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I stream, you stream, we all stream (for live streams)

If there was one positive story to emerge from the unrelenting stream of bad news that was 2020 in live music, it was the dawn of the live stream. From the feel-good, lo-fi bedroom shows of March 2020 to the slick, professional ticketed events that become the norm by the end of the year, the willingness of fans to first consume, and then pay for, concert content beamed to the comfort of their homes was a small glimmer of light for the industry in the darkest year in memory.

A year on from the global shutdown that devastated the international live music business, how has the livestreaming market evolved, and where do paid-for concert broadcasts fit into touring plans in future – particularly when non-socially distanced shows are possible once again?

According to James Sutcliffe, chief marketing and content officer for LiveNow, the concert market is playing catch-up with sports, where pay-per-view (PPV) events – particularly with combat sports such as boxing, as well as ‘sports entertainment’ like professional wrestling – have long been the norm.

Unlike many companies in the livestreaming space, LiveNow “wasn’t, as a business, conceived in reaction to the pandemic,” explains Sutcliffe, who joined the company just before Christmas. Part of the Aser Ventures Group, whose Eleven Sports network holds broadcast rights to the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Uefa Champions League and Formula 1 across its platforms in Europe and east Asia, LiveNow was born out of Aser founder Andrea Radrizzani’s desire to “apply the things he’d learnt” in live sports to music, Sutcliffe continues.

Learning from its sister company’s experience in the sporting world, world, LiveNow was able to provide the industry with a quality product, free of the technical problems that plagued some newer platforms, right out of the gate, says Sutcliffe. Music events broadcast by LiveNow in 2020 include some of the biggest live streams of the year, including One World: Together at Home, Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054, Ellie Goulding’s Brightest Blue Experience, Gorillaz’ Song Machine Live from Kong and Pete Tong’s O Come All Ye Ravers, as well as a number of smaller livestreamed shows.

Another firm well placed to capitalise on the pause in physical events is Sansar, whose president, Sheri Bryant, says the digital concert boom of the past year is validation of its vision for social live experiences in the virtual realm.

“I think we’re way off having thousands of people in a field again, unfortunately”

Formerly part of Linden Lab, the developer of Second Life, Sansar launched in 2017 but came into its own over the last 12 months, with its platform used to create virtual-world festivals and venues for Glastonbury Festival’s Shangri-La (Lost Horizon), UK promoter LWE (Tobacco Dock Virtual), London Mela festival (Melatopia), German club Boothaus and Serbia’s Exit Festival, among others.

“We’ve believed in this for years,” says Bryant, who adds that 2020 “was a case of right place, right time” for Sansar, which found itself in high demand and years ahead of its newfound competition in the virtual concert space. “Now, it’s about fundraising and trying to grow as fast as possible, as we can’t keep up,” she continues. “We’re having to turn people away.”

For MelodyVR – which launched in 2018 as the first virtual-reality (VR) music platform – concerts will form part of a wider digital music offering that also includes music streaming from Napster, whose parent company, Rhapsody International, it acquired last year. The AIM (London)-listed company will soon rebrand as Napster Group, launching a new, integrated Napster app later in 2021.

It, too, was responsible for some of 2020’s most-talked-about streams, including Wireless Connect, a three-day VR stand-in for Wireless festival in July, and Live from O2 Academy Brixton with the likes of Fontaines DC, Blossoms and Tom Grennan, and hopes to build on that success this year – Covid-19 allowing – says Steven Hancock, co-founder and chief relationship officer of MelodyVR.

“We’re all on tenterhooks to see what the big promoters do – our strategy is to see what live looks like in its traditional sense,” he explains. “We’ve got some ideas around big showpieces, but there’s no requirement for us to rush this year.” (MelodyVR recently raised just over £8 million to help build and launch its new app.)

“But what we do know,” he adds, “is that ‘hybrid’ shows” – livestreamed concerts with a small, often socially distanced physical audience – “are going to become the norm. I think we’re way off having thousands of people in a field again, unfortunately.”

