of #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, which saw the music business come to a halt for on 2 June in solidarity with those protesting for racial justice.
Steve Cooper, CEO of Warner Music Group, says: “This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice, and that help those in need across the music industry.
“This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice”
“Our advisory panel, which will draw from a diverse cross-section of people from our team and the wider community, will help us be very thoughtful and accountable in how we make an impact. We’re determined to contribute, on a sustained long-term basis, to the effort to bring about real change.”
Today (3 June) also sees WMG’s return to the stock market after nine years, with a previously announced flotation (IPO) on New York’s Nasdaq set to raise nearly $2 billion from the sale of 77m shares for $25 apiece. Blavatnik purchased WMG for $3.3bn in 2011.
In addition to its labels and publishing arm, WMG has multiple live music interests, including concert discovery platform Songkick, Finnish promoter Warner Music Live and management company Umbrella Artists Productions, which it owns with German promoter FKP Scorpio.
‘The future is bright’: Tech leaders talk monetising virtual shows
The heads of some of the industry’s most inventive companies starred in the most recent IQ Focus panel, appropriately called The Innovators, which discussed the flurry of innovation going on behind the scenes during the ongoing halt in concert touring.
Dice’s UK managing director, Amy Oldham, began by speaking on the importance of “identifying the value” in new platforms and innovations. “In the beginning [of the pandemic], there was a lot of noise and a lot of not-very-good-quality shows,” she explained.
“Lewis [Capaldi] is a great example” of what the industry should be working towards, she added. “We did his show exclusively a few weeks ago. He did an acoustic set of the first album, and it actually felt like being on a night out – you had people taking photos of themselves hugging the TV saying it’s the best £5 they ever spent.”
Tommas Arnby of Locomotion Entertainment said his client, Yungblud – whose Yungblud Show Live (described as a “rock-and-roll version of Jimmy Kimmel”) was one of the early highlights of the livestreaming boom – was supposed to be “doing five sold-out Kentish Town Forums” in London this week, and his online presence is “about how to recreate that” live experience.
“In the very beginning these bedroom and kitchen performances played an important role,” but now people expect a more polished experience, said Ben Samuels, MelodyVR’s president and GM in North America. “What we’re doing is investing a lot to ensure these shows look and feel fantastic. […] They should be the best thing to actually being on stage or in the front row of a real show. So production values have been crucial to us.”
“Artists have to feel comfortable and confident about charging for their content”
Sheri Bryant, president of online ‘social VR’ platform Sansar, said a virtual concert should be looked as “additive; it’s not going to replace the live performance”.
Oldham – who revealed that Dice is now selling tickets in at least 113 countries following the launch of its livestreaming platform, Dice TV – agreed that while everyone on the panel is doing a great job keeping fans engaged while touring is on hold, “one thing we haven’t nailed is giving artists confidence that just because they’re doing something on a stream doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be charging.
“All the movie studios are shut, and yet we don’t see them dropping films online and saying, ‘Just pay what you fancy!’ Artists have to feel comfortable and confident about charging for their content.”
Chair Mike Malak, from Paradigm Talent Agency, compared charging for online video content to the transition in the recording business from fans pirating music to (legally) streaming it, noting that “we all grew up watching free YouTube videos”.
Bryant said Sansar wants “everyone to be able to experience” the platform, suggesting offering both a free tier and a “VIP experience” that could include perks for those who’ve paid, such as meet and greets with an artist or special powers inside its virtual world.
“The most important thing for us is to show agents and managers that people had a great time,” said Prajit Gopal, CEO of livestreaming platform Looped. “That’s always been really important – going back to them and showing them,‘Here’s the reaction, and this is why you should be charging for it.’”
“Imagine if this happened 20, 30, 40 years ago – it would have been catastrophic”
With talk turning to sponsorship in virtual events, Oldham warned that “sometimes you can oversaturate an artist by doing too many partnerships”. However, Bryant said the music industry has much to learn from the wider entertainment business when it comes to getting its talent out there.
“Look at how the YouTube stars, the Twitch streamers got big: through hard work and with lots of exposure,” she said. “If you’re good and you’re getting out there, you’ll see that growth. I don’t think people should be precious about exposure – you want to be across as many platforms as possible, because you never know when one of them will see a big spike [in traffic].”
The discussion ended on a positive note, with Samuels highlighting how fortunate the live music business is to have all this technology at its disposal at such a difficult time.
“Imagine if this [coronavirus] happened 20, 30, 40 years ago – it would have been catastrophic,” he said. “In a weird way, we’re lucky this happened now, with all these platforms that can continue to bring high-quality content to fans and enable artists to still make a living.”
Arnby agreed: “All these choices, all these ways to connect… The future is very bright.”
Music Managers Forum partners with TikTok
The Music Managers Forum (MMF) has announced an associate partnership with viral short-form video app TikTok.
TikTok – which has been downloaded more than two billion times globally – has been playing an increasingly important role in artist campaigns of late, helping music makers and their teams connect with audiences during the Covid-19 lockdown, including through its TikTok Live Sessions (which follow on from a starring role at this year’s Brit Awards).
