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Robert Grima: ‘We need the whole ecosystem to succeed’

As the worst year in the history of the live music business finally nears its end, IQ caught up with several industry leaders ahead of the new year, asking for their predictions for 2021, as well as the lessons they can take forward from 2020.

Here, Robert Grima, president of Live Nation Spain, speaks about the logistics of putting on 18 shows this summer while the pandemic raged, and why the industry must no longer take the live experience for granted when concerts return…


IQ: This year has been difficult, to put it mildly, but have there been any positive aspects you are taking forward from this annus horribilis?
RG: Yes, 2020 has also been a year of reflection and, especially, of cooperation in the live music sector. The sector has come together to give visibility to live music events as part of the culture and lives of many people, showing our professionalism and effectiveness and the efforts of promoters to give continuity to the sector, despite the circumstances.

How has news of the coronavirus vaccine news changed the conversations you are having with artists, management, promoters, festivals, etc.?
We as a global company are totally focused to getting back to the shows we all know and love, and there is a great focus on many ideas and protocols that will help us improve the service to fans and deliver a quick return.

Livestreamed shows have shown that fans will pay to see their favourite acts remotely. How do you imagine this technology might develop when regular touring activity resumes?
The impact of livestreamed shows in Spain has been similar to in other countries. Livestreaming has proved to be a good complement to live, and additionally can be a marketing add for our artists through these times.

It is a model that, in the future, can coexist with the live show as an additional offer for the fan in some cases, but the experience of a live show is unique and irreplaceable.

“Once we are all able to come back there is going to be incredible pent-up demand waiting on the other side”

What advice or encouragement can you give to those who were hoping to break through in 2020, knowing that the market is going to be overcrowded with onsales when the industry gets back to work?
Live is one of the best ways for artists to grow their engagement with fans, and once we are all able to come back there is going to be incredible pent-up demand waiting on the other side.

I would encourage them to focus on playing live, not stopping, even if it means performing with reduced capacity for longer, because it has been proven that fans respond and artists enjoy it. And it’s the best way for artist to maintain and grow their engagement with fans.

Despite the high numbers of Covid-19 cases in Spain, you were still able to host some Crew Nation events. How did you achieve this, and what challenges did you have to overcome?
Yes, we hosted 18 Crew Nation Presents shows in La Riviera over the summer with the aim of supporting and giving visibility to crews that work in live events. The shows were a great success. Artists love playing live, and the fans got to go to shows in a summer when, in many places, live music was on pause. Additionally, and really importantly, the crew were supported by the events at a really hard time, looking after the whole ecosystem of live.

This was all made possible because we collaborated closely with the local authorities and adapted protocols to the new regulations, which have been effective and used throughout the series.

As Spain/Portugal are often either the first or last dates of European tours, do you think the Spanish market’s return to business will be different to other territories around the world?
No, it does not have to be different. Fans continue to await concerts with the same enthusiasm, and Spain will continue to be an attractive country for artists. I actually believe that there will be a boost in the live sector once we get back.

“I hope that from next year we all can be in the moment and grateful for every show we get to be a part of”

The way various rival firms have cooperated and collaborated for the common good during the pandemic has been impressive. What hopes do you have that closer industry bonds can continue post-Covid-19?
My hope is that once and for all we can cooperate together in all moments, not only in difficult ones. What we have really seen is that the live industry is an ecosystem and we need all of it to succeed.

What do you think the biggest challenges are going to be for Live 2.0, and how do you think industry leaders can best guide the business as things reopen?
We have spent the summer working hard with local authorities to guarantee artists, fans and crews that the concerts are taking place in a safe environment. This is what promoters and artists across the world will be focusing on, and what we have proven so far to be possible. The parameters may continue to change but we will, as always, work with local authorities and health advisers to get as many artists in front of their fans as possible.

With the Crew Nation Presents shows we demonstrated that not only promoters are taking the new restrictions seriously, but that the fans are, too. I think that’s the best sign of things to come once we can fully reopen.

Finally, are there any bad habits the industry had that you are hoping might disappear when normality returns?
It’s easy to get swept up in the day to day, and I hope that from next year we all can be in the moment and grateful for every show we get to be a part of. Let’s not ever take live music for granted.

 


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Marsha Vlasic, Michele Bernstein look to 2021

As the worst year in the history of the live music business finally nears its end, IQ caught up with several industry leaders ahead of the new year, asking for their predictions for 2021, as well as the lessons they can take forward from 2020.