“Right now, as a promoter, there are very few other ways of making any money”

“I don’t perceive any concerts of note this year,” agrees Conal Dodds, co-founder and director of promoter Crosstown Concerts, which has partnered with PPV concert platform Stabal for its own on-demand shows, the first of which – a reunion concert by British folkies Bellowhead – took place in December.

Expanding into live streams is “completely inspired by Covid,” Dodds says. “People’s summer schedules are evaporating, festivals are tumbling away by the day… right now, as a promoter, there are very few other ways of making any money.”

Unlike one-and-done streams that can’t be watched back, Crosstown gives fans the opportunity to buy a deluxe ticket that gets them 30 days to watch the show, as well as additional exclusive content. “Anecdotally, 60-70% of sales so far have been for the more expensive of the two ticket options,” says Dodds.

Both Dodds and Bryant say they see a place for part-physical, part-digital hybrid concerts as restrictions on real-world events are gradually lifted – Bryant says almost all major Sansar-hosted shows in 2021 are “‘parallel’ events” – as does Russ Tannen, chief revenue officer of concert discovery and ticketing platform Dice, which rapidly repositioned itself as a platform for ticketing and promoting live-streams in the early days of the pandemic.

“We made a call in April that it was time to give livestreaming a go,” recalls Tannen. “I was very sceptical – we’d never talked about livestreaming before the end of March – but obviously it took off very quickly and before long we’d had thousands of streams entered into the app.”

Dice’s live-streaming successes to date include a string of shows with Ric Salmon and Brian Message’s Driift, including Laura Marling, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue (who sold 30,000+ tickets), Rough Trade, David Bowie’s Lazarus and DJs David Guetta and Bicep – as well as thousands of events with emerging and mid-level artists, whose fans are willing to pay similar money for digital concerts, at least during the pandemic.

The concert market is playing catch-up with sports, where PPV events have long been the norm

“It’s obviously Nick Cave, Kylie, etc., that got lots of headlines, but there’s actually a really interesting middle section of emerging artists, people like Black Country New Road, Cinematic Orchestra, who are also putting on viable shows and delivering really great live experiences,” Tannen says.

As to the hybrid question, “what we saw before lockdown is that socially distanced hybrid shows were selling really well,” he adds, “so I think we will see more of those – they will happen again and they will sell.”

“This summer is not going to happen in any major way,” says Sutcliffe, “so that hybrid model will be key as the first step back to live.”Whatever the reason – whether it’s fear of Covid, or maybe because they haven’t got the vaccine – a lot of people are still going to be scared to go back into a stadium, so this allows for both: a [physical] live ‘experience’ and the livestreamed show.”

Interestingly, a large proportion of the people who are buying tickets for live streams aren’t regular gig-goers temporarily shut out of venues, according to Tannen.

“One of the reasons I think they’re going to stick around is that we’re reaching a different demographic,” he says. “Maybe it’s people who have moved out of the city, or are a bit older, or for whatever reason can’t get to a venue, a lot of those people don’t want to be locked out of live music.”

Similarly, Dodds says Crosstown aren’t necessarily focusing on acts the company has promoted before. “We target people that we think there’s an audience for,” he explains. “We’re not really going after a young audience, as I don’t think they’re prepared to pay £10–15 for a concert broadcast – our target, really, is grown-ups.”

“Everyone is interested in capturing that incremental revenue, and livestreaming is part of that”

Even after non-socially distanced, full-capacity shows return, live streams will offer artists and promoters a reliable additional revenue stream for little risk or outlay, Sutcliffe adds. “If you sell out the O2 in London and then do another 20,000 tickets on top, that’s pure profit,” he says. “We don’t want to replace live – nothing beats the live experience – but [with streaming] we’re able to dd a layer of extra value for fans, artists and the industry.”