Notable music 2020 successes on the platform include include Young T and Bugsey’s #dontrushchallenge (2K Management), Robyn’s #onmyown (DEF Management), Years & Years’ #breathechallenge (YMU Group) and Little Mix’s #BUSStayHome (Modest! Management).
The MMF’s associate programme enables artist-focussed music services to build direct relationships with the association’s network of more than 850 UK-based managers.
Activities already planned under the associate partnership with the MMF include access to best-practice resources on TikTok for MMF members, virtual training sessions co-hosted by TikTok and leading UK managers, and an in-person event in London, likely to be in autumn 2020.
“TikTok’s impact has been truly phenomenal”
Annabella Coldrick, MMF CEO, says: “Watching artists and music makers pick up and experiment with new technologies is always fascinating, but TikTok’s impact has been truly phenomenal. The MMF is delighted to have them onboard as an associate, particularly at such a challenging time, and I believe this partnership will deliver deep and lasting value to our membership and the talent they represent.”
“TikTok’s mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy to our users, and artists and their music have been a central part of this creative process since the app launched,” adds Paul Hourican, UK head of music operations for TikTok.
“We’re looking forward to working with the MMF to help managers make the most of our platform and connect artists with TikTok’s global audience, expanding the ways in which they can continue to creatively engage with fans, create lasting connections and drive success in all areas of their work.”
Read IQ’s November 2019 Q&A with TikTok’s head of music partnerships Europe, Farhad Zand, on how live businesses can utilise the platform here.
New signings continue during corona lockdown
Nearly three months into the shutdown of virtually all concert touring globally, booking agents and artist managers continue to discover and sign new talent, with many using the opportunity to bolster their rosters in anticipation of live music’s return, they tell IQ.
“Discovering new talent is a big part of the agent’s job, and since many of us are stuck at home with no shows happening currently, that gives us extra time to listen to new music and get interested in new artists, even more so than before,” says Belgian agent Guillaume Brevers, who left London’s ATC Live to set up his own agency, Hometown Talent, earlier this year.
“I believe it wasn’t the case in the first few weeks following [the outbreak of] the virus, as most of the agents were really busy postponing their tours, discussing festival cancellations, etc. But more recently, I personally have found I have more free time to focus on new music.”
Similarly, Dominik Meyer of Austria’s Cobra Agency tells IQ that while the early days of pandemic were largely spent dealing with cancellations and postponements, there is now definitely “more time to listen to music and explore new stuff”.
One London-based agent (who asked not be named) says he, too, has been signing new acts during the shutdown, as there are “things that I am definitely excited about and that I feel I need to sign now.” He adds that discovering new talent gives him a feeling of normality in strange times – as well as “a sense that there is a business to come back to.”
“Signing new talent is a good way for agents to remain proactive while no tours are taking place”
Also keeping calm and carrying on is Australian artist manager Andrew Stone, who leads Chugg Music, the management, publishing and label division of Michael Chugg’s Chugg Entertainment. Chugg Music’s most recent signing is Mason Watts, who agreed a label deal with the influencer-focused City Pop Records late last month.
With City Pop, says Stone, “we’re looking to sign artists now more than ever. There’s a focus on artists who have developed in the influencer/social media space” – City Pop’s first signing was TikTok star Mia Rodriguez – “so we feel at least somewhat prepared for a more online model of artist development. I think it’s a good time to build catalogue and grow communities on streaming, socials and radio, so that when the artists are heading out on the road in the future they have more than two songs that people know.”
Signing new talent is “a good way [for agents] to remain proactive” while no tours are taking place, comments Brevers, “so when things hopefully get back to normal, agents will be effective immediately and ready to provide their clients with the service they deserve”.
“In an industry where everything happens especially fast, I’m taking advantage of this new free time to think about new ways to reinvent myself as an agent,” he adds, “as well as how this industry could evolve to meet the challenges we’re facing in today’s society.”
Stone says lockdown is “forcing us to get really good at online marketing and collaborations. We are collaborating more than ever with artists across Zoom, and having features from other countries and languages, so that our international audience development isn’t completely halted by our inability to tour.”
“As long as there are engaged audiences, there will be a creative and nimble industry that can make the most of connecting with them”
With the return to full-scale concert touring believed to still be some way off, it depends on the individual agent or manager – and their personal circumstances – whether they’re using their relative downtime to scout for new talent, or just trying to survive, says the London agent.
“I think it comes down to the people,” they say. “Some are nervous about the future and just holding on, and some are understanding that it will pass and that they have to check new things out.”
They’re in the latter camp, they say – and so is Stone. He concludes: “I hope we’re not in denial about the long-term outcomes, but I think that so long as there are engaged audiences, there will be a creative and nimble industry that can make the most of connecting with them – whatever the circumstances.”
IQ launched its monthly New Signings playlist, which features tracks curated by a selection of major booking agencies, last week. Listen here: