Facebook surges ahead in race to create metaverse
Facebook plans to hire 10,000 people to accelerate its development of a so-called metaverse – a virtual world in which people can work, game, play and even watch concerts.
The word ‘metaverse’ – made up of the prefix ‘meta’ (meaning beyond) and the stem ‘verse’ (a back-formation from “universe”) – is typically used to describe the future iteration of the internet, made up of permanent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.
Using technologies like virtual and augmented reality, Facebook says it hopes to create a greater sense of “virtual presence” in the metaverse that will “mimic the experience of interacting in person”.
Facebook has made building the metaverse one of its priorities, investing in virtual reality through its Oculus headsets and building VR apps for social hangouts and for the workplace.
In 2018, the tech giant expanded into VR live events, including concerts, with the launch of its social events app Oculus Venues.
Facebook invested $50 million in funding non-profit groups to help “build the metaverse responsibly”
The app enabled users of its Oculus Go and Gear VR headsets to watch live music and sports alongside other virtual-reality avatars.
In 2020, Occulus partnered with artist-owned streaming platform Tidal to bring a series of exclusive and intimate live performances that can be streamed in virtual reality to fans’ homes.
More recently it invested $50 million in funding non-profit groups to help “build the metaverse responsibly”.
However, Facebook claims the metaverse “won’t be built overnight by a single company” and has promised to collaborate.
A number of massive tech-centric companies that have vested interests in music, such as Tencent and Alibaba, are also investigating how to build a metaverse.
Roblox’s global head of music told IQ in January that he thinks the metaverse will be bigger than the internet and mobile
Over the course of several years, Epic Games has been expanding its hugely popular online multiplayer game Fortnite to host virtual concerts and brand events within its own virtual world.
Other games are getting closer to a metaverse idea, too. Roblox, for example, is an online community where people come together to play, create and explore millions of 3D virtual worlds together with their friends.
Roblox’s global head of music, Jon Vlassopulos, told IQ in January that he thinks the metaverse will be bigger than the internet and mobile.
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Virtual concerts startup Stage11 attracts superstars
Immersive music experience startup Stage11 has announced partnerships with world-famous artists Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Snoop Dogg, Ne-Yo and Akon.
The news follows a €5 million seed round led by Otium Capital, a European venture capital fund backed by Stage11 founder and CEO, Jonathan Belolo.
Belolo is the co-owner of French record label Scorpio Music, which has a 45-year history in the music industry.
Belolo is joined by co-founders Jean-Philippe Braud and Gregory Dhonner, the co-founder and director of business development for Profirst, a luxury event agency for brands in fashion, beauty, and art (Armani, Chanel, Kering, L’Oréal, LVMH).
Also joining as co-founder is Mani Nordine, the president of American Artists Company, specialising in managing A-list artists and celebrities bookings (Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Nas & Lady Gaga).
Stage11 is using the funds to onboard strategic hires, sign key artist and brand partnerships and build its technology platform
Stage11 says it will use the funds to onboard strategic hires, sign key artist and brand partnerships and build its technology platform.
Amongst those new hires are executives who have previously worked for the likes of Assassin’s Creed, Facebook Oculus, Ferrari, Happy Feet, LVMH, Marvel Avengers, Microsoft Kinect, Nike, and Virgin.
Founded in 2020, with offices in both Paris and LA, Stage11 aims to tap into several of today’s fastest-growing markets including gaming, AR/VR, virtual events, and digital goods.
The company claims that it’s “setting out to redefine the interactive music experience” by combining gaming, mixed reality, and digital collectables.
It will achieve this by “building a new creative canvas for artists, allowing them to invite fans to live, play, and create inside their performances and musical worlds”.
We are combining genres, realities and cultures to build something bold, thrilling and timeless
“These worlds combine immersive gameplay sequences, life-like performances, cinematic narratives and exclusive digital collectables,” according to Stage11.
“Fans can not only discover and collect but actually use these interactive NFTs to create and share unique personalised content and even perform with their favourite artists.”
Stage11 can be accessed on desktop and mobile and the company’s first music experience is set to debut in 2022.
“As a gamer and sci-fi nerd, It feels like I’ve been dreaming about the metaverse my entire life,” says Belolo.
“Now that as a society we’re on the cusp of making it real, I find myself blessed to be part of an incredible team setting out to explore the new frontier. Building immersive music events and experiences is just the first step.
“We are on a journey together to reimagine the way artists and brands connect, even co-create, with their fans and audiences. We are combining genres, realities and cultures to build something bold, thrilling and timeless — yet accessible and fun.”