“The objective used to be 75%, 80% – whatever the magic number was, once you reached that, everyone was happy,” Hancock echoes. “But it seems like now, from the agents and promoters we’ve spoken to in the last year, everyone is interested in capturing that incremental revenue, and livestreaming is part of that.”

Dodds says while it “remains to be seen whether people want to continue [doing dedicated live streams] after live music returns, “it’s definitely something that could augment touring in the future, particularly if all shows on a tour are sold out, or for territories where people aren’t able to tour.”

For some performers, even archive performances can be repackaged and ticketed as a standalone ‘live’ stream – British comedian James Acaster, for example, sold 30,000 tickets at £10 each for a show that was originally filmed at the end of 2019, Tannen explains.

For virtual worlds like Sansar, where fans participate in the show as opposed to simply watching, the key to long-term success is “deeper engagement,” both between fans and artists and between the real and virtual words, Bryant suggests.

“One thing we explored last year is this thing we call ‘windowing,’” she says, “which allows different audience from around the world to mix and mingle, blending the lines of who and what we consider ‘real’.” Windowing, Bryant explains, involves putting up an LED screen on which real-world concertgoers can see and communicate with the Sansar avatars, and vice versa, with those inside the virtual world able to see the physical concert crowd.

“I’m hoping the live streams coming out now might ignite that little spark that we need to plant in the heads of gen Z”

While everyone IQ spoke to sees a place for livestreamed or virtual concerts post-pandemic, all are clear that they must not – and cannot – replace the live experience, instead functioning as an add-on to physical shows that benefits the industry and live music fans alike.

However, from a sustainability point of view, consumer willingness to pay for live-streams could enable artists to reduce the environmental impact of their tours by playing fewer physical dates, Sutcliffe suggests. “I’m romantic about live, but we have to be realistic about the situation,” he says.

“The logistics involved in an international tour – from the many forms of transport to hotel rooms, bars, restaurants – has a huge environmental impact.” From a coronavirus perspective, “that’s also a lot of movement that the world won’t allow to happen again quickly.”

Dodds agrees, stating, “As something to augment tours – maybe by adding a few livestream-only dates, with an extra show filmed at the be ginning of the tour – it’s definitely an option for artists who want to minimise their carbon footprints.”

For Tannen, the hope is that live streams can help get the next generation of concertgoers – for whose attention concerts are competing with video games, esports, YouTube, Twitch, social media and countless other electronic distractions – excited about live music, just as watching and rewatching old pop-punk videos did him at the turn of the millennium.

“I had all these Warped Tour VHSes [tapes], and they’re what got me obsessed with the idea of live music,” he says. “I’m hoping that might be the same with the live streams that are coming out now, that they might ignite that little spark that we need to plant in the heads of gen-Zers. We need to make sure the kids that are coming through want to go and watch shows, the same way we did.”

 


Read this feature in its original format in the digital edition of IQ 97:


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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New year, new hope: IQ 96 is out now

IQ 96, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

February’s IQ Magazine details the unique 2021 edition of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) and offers an exclusive preview of new session Pulse with agent Mike Malak.

Elsewhere, IQ editor Gordon Masson finds out New Zealand’s industry is coping in its post-pandemic bubble, and talks to some of Europe’s biggest venues to find out how they plan to get back up and running, as the European Arenas Association turns 30.

This issue also hears from Crosstown Concerts director Conal Dodds, who details his firm’s creation of a new live-streaming operation, and Nue Agency chief Jesse Kirshbaum, who extols gaming’s ability to introduce artists to new audiences and accelerate career development.

And if you’re curious to know what Rob Challice (Paradigm), Claudio Trotta (Barley Arts), Alan Day (Kilimanjaro Live) and other industry pros are looking forward to most when life gets back to normal, you’ll find the answers in Your Shout.

All that is in addition to all the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news analysis and new agency signings, the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

Whet your appetite with the preview below, but if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now and receive IQ 96 in full.