Here, Marsha Vlasic, president of Artist Group International, and Michele Bernstein, founder of Michi B Inc. and former partner at WME, talk livestreaming, vaccines and getting prepared for ‘Live 2.0’…


IQ: This year has been difficult, to put it mildly, but have there been any positive aspects you are taking forward from this annus horribilis?
MV
: Other than spending much-valued time with my family I really can’t think positive about having our lives controlled and halted this way.

MB: The ability to reset and make space for new ideas and concepts.

How has news of the coronavirus vaccine news changed the conversations you are having with artists, management, promoters, festivals, etc.?
MV
: I think most people are cautiously optimistic because we are all in such need of some good news.

We really don’t know when the bell will ring and when, and how fast it will be distributed, although the news coming from the UK is more promising.

MB: Conversations are very different. Plans are now very tentative and subject to change at a moment’s notice.

Livestreamed shows have shown that fans will pay to see their favourite acts remotely. How do you imagine this technology might develop when regular touring activity resumes?
MV
: Streaming has been very strong for me – my client Norah Jones charted as number one on Pollstar; Neil Young has done some beautiful live streams; Band of Horses have also, just to name a few of my encounters.

Having said that, hopefully it will not replace the live experience. I have had some success with the live streams, but there is nothing like the live show!

“Hopefully some amazing music will come out of bands’ experiences during this time”

What do you think the biggest challenges are going to be for Live 2.0, and how do you think industry leaders can best guide the business as things reopen?
MB
: We don’t know what the world will be like as we open up again.

That having been said: not flooding the marketplace with on sale traffic, remaining mindful and cautious that both volume and timing will play key roles in our shared recovery.

What advice or encouragement can you give to those who were hoping to break through in 2020, knowing that the market is going to be overcrowded with onsales when the industry gets back to work?
MB: Plan to seed the marketplace with some new content and redraft a new timeline/plan that includes a myriad of platforms.

MV: Hopefully there is always room for one more! I am sure every market will be saturated… Competition will be healthy, I hope.

Finally, are there any bad habits the industry had that you are hoping might disappear when normality returns?
MV
: I don’t believe so – business is business, and competition is healthy.

MB: Turning thoughtlessness into thoughtfulness.

MV: Hopefully – I use that word again – some great, amazing music will be coming out from bands’ experiences during this time. That could be really exciting.

I want my fucking life back!

 


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Elton John records biggest tour in Covid-hit H1 2020

With gross earnings of nearly US$90 million, Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road was the biggest tour globally in the first half of 2020 according to the latest Pollstar box-office numbers.

The site’s mid-year Top 100 Worldwide Tours shows Sir Elton had grossed $87.1m from 38 shows, with a total of 664,749 tickets sold, when concert touring ground to a pandemic-induced halt in March. (The ‘mid-year’ reporting period runs from 21 November 2019 to 20 May 2020, though the final show of John’s only 2020 touring period, at Western Sydney Stadium in Australia, took place months before, on 7 March.)

Sir Elton’s AEG-promoted success down under outshone his nearest competition to the tune of $16m, Celine Dion placing second with Courage world tour, which played arenas in North America from September to March. Another AEG tour, Courage grossed $71.2m from 33 shows, with 408,407 tickets sold.

Third and fourth, and the only other artists grossing more than $50m, were Trans-Siberian Orchestra and U2, respectively, while fifth-placed Post Malone recorded $38.8m from 22 dates.

Live Nation, unsurprisingly, retains its crown as the number-one promoter; Madrid’s WizInk Center is a new entry for top arena, having sold 30,000 more tickets than second-placed Madison Square Garden.

 


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IQ 87: Special end-of-decade issue out now

Optimism about the future of the live entertainment business is high as we enter a new decade, with business leaders predicting further global growth throughout the 2020s in IQ’s end-of-decade issue, which is now available to read online.

Issue #87 sees IQ host a ‘virtual panel’ with some of the industry’s most important execs – including CAA’s Emma Banks, Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke, Artist Group International’s Marsha Vlasic and Frontier Touring’s Michael Gudinski – as they reflect on the 2010s while offering their predictions for the decade ahead.

Move Concerts’ Phil Rodriguez, another panellist, says he sees opportunities in “consolidation on all fronts – promotion, venues and ticketing”, while Banks is looking to Asia, explaining that while China is “still not an easy market”, the potential for “certain acts” is huge. (If you can’t wait for the online version, read more on page 38.)