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Green Guardians: Resource management
The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly initiative boosting the profiles of those working at the forefront of sustainability, in the hope that it might also inspire others.
The 2021 list, which originally ran in IQ 103, includes 40 entries across eight categories, highlighting some of the organisations and individuals who are working so tirelessly to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.
This year’s winners have been chosen by a judging panel that includes experts from A Greener Festival, Greener Events, Julie’s Bicycle, the Sustainability in Production Alliance, the Sustainable Event Council and the Tour Production Group.
IQ will publish entries across all categories over the coming weeks. Catch up on the previous instalment of the Green Guardians Guide which looks at food & drink.
Ball Aluminium Cup
With its infinitely recyclable aluminium cups, Ball Corporation has signed a number of deals to supply the product line to events, including the 2020 Superbowl in Miami and PGA’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, effectively replacing millions of single-use plastic cups.
Durable, cool to the touch and extremely eco-friendly, extensive research on both sides of the Atlantic claims that consumers believe a venue that serves beverages in aluminium cups cares about the environment and that the drinking experience at that venue would be higher quality/better than other unrecyclable formats currently on offer.
Ball Corporation says that aluminium can be recycled infinitely without ever losing quality. In fact, it cites research that suggests that nearly 75% of all aluminium ever made is still in use today.
The cups can easily be made (minimum order of 50,000 applies) with custom logos and graphics to correspond with venues, events, teams, brands and more. Additionally, Ball’s drinking vessels are sturdier and more durable than other options, reducing breakage incidents and increasing quality perceptions.
EAP launched Love Your Tent, a campaign designed to encourage people to reuse them instead of discarding them
Eco Action Partnership
Waste is a key issue that the festival community needs to tackle head-on, particularly the ongoing problem of discarded tents and camping equipment left behind at the end of most camping festivals, creating one of the biggest environmental issues facing organisers.
With this in mind, Eco Action Partnership (EAP) launched Love Your Tent, a campaign designed to bond people with their portable homes and encourage them to reuse them instead of discarding them.
The organisation’s aim is to publicise the issue and create some solid solutions for change that will benefit the whole of the festival community.
Rick Storey, who helped initiate the campaign, explains, “We are determined to make festivals greener, more sustainable, and more enjoyable events for audiences and organisers, and one way of doing that is to cut down on the number of discarded tents. This can’t be done in solus, it needs to happen across the festival community and should involve tent retailers, festivalgoers and organisers.”
As part of its range of services, EAP also conducts carbon audits for events and businesses, helping to pinpoint where the main impacts are.
Greenbox offers a unique and forward-thinking approach to event waste management
Based in Bristol, UK, waste and recycling specialist Greenbox offers a unique and forward-thinking approach to event waste management. It pioneers the most sustainable strategies whilst keeping events clean, tidy and safe.
The Greenbox team builds on a wealth of experience that dates back to the mid-90s when recycling was first taking a foothold in the events industry. Its specially designed, distinctive and robust recycling stations are renowned for their ease of use and high recycling yield.
The company maintains that it’s what you don’t see that’s most important; through strategic deployment of its teams Greenbox tackles cleansing issues before they become a problem.
Greenbox operates throughout the UK, frequently in remote areas with limited or difficult access, as well as busy city centres, and at high-profile sporting events. It provides all the necessary vehicles, personnel, equipment and expertise to ensure events are cleaned efficiently, professionally and more sustainably.
Pitched for You is forming pacts to deliver mass accommodation smoothly in one package
Pitched for You
In 2021, Pitched for You has been delivering initial contracts, taking on crew and forming important relationships within the industry. As a supplier, the company took on every event it could, only to have half cancel and others pop up out of the blue with requests like isolation camps, glamp sites or a restaurant on a cliff.
As a B2B accommodation supplier, Pitched for You is forming pacts with ticket sellers, green travel companies, event assessors and production companies to deliver mass accommodation smoothly in one package.
Although determined to develop a real circular economy service, on the product side materials remain a great challenge, as there are simply no circular economy tent fabrics, yet. So the company is working with Nikwax to help develop these, finding that the correct fibres, coatings and maintenance techniques can make its material last “forever.”
On the service side, Pitched For You took advice from Aston Business School’s Advanced Services Group to ensure its business model is truly sustainable. While on the manufacturing side, Covid is presenting all sorts of international trade issues, so the company is considering moving manufacture entirely to the UK.