 


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Crosstown Concerts celebrates streaming success

UK-based promoter Crosstown Concerts is celebrating a successful debut for its recently launched virtual concert platform after selling over 8,000 tickets for Bellowhead’s first show in nearly five years.

The English folk legends, who went on hiatus in 2016, reunited for a one-off show at Stabal, a studio facility on the edge of Epping Forest in east London, as part of Crosstown Live, which launched in partnership with Stabal last summer.

Crosstown launches virtual concert platform

In total, the promoter sold 8,200 tickets for the 5 December show, with 70% of buyers opting for the higher-priced (£22) ‘deluxe’ option, which includes the ability the watch back for 30 days afterwards, as well as bonus content.

Other Crosstown Concerts Live shows include Seth Lakeman, who will celebrate 15 years of his Freedom Fields album on 27 February, and Damien Dempsey’s Christmas concert on 23 December 2020.

Crosstown Concerts director Conal Dodds comments: “We knew the return to full-capacity shows would be some time away and we needed to find an alternative platform for our artists. Our search to find the very best broadcast solution for our artists led us to Epping Forest-based broadcast platform Stabal. After several online meetings and lots of negotiations, we entered a partnership. Their whole team are super friendly and professional, sharing with us a desire to produce the highest-quality events.

“I am thrilled to see the success of our first few shows already surpassing all expectations”

“I believe this collaboration between Stabal and Crosstown solves all of the issues artists have encountered broadcasting concerts, as we can handle all the aspects required between us. We cover all the costs, and handle all marketing, ticketing, rights and publishing clearances, with audiovisual recording produced to a world-class standard.

“When I first met with Conal and Paul [Hutton, Crosstown co-founder] in early 2020, it was clear that we carried the same attitude to doing business,” continues Stabal’s CEO, Steve Odart. “Crosstown were promoting life-affirming concerts at a fair price, and their track record of success in the bricks-and-mortar promotion world was clearly evident. Stabal carries the same DNA, with our focus being firmly in the digital space. It was a very logical partnership.6

“We have crafted a well-thought-through, end-to-end offering and strategy to deliver the very best online concert offering to the music industry, building an outstanding commercial offering that works for all key stakeholders; labels, publishers, management, artist and PROs. That investment has been totally worth it, and I am thrilled to see the success of our first few shows already surpassing all expectations.”

Odart continues: “Twenty twenty-one is a very exciting year for our partnership. In Q1 2021, we are expanding the Stabal platform across Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire and Roku to provide an even more extensive TV viewing experience, and adding a production hub in Australia to complement our existing UK and US production teams.”

Dodds, who explains that Crosstown and Stabal are able to sell the content in over 150 countries in multiple currencies, says he has global ambitions for the platform. “We are currently negotiating with multiple international artists, and expect our collaboration with Stabal to go from strength to strength in the coming year,” he concludes.

 


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

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Crosstown launches virtual concert platform

Crosstown Concerts, the independent UK promoter, has launched Crosstown Live, a new ticketed online concert platform the company hopes will serve as a one-stop shop for artists who want to make money from virtual shows.

Utilising Stabal’s studio complex on the edge of Epping Forest, in east London, Crosstown Live aims to offer artists and agents a high-quality, no-fuss virtual concert solution, with Crosstown Concerts covering the costs of recording, editing, marketing, hospitality, ticketing and broadcasting, according to Crosstown co-founder and promoter Conal Dodds.

In an email to booking agents, Dodds explains that Crosstown Live will film and record concerts live, allowing up to ten days for approvals and editing before broadcasting the show “as live” to fans. The shows will sit on Stabal’s platform as Vimeo videos, albeit as separate, Crosstown-branded broadcasts.

