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Driift celebrates success with livestream concerts

UK-based virtual producer and promoter Driift is announcing a slate of ticketed livestream concerts after successful online events with Laura Marling, Lianne La Havas and Dermot Kennedy.

The company, founded by ATC Management’s Ric Salmon and Brian Message, trialled the pay-per-view livestream concerts with a performance from Laura Marling at the Union Chapel in London in June.

“Ticketed live streaming is currently a space that no one controls, and we believe there is a long-term and commercially viable business here. It’s incredibly exciting” says Salmon.

Capitalising on the success of Marling’s show, Driift has since produced livestream shows for Lianne La Havas at the Roundhouse and Dermot Kennedy at the Natural History Museum.

Kennedy’s livestream show, which took place last Thursday (30 June) and featured Normal People’s Paul Mescal, sold over 30,000 tickets worldwide and was broadcast live over four different time zones.

“It strikes me that this is just the beginning of an exciting opportunity for artists and their teams to create new art that many will choose to pay for,” says Message. “If we get this right, ticketed livestream productions, whether live shows or something not yet dreamt of, can comfortably sit alongside promotional videos, traditional live shows and other ways fans and artists relate.”

This is not a replacement for live, this is a coming of age for livestreaming

Now, with investment from shareholders Beggars Group, Driift is producing more high profile livestream shows including a one-off worldwide performance from Biffy Clyro on 15 August from an iconic Glasgow venue and a performance from Sleaford Mods at the 100 club on 12 September.

“We’ve felt for a long time that livestreaming has been undervalued,” says Ruth Barlow, director of live at Beggars Group.

“We’re excited about the creative and commercial opportunities for the business, the artists and their fans; who no longer have to be in a particular city at a particular time to experience unique live music events.

“This is not a replacement for live, this is a coming of age for livestreaming.”

Driift will oversee ticketing, production, licensing, rights management and digital marketing for the livestream concerts – allowing artists to rebuild live music into their release campaigns and overall strategies.

Having collaborated with live industry giants such as CAA, Dice, Universe/Ticketmaster, YouTube, Pulse Films and Jackshoot, Driift is expanding its offering outside of the UK, with a number of shows being set up in North America.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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IQ teams up with Wide Days for Focus special

IQ is joining forces with Scottish music convention Wide Days for this week’s virtual IQ Focus session, which will shine a light on the team behind Laura Marling’s pioneering live stream shows in London earlier this year.

The panel, Laura Marling – A Streaming Success is taking place as part of this year’s virtual Wide Days conference (23 to 25 July), and will be aired on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 23 July at 4 p.m. BST/ 5 p.m. CET.

To access the rest of the Wide Days programme, purchase a ticket here.

In June, Laura Marling made history with two, back-to-back shows at London’s Union Chapel, with the first performance livestreamed to Europe and the second exclusively for North America.

Selling over 6,000 tickets, the gigs proved that it’s not just stadium acts that can generate revenue from broadcasting to an online audience.

IQ is joining forces with Scottish music convention Wide Days for this week’s virtual IQ Focus session

Key figures who helped make Marling’s vision a reality will come together on the panel to discuss how the shows can serve as a template for other acts.

Chaired by music industry consultant Tina Hart, panellists include ATC Management’s Ric Salmon, who was a driving force behind the Union Chapel shows and has since set up ticketed livestreaming business, Drift; Amy Oldham of Dice, who provided the ticketing and one of the livestreaming platforms for Marling’s concerts; and award-winning director Giorgio Testi of Pulse Films, who was in charge of filming the shows.

Additional members of the panel are yet to be announced.

To watch Laura Marling – A Streaming Success on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

Read IQ Magazine’s feature on Laura Marling and the rise of the paid live stream here.

Laura Marling and the rise of the paid live stream


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Laura Marling and the rise of the paid live stream

“When the first song was over and, of course, no applause followed… I found the awkwardness of it somewhat thrilling,” says Laura Marling of her groundbreaking 6 June livestreamed gigs – the first for fans in UK and Europe, followed hours later by a second show tailored for fans in North America.