OVG is leading the development and operations of the Climate Pledge Arena, the first net-zero carbon arena
Oak View Group
With a mission to innovate and improve the live venue experience, Oak View Group (OVG) is leading the development and operations of the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, which it says will be the first net-zero carbon arena in the world.
OVG believes the new building will be the most sustainable arena venue in the world, serving as a long-lasting and regular reminder of the urgent need for climate action.
Among the multiple strategies the company is relying on to achieve its goals, it has committed to no fossil fuel consumption in the arena for daily use; it will use an extensive solar panel installation combined with off-site supplementary renewable energy for 100% renewable energy power; and it will offset any carbon emission activities it cannot eliminate – like transportation – by purchasing credible carbon offsets.
Other initiatives include a sustainable food and beverage strategy, ensuring that 75% of all produce is sourced within a 300-mile range. Additionally, the arena will have a zero single-use plastic policy, advanced water conservation measures, and by simplifying its supply chain OVG will target a zero-waste goal.
The new arena, which opens in October, will be used to inform future OVG developments including UBS Arena in New York; Moody Center in Austin, Texas; Co-op Live Arena in Manchester, UK; Coachella Valley Arena, California; and new projects in Savannah, Georgia and Milan, Italy.
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The future of contactless payment systems
To get the obvious dark joke out of the way, most festivals literally went cashless in the pandemic-stricken calendar of 2020/21, and not for strategic reasons. But now, after the better part of two years on pause, the survivors are gradually returning to a changed world in which actual cashless systems, once a matter of preference for live events, seem destined to become the standard.
As shows and festivals come back online around the world and begin to thrash out solutions to Covid safety, staff shortages, visitor flow, and our own increasingly cash-free habits, cashless and contactless options are a must-have, whether based on RFID, mobile pay, barcoded tickets, or some hybrid of the above.
“I think [cashless] was maybe 30% before the pandemic,” estimates Event Genius founder Reshad Hossenally, “and now it’s probably close to 80%-odd, maybe more.”
Nor is this likely to be a temporary shift. “In the festival world, the biggest change we are going to see when everyone is back is that cash and tokens will be out,” says David De Wever, CEO and partner at Antwerp-based PlayPass.
Before Covid, cashless festivals weren’t always to everyone’s taste – an NME column from 2018 was unambiguously entitled ‘We need to talk about cashless festivals, because they f***ing suck’ – but things are different now.
“Cash is no longer a preferred payment method, as cashless systems allow for a cleaner and safer experience for everyone”
The pandemic isn’t over yet, but event management technology – of which access control and cashless systems are just the most visible applications – will certainly be an important tool in the process of piloting the live business back out of the wilderness.
According to recent research, 63% of fans have greater event health and safety concerns than before, and 66% of fans are more worried about venue hygiene [source: Performance Research]. Meanwhile, the most mature markets are well along the road of phasing out cash, with hard currency in Sweden down to 9% of transactions in 2020, against 14% in the Netherlands, 23% in the UK and 28% in the US [source: McKinsey].
It all adds up to a major opportunity for cashless specialists, many of whom offer ticketing, access, marketing and travel within the same system, and whose technology easily flexes to encompass any number of testing and vaccine
passport options. Where festivals have returned in 2021, the majority have come back in cashless form, usually in tandem with some form of digital access control – whatever the particular situation has required.
“As a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge increase in demand for our solutions,” says Jason Thomas, CEO of global cashless provider Tappit. “Cash is no longer a preferred payment method, as cashless systems allow for a much cleaner and safer experience for fans and staff. RFID solutions work perfectly for festivals, but we’ve seen a real increase in demand for our white-label mobile pay solution, which works for events and venues with their own app or digital ecosystem.”
But while certain markets in well-vaccinated nations have bounced back to life, 2021 has not been quite the wholehearted return to action we were all hoping for – even if early signs were good.
“We’ve seen a real increase in demand for our white-label mobile pay solution”
“Around April, May, suddenly everyone was active,” says De Wever. “At that stage, a lot of them needed proposals for Covid testing and all different kinds of extra technology. Then it went quiet for a bit, particularly the big festivals.”
Most of those big festivals decided against risking a 2021 return, and even now, with pockets of events carefully raising the curtain again, just about everyone in the event technology business has seen too many false dawns to indulge in too much unvarnished optimism.
“What we have seen this year is some of the mid-sized festivals are trying to have an edition, depending on the country,” says De Wever, speaking in late August. “UK, Belgium, France is busy at the moment, but apart from that, it is still really flat in a lot of countries. We are just watching what is happening at each national level, and we also have some promoters who are taking the initiative themselves.”