In addition to the above costs, Crosstown will “sell tickets worldwide, in every country that allows unrestricted video-on-demand platforms to play,” says Dodds. “We will market the shows appropriately in the relevant territories to your artist. We are talking to major ticket agencies with regard to them being affiliate sellers via Stabal also, so we benefit from their databases.”

Crosstown Live will also allow for album bundles (which would be eligible for chart positions); artists could then treat their performances as “an in-store/out-store performance while social distancing restrictions render record store plays impossible,” continues Dodds. “We will do all the liaising with record labels, fulfilment partners, etc.”

“Our intention is to channel this offer through agents, and through the industry as a whole”

In addition to Stabal’s Epping Forest location, Crosstown has partnered with Dark Horse Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, to create a similar set-up for US Crosstown Live shows.

Other benefits to Crosstown Live for artists include additional earnings from bonus content, rentals and, potentially, Stabal subscriptions, while Crosstown can sell tickets in a variety of currencies, including Mexican pesos, Japanese yen, Polish zloty and various Scandinavian kroner (in addition to the usual dollars, euros and pounds).

“Our intention is to channel this offer through the artist’s booking agents, and through the music industry as a whole,” continues Dodds.

“From the outset, our UK target for artists are those worth at least 3,000–5,000 indoor ticket sales in London – our costs and investment in this project are significant, so we need artists capable of significant sales. Once we are up and running, we will investigate the opportunity to have multiple artists recording on a single day, so that we can drive down costs and make appropriately priced broadcasts viable for new and upcoming artists.”

The UK facility will be ready from 1 July, says Dodds, who adds that company is already investigating further studio partnerships internationally.

 


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Crosstown Concerts launches artist management company

British promoter Crosstown Concerts has launched an artist management division, joining forces with Cliff Jones and Mark Bowers (the latter formerly a colleague of Crosstown founders Paul Hutton and Conal Dodds at Metropolis Music) to create Crosstown Management.

The new division – which the company says gives Crosstown a talent development arm that will be “important to its growth plans in the coming years” – is initially looking after artists including Keir, Mauwe, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and, in partnership with Ian Mizen and James Dawson of Jax Management, Paris Youth Foundation.

“The Crosstown team has a heritage in artist management as well as promoting, so it’s great to have that part of the business launched and some great up-and-coming artists under our umbrella already breaking through in the European market,” comments Dodds.

“It’s great to have some great up-and-coming artists under our umbrella already breaking through in the European market”

“We are looking at a huge number of touring dates and festivals this summer under the Crosstown umbrella and we’re inviting artists looking for representation to get in touch, as we are looking at expanding the roster during 2018.”

Adds Bowers: “We are delighted to join Crosstown and launch this new management company. We share a great passion for developing artists and for giving fans a great experience.”

Crosstown Concerts was launched by Hutton and Dodds, both former directors of Metropolis Music, and hotel owner Fraser Duffin in September 2016. Upcoming tours for 2018 include Belle and Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Jack White, the Wombats, the Vaccines and George Ezra, along with festivals Bristol Sounds and the Downs Festival Bristol.

 


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Crosstown Concerts takes on OnBlackheath

OnBlackheath, the south London festival organised since its 2014 launch by Harvey Goldsmith CBE, has a new promoter.

As of this September, the festival is presented by fledgling promoter Crosstown Concerts – the new venture launched last September by former Metropolis Music directors Paul Hutton and Conal Dodds – although the relationship stretches back far earlier, Hutton tells IQ.

“There’s lots of history there,” he explains. “We [Metropolis] were going to go for it before Harvey Goldsmith, but for various reasons it didn’t happen.”

Hutton emphasises that the decision to take on the festival – which follows Massive Attack at the Bristol Downs last September and Bristol Sounds, scheduled for 21–24 June at the 20,000-cap. Canon’s Marsh Amphitheatre, as its third major open-air event – was primarily “artist-led”: “The value we bring to it is that we’re contemporary promoters,” he comments. “The agents and artists we work with, a decent chunk of them would fit bill for this event… As a promoter you do what the acts want to do.”