“It felt similar to a sound check in that people around you are getting on with their jobs and, in my case as a solo performer, you’re left there to get on with it, to do my job – there’s something I really enjoy about that. To sing in an empty church is a pleasure at any time. Also, my shows certainly aren’t famous for my mid-set one liners… so a lack of audience interaction didn’t factor too much.”

While the thousands of fans who bought a ticket for the Union Chapel concerts were probably unaware of the historic significance of the shows, the reaction to the format was almost unanimously positive, with Marling’s haunting lyrics, song choices and mesmeric performance complemented by the setting of the empty and silent venue. Indeed, the artist herself was one of the biggest fans of the format and she is already working with her management team – ATC Management’s Brian Message and Ric Salmon – on another bigger livestreaming concept. To that end, Message and Salmon have established a new company called Driift to capitalise on the potential of the new ticketed livestreaming model.

Held down
In terms of performance, thousands of acts around the world have found themselves redundant since politicians started banning mass gatherings and confined live music to all but a memory of better times. Using a variety of platforms, however, numerous acts have been video livestreaming from their own homes, albeit with little quality control on either audio or visual aspects. And using the technology at hand, only those with huge followings have been able to generate revenues through the likes of advertising that, again, they rarely have any say about.

“Without an audience, there’s tremendous possibility with what could be done in a space”

Where Marling’s activity differed was in charging fans for a ticket to access the live broadcast of her show, which transported her out of the ubiquitous corona confines of the living room/bedroom/bathroom/home studio setting, to a proper, recognisable venue. There she could call upon state-of-the-art sound, lighting and camera equipment, and even an award-winning director, Giorgio Testi, and Pulse Films, to deliver something meaningful and give ‘attendees’ something lasting.

“Without an audience, there’s tremendous possibility with what could be done in a space,” enthuses Marling. “An unforeseen bonus to an audience-free show, which of course means no front-of-house sound, is that you can get incredible sound – close to studio quality… With this set-up, we could use mics on everything without fear of feedback.”

Manager Ric Salmon tells IQ, “The genesis of the idea was born out of frustration. Laura had sold out her solo, acoustic tour around Australia, North America, the UK and Europe. But then Covid hit.”

When it became clear that not just the North American leg was doomed, but the remainder of the entire tour, the Marling team, like so many others, announced the cancellation: 41 dates in total. Ever proactive, ATC management convinced Marling to fast track the release of new album, Song for Our Daughter, and started revising plans for promo. “Laura is social media averse, but she was comfortable doing guitar tutorials for fans, so we sent her HD cameras to use in her house and she quite enjoyed performing remotely – culminating in a home performance for Later with Jools on the BBC.

“For the tour, we’d refunded about 25,000 people who missed out on seeing her, so we came up with the idea of broadcasting a show from a proper venue, to tap into that demand. But then the discussion was about who would pay for it, as nobody had sold tickets for any livestreamed shows at that point.”

“Just like a normal ticketed gig, people were nervous about missing out so they decided to buy early”

Taking that situation as a challenge, the ATC partners set about pulling the necessary team together. “Laura suggested the Union Chapel because that venue means so much to her and, because we’re not technologists, we reckoned the best idea would be to aggregate the best companies in their class,” explains Salmon.

Pulse Films and director Testi topped ATC’s wish list and having worked extensively with DICE in the past, the company’s new DICE TV platform also made them a clear choice. Finally, YouTube was added, given its global footprint, but that plan, Salmon admits, had one major flaw: “Being ad-funded, they don’t do paywalls, but Dan Chalmers at YouTube really championed the idea and before we knew it there was terrific forward momentum.

“The primary function was not to make money, hence the ticket price of just £12 (€13). But Laura was mortified about cancelling the tour, so this was more about offering her the chance to perform to fans. And it worked brilliantly, as she is in her element when it’s just her and her guitar. So it was some sort of replacement for the tour.”