One such example is Barcelona’s Cruïlla festival at the city’s Parc del Fòrum, which decided to proceed in July, safeguarding fans with an antigen testing regime made possible by PlayPass’s RFID system.
“[Cruïlla director Jordi Herreruela] decided he was going to test everybody, every day, no matter what,” says De Wever. “The procedure was that people had to create an account and buy a test for each of the days they were going to the festival. When you arrived at the festival, you swapped your ticket for an RFID wristband and took a test.
Intellitix saw its 2020 calendar wiped out and executed a quick pivot, developing a Covid-screening and assessment tool
“The company doing the testing linked the ID with the barcode on their tests, and when you got the results back after 15 minutes, that was linked with the wristband. Then you could scan the wristband to see if it was valid and if the result was positive or negative.”
This year’s patchy albeit largely cashless revival comes on the back of an extremely lean period in which, like so many other companies in the live space, the survival of the key cashless players was far from guaranteed.
Most also count sport as another key market, and consequently found themselves hit hard across several sectors. Like many others, Intellitix saw its 2020 calendar wiped out and executed a quick pivot, developing a Covid-screening and assessment tool.
“2020 was getting it into the hands of the essential businesses, making it work for construction, manufacturing, food processing, retirement homes, schools, healthcare,” says Milan Malivuk, chief strategy officer at the Toronto-based global provider.
“But the reality is, as busy as we have been with that, we are very keen to get back to what we do. So, we are obviously trying to bend over backwards to make things happen, but not to the point where we are willing to cobble together some half-assed deployments that aren’t going to be successful.”
“We were in a growing industry where every year you could expect growth and suddenly it was completely finished”
PlayPass and its French rival Weezevent announced a merger in March 2020, retaining both brand names but creating a 100-strong team with offices in Antwerp and Paris, as well as Canada, Switzerland, Spain, and the UK.
“We were in a growing industry where every year you could expect growth,” says De Wever. “And suddenly it was completely finished, and we lost 90% of our revenue, so that was quite confronting. And like a lot of businesses, we started to evaluate the best options of how we make sure we can survive this, and how we can become stronger after.”
The two companies had been in discussions before the pandemic, De Wever reveals, but the tempest of 2020 focused the need for mutual support.
“We had already had some discussions with Weezevent before. For my part I always considered them the biggest competitor. A lot of companies claim to be a European leader, and I don’t think there was one, but now… let’s wait until 2022, but I think we can say we are in a position to be the European leader.”
The immediate function of modern event technology this year has been to help get the show back on the road in difficult circumstances. But the deeper promise of such technology manifests itself on several fronts. As well as timely safety capabilities, it also potentially offers better experiences, shorter queues, and transactional efficiencies in a sector that, as most festivalgoers can probably confirm, could sometimes do with them.
“We are quite optimistic that Covid has pushed technological advancement in a sector that typically is slow to change”
“What Covid has done, in our opinion, is to accelerate something that was coming already – this attitude of ‘what’s the quickest and easiest way to transact?’ That’s the expectation now,” says Sam Biggins, commercial director at UK-based food and drink ordering app Butlr.
“We are quite optimistic that, although Covid was a terrible thing, it has pushed technological advancement in a sector that typically is very slow to change. Music venues have been operating in almost exactly the same way since their inception. Same with festivals. I don’t think the first Glastonbury will have been very different to Glastonbury these days, in terms of technology at least.”
And for promoters, efficiency isn’t the only win to be had here. The promise of teched-up festivals is that they belatedly offer promoters the opportunity to know their customers, learn from their movements around the site and create opportunities to communicate, preview, reward, and strategically market to them.
“We have been doing this since 2010,” says Malivuk. “And the reason people have used us is because they want to know who is inside their event – for marketing, for the ability to re-engage, build brand connections, the ability to improve traffic flow inside the event. And it’s about facilitating cashless transactions and speeding them up, gathering more data and increasing the average spend per person, typically by 30% to 40%.”
Tappit’s Jason Thomas agrees. “In this market, the solution that will provide real value is one that can go beyond simply delivering cashless functionality, to provide a frictionless fan experience and enable event organisers to understand each and every fan – connecting what they bought, when they entered the venue, when they left and how to maximise this,” he says.
“Providing real-time data to deliver real value for organisations will make the difference between success and failure”
“Data is the most valuable element of the cashless solution, and as we work with our clients throughout the process, we help provide insights and ways to make events even more profitable. Making consistent connections between a fan or consumer and ensuring you know their preferences is crucial in building strong brand loyalty. Providing real-time data and insights to deliver real value for organisations will make the difference between success and failure.”