“We get approached all the time, two to three times a year, by someone who has a bit of a land – a football club, a stately home, a load of fields – and they say, ‘Why don’t you do a festival here?’,” Hutton continues. “We say, ‘Yeah, okay, you tell us who you want to play in your field 15 miles from anywhere!’

“We’ve had really positive feedback from artists. It’s gradually becoming part of the calendar”

“If we have someone really famous that comes to us and says, ‘We want to do a show in a field in Sussex’, that’s one thing – but you can’t just ring an agent and say, ‘Do you your acts want to play in a field in Sussex?’. Unless you offer them a huge amount of money, of course – in which case people will play anywhere…”

While already successful, Hutton says OnBlackheath – created three years ago by partners Tom Wates, Alex Wicks and Terry Feldgate – “needs to become the go-to event for the summer for certain artists”. For acts who “don’t fit the Lovebox, Field Day thing, who aren’t big enough to headline Hyde Park”, the 25,000-capacity Blackheath site, split between Greenwich and Lewisham in south-east London, is, he says, the perfect mid-sized city festival venue.

“We’ve had really positive feedback from artists,” Hutton continues. “OnBlackheath is gradually becoming part of the calendar. As years go by, it will, I think, become very much part of people’s thinking. It fits a lot of artists, and it’s a great area.”

The line-up for OnBlackheath 2017, which runs from 9 to 10 September – the same weekend as other end-of-season favourites Bestival and Festival №6 – will be announced next Monday (24 April).

 


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Why hasn’t dynamic pricing taken off in music?

If 2016 will be remembered in the live music business for any one thing, it will be as the 12 months in which the pitchforks well and truly came out against secondary ticketing.

It was the year of the Waterson report and the Bots and Boss Acts, of FanFair and #ResaleNO, and the year in which Italy surprised the world by announcing plans to outlaw ticket touting altogether.

Although most of the industry – with, of course, the exception of the secondary sites themselves – agree on the desirability of minimising touting, it remains divided on the best way to do so. Italian-style legislation is one possibility; as is blocking individual sites, as has happened in Belgium.

Another is the dynamic pricing of tickets, in which prices fluctuate based on market demand – already common for sporting events, as well as in the booking of airline tickets and hotel rooms. Despite market leader Ticketmaster throwing its hat in the dynamically priced ring for select tickets in 2007 – followed by then-CEO Irving Azoff calling for more dynamic pricing in music – the practice has yet to find widespread acceptance in the live music industry, despite its obvious potential for making the for-profit secondary market far riskier for touts, if not redundant altogether.

The reason for that, says Barry Kahn, the CEO of Qcue, a leading developer of dynamic pricing software, is primarily logistical: “From our side, it’s a challenge working with [concert] promoters because ticketing relationships run through venues: for example, Madison Square Garden with Ticketmaster,” he explains. “If you’re an artist coming through MSG you don’t touch the ticketing system.”

Kahn says the majority of his current clients are sports teams, with “not a lot of dynamic pricing on the concert side”. While he is clear he “[doesn’t] want to say it doesn’t justify the fees” – “I’ve never seen a client that didn’t have a large positive on ROI [return on investment],” he says – he admits “it is a more expensive proposition” to dynamically price tickets, and for that reason is more popular for long runs at a single venue.

“I’ve never seen a client that didn’t have a large positive on ROI”

Manager Adam Tudhope – co-founder of Everybody’s (Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Keane) and a prominent anti-touting campaigner – says he “doesn’t doubt that it [dynamic pricing] might be one of the tools that people use alongside other ones [to minimise touting] – and I say good luck to them”.

Tudhope says it’s important that artists and promoters are upfront with their audience – that if they do decide to dynamically price, they let fans know the reason ticket prices are fluctuating – and that the ‘demand’ determining prices isn’t fixed by the secondary market.