Wild fire
As often happens with any new concept, when word started to spread about the Laura Marling pay-per-views, sceptics rattled out cautionary ‘you can’t replicate live’ adages. But with locked-down fans desperate for any kind of shared experience, demand for tickets uncannily replicated ‘normal’ sales patterns.

“The level of interest around the announcement was incredible,” reports DICE chief revenue officer, Russ Tannen. “Just like a normal ticketed gig, people were nervous about missing out so they decided to buy early.” Another familiar aspect was a sales spike on the day of the event – a whopping 16% of total sales for the UK show.

 


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 90, or subscribe to the magazine here


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Live professionals talk diversity in next IQ Focus

Continuing the weekly series of IQ Focus virtual panels, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music will look at the problems of systemic racism within the live business and discuss what needs to be done to make the industry a more diverse place.

The session, the eighth in the IQ Focus series, will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 25 June at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.

Earlier this month, Blackout Tuesday brought the industry to a standstill and thrust the topic of diversity in the music business back into view.

So just what challenges do black promoters, agents and managers face, and what’s needed to counter systemic racism both within the business, in performance spaces and touring markets?

Live Nation’s David Carrigan will lead this timely discussion to ask how changes can be made, and the current momentum can be maintained over the months and years ahead.

Joining Carrigan on the panel are Ammo Talwar MBE, CEO of music and arts agency Punch and chair of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce; Kiarn Eslami, a promoter at Metropolis Music;
Lucy Atkinson from Earth Agency; Sumit Bothra of ATC Management; and ICM Partners’ Yves Pierre.

All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including management under lockdown, the agency business, the festival summer, grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.

To set a reminder about Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.


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Futures Forum: Beyond Touring: Full-stack futures

MelodyVR is a company specialising in virtual reality broadcasts of live gigs. Founder Steven Hancock said his firm’s mission is not about replacing the live experience, but about making it accessible to people who can’t get to a show. He said everyone in the rights chain gets a cut of the revenue, including venues and agents as well as artists and publishers and labels. However, this is still an emerging technology, so the revenues aren’t huge, he added.

Jules O’Riordan – better known as DJ Judge Jules – said as VR hardware has become more affordable, it’s become more popular. But he added that it has less potential in the dance music perspective, because the genre is less focussed on watching a stage.

Gary Cohen of management firm ATC said brand and artist partnerships are evolving rapidly, with content creation being a core focus right now. “It’s all about ‘the thumb stop’,” he said. “What branded content will make someone stop scrolling on their timeline and press play.”

Brands are under pressure to be entertaining, and are looking for ways to hit the passion points of their potential customers, he advised. But more important was authenticity. “People are more than prepared to feel good about a brand that brings them closer to the artists they love, but it also has to be entertaining.”

Chris Hassell of UK creative agency Ralph, said brand partnerships today are about collaboration – can each side offer each other something?

“People are more than prepared to feel good about a brand that brings them closer to the artists they love, but it also has to be entertaining”

O’Riordan said there’s a temptation to do deals which are good for short term cashflow but not great for long term development of the band.

So, how can the industry work best with brands? Hassell said that the earlier an artist gets involved the better, because the creative will require input from the act. However, sometimes lawyers and management get involved first, which can cause hold-ups.

The recent growth of added-value ticketing, such as paying more for things like meet-and-greet opportunities was considered, but that these options should be considered on a case by case basis. It needs to be right for the artist, cautioned O’Riordan.

Cohen said this is becoming more popular, but that’s it’s crucial that managers balance the need to make as much money as possible on the road, with making sure the hardcore fans that are buying these extras get value for money.

Chair Rhian Jones asked what was the one thing that will add value to creatives? Hassell’s opinion was to break down barriers to artists. “Get artists more involved creatively,” he said. Cohen’s advice was to have the artist as a stakeholder, so the partnerships are true collaborations.

O’Riordan said it’s important for artists to understand who their fan base is. If you understand what makes your fans tick, you’ll know what partnerships to do that don’t alienate them.

 


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