On the one hand, some operators note that avid data capture isn’t necessarily the way the wind is blowing in the wider world. “We were on the BBC recently and it was all around data-less ordering,” says Biggins. “Some solutions will mine users’ data and it’s ludicrous and it’s intrusive. You don’t need someone’s date of birth to place an order. We are of the opinion that the less data you take, the more seamless the experience.”
But for broad-ranging event management systems, suggests Hossenally, a restrained data-driven approach, deploying closed-loop systems that enable organisers to bank all the data generated by their events, offers benefits on both sides.
“With the onsite experience now, there’s a lot more that can be enabled that promoters didn’t really think about before, because they didn’t have the technology solutions to do so,” he says. “It’s a real opportunity to be able to create that full end-to-end journey, from the company buying the ticket to accessing the event to paying onsite.
“It’s about understanding that customer and having a 360-degree view of their spending habits. It’s not necessarily all about Big Brother but how, in order to generate more revenue, promoters have to give more to the customers in the form of a better, more tailored experience: rewards, loyalty, all that sort of stuff that promoters couldn’t really do before.”
“Now with 5G, you can have 150,000 people in one place and have reliable connectivity”
Gradually, other barriers to seamless operation are being removed, too, including the perennial difficulty of networks for mobile solutions. “We have held off on releasing a mobile solution for a very long time, purely because network infrastructure wasn’t there,” says Malivuk. “But now with 5G, you can have 150,000 people in one place and have reliable connectivity.”
Intellitix acquired a mobile-first company called CrowdBlink in January 2020, on which it has built “a lightweight version of Intellitix, with a ticketing solution, access control, and cashless.” The future, Malivuk suggests, isn’t necessarily increasingly complex systems but more accessible ones, aimed at smaller events.
“Intellitix has always been a no-brainer for events over a certain size,” he says. “But we always also had a lot of demand from events that want what we do but the numbers don’t make sense. CrowdBlink doesn’t do everything Intellitix does, because that’s kind of the enterprise option, but for smaller events that just want to sell tickets, scan people in, conduct transactions but at a lower price point – that’s what this is for.”
As a dedicated payment system, UK-based Butlr also has an ambition to strengthen the technological hand of those it works with, which includes independent festivals and up to 700 venues. At Brighton’s On The Beach, Butlr displayed QR codes on posters and screens around the event, which allowed customers to order using their phones and receive a push notification when their order was ready to collect.
“We had four members of staff, compared to 50 on the main bar, and we were responsible for 50% of the takings,” says Biggins. “We want to avoid those scrums at the bar, five-deep. In my opinion, those should be a thing of the past. But as with all things, it takes time for adoption.”
“We want to avoid those scrums at the bar, five-deep. In my opinion, those should be a thing of the past”
At festivals of the future, he says, Butlr plans to spread its PickUp points around a site. “So rather than having one big bar miles away, we will have points really close to the stage. You scan a QR code, choose a PickUp point, and pick up pre-made drinks. That’s our vision of the future and we are starting to do it now.”
The wider future, of course, is a carefully managed return to business, as events attempt to gauge demand in a market where they haven’t drawn an audience in eighteen months or so. For cashless technology, the picture is a combination of the highly ambitious and the very down to earth.
“In five years from now, I think we can expect truly immersive and customised event experiences,” says Thomas.
“The launch of ABBA’s live event experience has shown just how creative events can become. Connected devices and 5G will all create the perfect environment to deliver a unique and tailored event experience for each and every fan. The right cashless solution will connect the fan’s experience to their purchasing preferences. Delivering deep and meaningful engagement can be endless, and the connection between brand and consumer will continue to grow stronger.”
And then there is the down-to-earth side.“I think there’s core tenets that are fundamentals, like, can we make it more invisible?” says Malivuk. “That’s the future of it – being less obtrusive. That’s where everyone’s interests align. If you improve the festival experience, that’s where you are going to see more revenues. Just make it suck less to buy things onsite. If you focus on that piece, everything else follows. Make all those steps that suck, suck less.”
IQ 104 out now: IFF, GEI, Steve Strange
IQ 104, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.
The October 2021 edition reflects on two of the industry’s best-known events, the International Festival Forum and the Green Events & Innovations conference – both of which returned last month.
The issue also pays homage to renowned booking agent and X-ray co-founder Steve Strange, who recently passed away.