Covering the final IQ of the 2010s is Stormzy, as shot at Glastonbury by legendary rock photographer Jill Furmanovsky, who explains the story behind the photo in an online Q&A, published today.

IQ 87 also sees the return of the annual European Festival Report, which finds a mixed picture characterised by increased ticket prices, falling attendances and lower capacities; and The Gaffer award, which goes to John ‘Lug’ Zajonc, production manager for Metallica.

Issue #87 sees IQ host a ‘virtual panel’ with some of the industry’s most important execs

Elsewhere, Derek Robertson goes on tour with Dido to learn about the British star’s touring comeback, while Adam Woods heads to Russia for this issue’s market report.

There’s also everything you need to know about the Game of Live – aka ILMC 32 – ahead of the conference’s return to the Royal Garden Hotel in London in March.

All that, plus your usual dose of news analysis, new signings, emerging tech, comment from industry experts and much more.

As always, most content from the magazine will appear online in some form over the next few months. However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now.


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Why 2020 will see a ticketing revolution

Live events will see a technological revolution in 2020, with breakthrough innovations in the event experience and ticketing platforms bringing transformational change to the industry.

These bold predictions are being made by FanDragon Technologies founding CEO Robert Weiss (pictured, centre), global director of ticketing strategy and innovation Steve Machin (right) and vice president of business development and ticketing partnerships Alan Rakov (left).

As FanDragon, a leading innovator in blockchain-powered SaaS mobile ticket delivery solutions, gears up for a year of expansion, the company’s executive team shares their vision for the future of live events and mobile ticketing as we begin a new decade.

 


RW: The year 2020 will be a pivotal inflection point. Technology will transform the live event experience, making it better for fans while unlocking more revenue for rightsholders – and those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. These new revenues are predicted to be enormous, with the live music industry alone projected to be worth $31 billion by 2022.

I feel exceptionally lucky to have superstar executives like Steve Machin and Alan Rakov helping to lead FanDragon. Collectively, Steve and Alan bring nearly half-a-century of ticketing knowledge to our company. Their expertise will not only help us navigate this upcoming revolution – but ensure that FanDragon actively takes the lead in creating ticket delivery solutions for the future.

The year 2020 will be a pivotal inflection point

The mobile ticket will become a personalised hub powered by smart data

SM: The live entertainment market will capitalise on enhancements to the fan experience before, during and after an event. The ticketing industry is fully focused on improving platforms to power the next generation of fan experiences with smart, but secure data analytics.

The shift to mobile will continue to accelerate, providing increased personalisation, communication, security and monetising capabilities for event organisers and attendees.

Mobile tickets aren’t just a convenient way to get into a concert or game, they are becoming a hub for so much more activity – from serving up personalised promotions and offers, to receiving targeted communications ahead of an event. Digital tickets bring with them a whole range of benefits across ‘the three Cs’ – commercial, communication, community – and as we see more providers adopting a mobile-first mindset, we will see continued innovation around what a ticket can represent.

AR: Mobile tickets will power new fan engagement opportunities.

Ticketing giants and tech companies have the opportunity to put the needs of fans first by focusing on an area of the event cycle experience that hasn’t been explored – the time after a ticket is purchased through to the entrance to the show itself.

Organisers have a real chance to engage with fans during this time period and get them excited about what’s coming up. Tickets are their access to the show, and a mobile wallet application is their access to a myriad of opportunities relating to the event.

Mobile tickets aren’t just a convenient way to get into a concert or game, they are becoming a hub for so much more activity

The issue of ticket transferability will be addressed – but not by government regulation

AR: Ticket transferability will continue to be a hot debate in 2020. In 2019, we saw new government regulation on the topic with the reintroduction of the BOSS Act, including a clause that primary ticket sellers may not restrict a purchaser from reselling tickets. I believe this is a fixed mindset that will hinder the ticketing industry from protecting both fans and ticket rightsholders. Instead, the industry must focus on fixing technical issues to protect the integrity of tickets.

I personally think it’s the artist on stage, or the team on the field, that truly owns the ticket. They have the right to control the marketplace for their tickets. It’s not a product that you own. Rather, it’s a license to occupy a seat for a period of time in a venue where an artist is going to do something amazing to entertain you. What you can do with that license depends on who you are, your relationship with the artist and what experience the artist wants you to have.