Elsewhere, Adam Woods talks to some of the innovators behind contactless payment systems, IQ gets to grips with audience insights tools and Derek Robertson learns about the rollercoaster ride that suppliers have experienced during the pandemic.
For this edition’s columns and comments, IQ passes the mic to Music Venue Trust’s Mark Davyd, as well as Jürgen Schlensog and Sven Meyer from Jazzopen Stuttgart.
And, in this month’s Your Shout, we ask the industry how they would use an extra hour a day.
As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks. However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:
IQ subscribers can log in and read the full magazine now.
Deezer takes minority stake in Driift
Paris-based global streaming company Deezer has acquired a minority stake in UK-based livestreaming company Driift.
Driift says that the new funding will help it accelerate its growth, while Deezer plans to leverage its technology and expertise to support the livestreaming platform’s future growth, including the roll-out of new products and offerings.
The announcement follows Deezer’s strategic investment in Dreamstage – a US-based live music streaming startup – and the launch of its new live brand, Deezer Live.
Driift was founded in August 2020 and has since sold more than 600,000 tickets for live-streamed gigs with acts including Nick Cave, Niall Horan, Kylie Minogue, Biffy Clyro, Andrea Bocelli, Laura Marling, Dermot Kennedy, Courtney Barnett and Sheryl Crow.
Its previous partners include the UK’s Glastonbury Festival where the company conceptualised, created and produced the ‘Live At Worthy Farm’ event, which featured artists including Coldplay, Haim, Jorja Smith, Idles, Wolf Alice, Michael Kiwanuka, Damon Albarn and The Smile.
“Live streaming is a rapidly growing industry that is redefining how fans engage with their favourite music”
The company is majority-owned by co-founders ATC Management, with Beggars Group a minority shareholder.
The company is headquartered in the UK, with additional operations in New York and Perth in Australia.
Deezer’s CEO, Jeronimo Folgueira, says: “Livestreaming is a rapidly growing industry that is redefining how fans engage with their favourite music. Companies like Driift help artists reach people all over the world to generate new revenue streams. Deezer has been a music industry innovator since the very beginning.
“Our investment in Driift is the next step in our expansion in this exciting and fast-growing space. It also follows our strategic investment in the live streaming platform Dreamstage in May this year. I look forward to working with Ric and Driift’s management team.”
Ric Salmon, CEO of Driift, says: “We are delighted to have received investment from a global player such as Deezer. The investment highlights the value of Driift’s offering and confirms that live streaming will be a major new component of the music industry going forwards.
“What Driift has achieved artistically and commercially under lockdown conditions has really only scratched the surface. I believe that with Deezer, alongside our existing shareholders Beggars Group and ATC, we have the perfect partners to help us capitalise on new opportunities as the long-term potential of live streaming becomes more and more apparent.”
International Festival Forum 2021 marks a return to form
After 2020’s online-only version, the International Festival Forum (IFF) enjoyed a successful return to a physical event in late September, as more than 600 delegates registered for the event that focuses on booking agents and festivals.
Enthusiasm for IFF was evident at the opening party, hosted by UTA, where many delegates renewed acquaintances with colleagues they had not seen in the flesh since the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in March 2020.
With agency partners reporting oversubscribed speed-meetings at their pop-up offices around Camden, the conference element included a number of pre-recorded sessions, covering such topics as Your Next Headliner – Climate Action; Festival Playground – the Future of Music Festivals; Festival Insurance in a Post-Pandemic World; and Counting the Cost of Brexit.
The keynote saw CAA’s Maria May interviewing Festival Republic chief Melvin Benn and FKP Scorpio founder Folkert Koopmans, who delivered an optimistic message about the future of the business.
“[Festival Republic] is starting new festivals in 2022… we’ve got to try and keep up with Folkert”
Both men noted that there had been no dialogue between the live music industry and the government prior to Covid, meaning much of the last 18 months had been spent educating politicians and persuading them to help support the business.
Quizzed by May about what could be done to help emerging talent, given that many festival line-ups have rolled over into 2022, Benn revealed that he would be launching new events next year. “I am starting new festivals in 2022,” he said.”I’ve always got to have at least one because I try to keep up with Folkert. So, we’ve got at least one or two next year, and that will give new talent the opportunity to start getting to play to a bigger audience.”
“When I hear that Melvin is doing two or three new festivals, we might do four,” quipped Koopmans. However, he admitted that staffing was a problem and along with spiralling costs it means there will be some tough choices to make, so establishing any new showcase festivals might have to wait.
But he predicted that not only will the 2022 season go ahead, but “It will be the biggest year ever. And I suppose the next years will just grow. I’m super optimistic.”
“There might not be a complete shutdown, but booking a European tour in February, at the height of flu season, will be a huge risk”
Benn concluded that the industry can also take a lead on sustainability. “Now it feels like everybody is on the same page – artists, managers, promoters, agents, suppliers and fans – and collectively there’s a lot we can do together and that needs to be one of the greatest collaborations that the music industry can continue with.”
Elsewhere, The Agency Business panel examined the recently announced CAA and ICM Partners acquisition, with panellists agreeing that the deal could provide opportunities for independent agencies, while former CAA staffer Jon Ollier admitted to being “fascinated” by the merger, noting that CAA will be determined to preserve the company’s culture.
And it was Ollier, now boss of One Fiinix Live, who shared his belief that one potential outcome of the Covid pandemic may be that the industry will lose its winter season. “There might not be a complete shutdown, but booking a European tour in February, at the height of flu season, will be a huge risk. So why not follow the sun around the globe to mitigate that risk?”
ATC Live head Alex Bruford noted that rebuilding consumer confidence would be a major challenge, while he predicted a more flexible approach to touring where acts may put on a series of arena dates at short notice as market conditions change.
“AEG’s Jim King called out the scandal of guest-list ticketing fall-off, which has been 40% on some shows”
The conference’s opener involved a Therapy Session where delegates shared stories from the past 18 months, alongside plans to rebuild and reopen their various markets for live events.
With Barnaby Harrod (Mercury Wheels) and Claire Courtney (Earth Agency) onstage to represent the different parts of the business, those in the room heard a number of tales, with arguably the most inspiring related by Georg Leitner of GLP, who revealed that Syrian refugees are being recruited by security firms in Germany to help that sector get back to full strength ahead of the 2022 season.
Paradigm’s Clementine Bunel, meanwhile, moderated The Roaring 20s? where she and her guests examined whether the rest of the decade could be a golden era for live music. And while the future could indeed be rosy, multiple challenges were identified, not the least of which will be sharp rises in ticket prices to cover spiralling costs – an issue that Lowlands Festival’s Eric van Eerdenburg warned could prevent young fans from attending.
And noting increased drop-off rates at recent live events throughout Europe, AEG’s Jim King called out the scandal of guest-list ticketing fall-off, which has been 40% on some shows, compared to 10-12% normally. “It’s outrageous,” he blasted.
The afternoon and evening programmes at IFF once again featured some of the hottest emerging talent on the rosters of ITB, Earth Agency, Paradigm, Primary Talent & ICM Partners, Marshall Live, X-ray Touring, and ATC Live, while Music Venue Trust used the occasion to bring down the curtain on their nationwide Revive Live Tour, as well as sponsoring the closing IFF party.
Fortnite plans virtual concerts for new Soundwave Series
Epic Games has announced the next set of immersive virtual performances coming to Fortnite, under the banner ‘Soundwave Series’.
The series will kick off on 1 October with Egyptian musician Mohamed Hamaki, who has previously been featured on Fortnite Radio.
Hamaki’s show will repeat non-stop for 48 hours so that so it can be accessed at any time over the period. The experience will feature the first performance of his new song ‘Leilt Elomr‘ (‘the night of the order’) and a special emote created just for the first show of the Soundwave Series.
Other acts slated to perform during the Soundwave Series include Australian singer-songwriter Tones And I, Brazilian rapper Emicida, Japanese pop artist and music producer Gen Hoshino, and French-Malian singer Aya Nakamura.
“The Soundwave Series will introduce incredible crossover artists from around the world to millions of new fans”
“Music transcends any language, and has been a beloved part of Fortnite’s journey since our first in-game concert in 2019,” says Nate Nanzer, VP of global partnerships at Epic Games.
“The Soundwave Series continues that legacy and will introduce incredible crossover artists from around the world to millions of new fans inside Fortnite Creative, where there are virtually no limits on what can be designed by our community.”
The Soundwave Series builds on the success of Fortnite‘s recent Rift Tour with Ariana Grande, as well as Travis Scott’s record-breaking Astronomical concerts.
Raft of appointments across US live industry
Live Nation Urban (LNU) has made Mari Arionne Davies its new VP of booking and talent.
In the new role, Davies will oversee artist bookings for LNU festivals and touring brands and will actively seek out partners to “introduce a new generation of tours, festivals, and activations”.
A founding member of Diversify ICM and a supporter of The Show Must Be Paused campaign, LA-based Davies has a background in social justice. Her remit at LNU will also include identifying avenues to support underserved voices in the business.