Today, we’re facing a drastic imbalance of ticket supply and fan demand throughout the event sales cycle. To solve this challenge, the entertainment market must usher in a new era of smart ticket transferability. It’s on the rightsholders to collaborate – not compete – with companies that sell tickets and the technology providers that support these platforms. Simplifying and securing the ticket storing and delivery process will be critical to protecting fans and improving the overall event experience.

The industry must focus on fixing technical issues to protect the integrity of tickets

Say goodbye to barcodes, and hello to blockchain and RFID

SM: The industry will continue to innovate and enhance the technical components of next-generation mobile wallets, starting to get rid of the anonymous barcode for more advanced RFID technologies. I believe these advancements will change how fans access mobile tickets.

The anonymous barcode will start to become much less prevalent in 2020. We will definitely begin to see alternative technologies such as NFC (near field communication) take shape and become widely deployed for improved access to tickets.

AR: Technical innovations will disrupt the ways consumers use their mobile devices at shows – from storing their tickets to making payments at events, and more.

Blockchain and RFID will continue to make their mark on the ticketing space in 2020, with innovative companies using smart contracts to create a safe and secure ticket marketplace. Going back to the importance of transferability, these technologies will empower artists, teams and performers to set their own rules for how their tickets are obtained and shared.

In addition, RFID will expand with cashless payments to provide a seamless fan experience from entering to exiting the building. Finally, mobile hardware developments will force us all to reconsider what we know about what people can – and want to – do with their devices during the entire event process.

The anonymous barcode will start to become much less prevalent in 2020, with alternative technologies such as NFC (near field communication) becoming widely deployed

In the coming decade, the fan will rise again

RW: The live events market will undoubtedly undergo continued transformation throughout the decade to come. The overarching takeaway from these ticketing and live event industry predictions is that the fan will regain a sense of control when making purchases in the marketplace.

Multiple factors are merging – from the growing sophistication of mobile ticketing and the rising importance of data privacy to an inevitable curve bending towards transparency in the ticket lifecycle – that will result in the balance of power tilting back towards consumers, perhaps not entirely by 2020, but certainly within the next decade.

In the meantime, other fan-friendly developments such as the recent announcement of FanDragon’s Fan Experience Index Fan Forum will give consumers a stronger voice in the marketplace. Ultimately, smart people using new technologies will enable the live events industry to fix these issues and create better outcomes for everyone – keeping people in seats at shows while creating new revenue opportunities – a true win-win situation.

 


Robert Weiss, Steve Machin and Alan Rakov are executives at FanDragon Technologies, a blockchain-powered mobile ticket firm.

2020 and Beyond: How ticketing will revolutionise the entertainment experience

You are looking to buy a ticket to an interesting event for the upcoming weekend. Instead of navigating to your browser, you ask Siri or Alexa, “What’s happening this weekend in town? What are my friends and family doing?”

Within milliseconds, your AI assistant searches the internet for the events that seem most appealing to your interests and that appear in your family and friend’s social media feeds. Your AI assistant responds asking you follow-up questions on your desired experience and budget.

Once you have found the perfect event, you give your AI assistant the go-ahead to buy the tickets. Almost immediately, your tickets are purchased, verified and readily available in your mobile wallet. This transaction was likely processed through a mobile payments solution and automatically added to your calendar. Your AI assistant asks if you would like to invite friends, because if they also attend the event, the brand offers you an incentive.

The day of the event is here. When you get within a geofenced area of the event location, you receive a notification asking if you would like an augmented-reality tour guide to assist you to your gate of entry and seats. As you approach entry to the event, your face is scanned to verify your identity and your radio-frequency identification (RFID) or mobile phone ticket is checked-in in a near frictionless entry point.

A ticket is not just a piece of paper, but the direct connection between a person and an experience

Once you enter, your phone becomes a second-screen experience, providing your choice of merchandise, food ordering, artist or athlete information, game statistics and live betting experiences. When you arrive at your seat your food and drink order is waiting for you and you settle in for a great time.

This glimpse into the near-future is closer than it might seem. All of the referenced technology already exists. The next step is bridging the gap between the intersection of the experience, technology and human behaviour.

A ticket is not just a piece of paper, but the direct connection between a person and an experience. It is also the core mechanism for how organisations will gather data to better engage with you and provide offers you will find interesting.

The smartest organisations invest not only in technology, but also commit to securing the treasure trove of data on their users. Piecing these together will be the key to continually providing users with great experiences in a world of increasing entertainment options.

 


Mark Miller is the co-founder and chief executive of TicketSocket, a white-label ticketing and registration service for venues and events.