“It’s truly a thrill to be joining the dynamic team at Live Nation Urban,” said Davies. “LNU has shown tremendous growth and proven to be the premier source for live urban music. I look forward to working along with the team to further impact the company and the culture and to continue working with the brightest stars of hip hop, R&B and gospel as live events return to stages around the world.”
Most recently an agent at ICM Partners, Davies has worked with artists including Kelly Rowland and contributed to the rise of acts such as A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Cordae, Kiana Ledé and Jacquees.
“We are beyond excited to bring Mari over to head up our festival booking and touring activities,” added LNU president Shawn Gee. “She is a rising star in the business, and we are fortunate to have her on the Live Nation Urban team”
“Whether it’s artists or our own internal team, Live Nation is always investing in people we believe in”
Live Nation has also promoted Jenifer Smith to head of urban tour marketing & strategy. She will lead the company’s urban tour marketing team, supporting its roster of R&B and hip-hop tours within the concerts division. Smith was a tour marketer at AEG Presents and Goldenvoice for close to a decade, prior to joining Live Nation two years ago.
“Whether it’s artists or our own internal team, Live Nation is always investing in people we believe in,” said Omar Al-joulani, head of talent & touring for Live Nation Concerts.
“Jenifer has been an incredible leader at Live Nation, and we are confident her strategic focus and experience will do big things for every artist working with our Urban marketing team.”
Elsewhere, venue management giant ASM Global has tapped industry veteran John Boyle as global chief content officer. Boyle was previously chief growth officer and interim CFO of Insomniac Events and will lead ASM Global’s presentation and production content pipeline for its venue portfolio.
“With John’s far-reaching experience and the content team we are building, we will provide a greater number and wider array of profitable events to our venues, which comprise the most iconic family of venues in the world,” said ASM Global president and CEO Ron Bension.
In addition, livestreaming firm Dreamstage has hired veteran entertainment marketing executive Jesse Kirshbaum as CMO. Kirshbaum brings previously led Nue Agency and has worked with clients such as Pusha T, J. Cole, Big Sean, Mike Posner, Action Bronson, Wale and Solange.
“I couldn’t be more excited about joining the ‘Dream Team’,” said Kirshbaum. “The company is well-positioned to lead the charge into the future of the music business. The pandemic has changed the live business and consumer and artist habits around it, forever,” said Kirshbaum. “The data shows that when done right, livestreaming has a positive effect on artists relationships with their fans and creates even more demand for live shows.”
Livestream platform Mandolin acquires rival NoonChorus
The livestreaming market has consolidated further with the acquisition of NoonChorus by US-based startup Mandolin.
Launched by brothers Andrew and Alex Jensen, NoonChorus has hosted more than 600 virtual shows by artists including Angel Olsen, Future Islands, Fleet Foxes, Bright Eyes and Parquet Courts, grossing a reported $4 million in ticket sales.
Both companies were founded amid the live shutdown of spring 2020.
“Like Mandolin, NoonChorus was born out of the pandemic,” said Mandolin CEO and co-founder Mary Kay-Huse in a blog post.
“They’re young and fast-moving, but knowledgeable and respectful of tradition – their team carrying years of industry experience and connections to help guide the industry toward a more prosperous future. They hold themselves, their shows, and partners to a high standard to deliver best-in-class services.
“All of this has allowed their company to generate not just an impressive, highly engaged fan base, but a network of artists and partners to supply those fans with the experiences they crave. The company is also just full of great people who we want on our team.”
“We’ve set our goals high – building a platform for clients to not just put on great shows, but to execute data-driven strategies”
Kay-Huse said the firm’s ‘playbook’ for hybrid concerts were more valuable than ever for artists and event creators coming out of Covid-19.
“We’ve set our goals high – building a platform for clients to not just put on great shows, but to execute data-driven business strategies enabled with critical fan and business insights,” she said.
“With each show, artist teams, venues, festivals and brands everywhere will access event-level data and fan insights to propel their business forward.
In the summer, Mandolin launched Live+, its platform of new products and enhancements built specifically for the “hybrid event future” of concerts and festivals”.
“Live+ – the digital amplification of in-person concerts – will become ubiquitous,” added Kay-Huse. “And this acquisition is just the beginning.”
The deal marks the latest move in the rapidly developing livestream market. Live Nation acquired a majority stake in Veeps, the ticketed livestreaming platform developed by Good Charlotte’s Joel and Benji Madden, in early 2021.