“The ethical stance when selling tickets to fans is to be as transparent as possible,” he says. “If an artist and their business advisors think the audience can afford to pay more – and they want to make more money out of the show – then as long as they’re straightforward with their audience about what their offering is, I don’t see a problem with dynamic pricing.

“Doing it via secondary is underhand and rips off the fan, because they don’t know what the whole market has to offer.”

Ticketmaster UK, which dynamically prices most of its high-profile shows under the Ticketmaster Platinum banner, tells IQ its Platinum tickets aren’t pegged to how well shows are telling on its secondary platforms (Seatwave, Get Me In!). “Platinum prices are based on the demand,” explains managing director Andrew Parsons. “We place a portion out for sale starting at what we estimate market price to be; this is based on previous experience and our data tools. We also gauge market price on how quickly the initial allocation sells – we change price as we release more seats.”

Parsons says dynamic pricing is suitable for multi-venue tours, as opposed to just residency-style shows, explaining that the company can easily “manage it across multiple promoters and venues”.

“There are often many decision-makers involved … It can sometimes be challenging to get everyone on the same page”

While Parsons says he’d “love to think” there will be a time when Ticketmaster’s general-admission (GA) tickets are also dynamically priced, he explains it’s much easier to implement with premium seats. “With Platinum there’s a clear differentiating element: you’re selling the best seat,” he says. “That’s understood by both consumers and artists. It’s harder to do when it’s GA.”

Greg Loewen, CEO of Qcue rival Digonex, says he believes take-up of dynamic pricing in live music is being affected by a false belief among many promoters that dynamic pricing is an unreliable or unproven technology.

“Pricing is really hard, especially for a tour,” Loewen tells IQ. “Every night is in a different market and a different venue. Optimising pricing under those conditions is extraordinarily time-consuming and challenging, and not many dynamic pricing tools are designed to handle that level of complexity, so promoters may assume there is no reliable way to dynamically price a tour.” He insists that isn’t the case: “We hope to talk to those folks!”

One of Digonex’s live-entertainment partners is a well-known American comedian, who has seen significantly increased ticket revenues as a result of adopting dynamic pricing. “When we started out, his manager was concerned about the price going up too much,” explains Loewen. “But because of his popularity, we’re now seeing significant growth in ticket price – and we haven’t had a single complaint from any consumers.”

Despite the success stories in sports and live comedy, both Loewen and Kahn admit dynamically pricing live music is more difficult.

“There are often many decision-makers involved: promoters, agents, venue management, artists,” says Loewen. “It can sometimes be challenging to get everyone on the same page regarding a significant change like adopting dynamic pricing. It takes time.”

“As promoters we spend far too much time having to discuss ticketing and allocations – time that could be better spent on marketing and selling shows”

Former Metropolis Music director Conal Dodds – now running Crosstown Concerts with Paul Hutton and Fraser Duffin – says he can’t see it becoming commonplace in touring. “I think [it] works on theatre runs, and could work on festivals and residencies, for instance, but it would be incredibly complicated to strike a deal on the basis of one-off shows or tours where more than one promoter is involved,” he explains.

While Crosstown is committed to minimising touting for its shows – and has an exclusive ticketing partnership with Songkick to that end – Dodds says, as a promoter, he just isn’t interested in getting into the nitty-gritty of ticketing, gradually or otherwise: “As promoters we spend far too much time having to discuss ticketing and allocations – time that could be better spent on marketing and selling shows, which is where we all earn our monies.”

Kahn believes in order for dynamic pricing to see wide adoption in live music, “you need a restructuring in contracts”, with promoters “properly incentivised to take more risks” via a more generous share of the show’s revenue. At the moment, he says, there’s “too much risk and not much upside for the promoter”, leading to the temptation to “purposefully” pass tickets to secondary sellers.

There’s also the thorny issue of the potential for dynamic tickets to drop in price if the demand isn’t there. “Bands,” says Kahn, are simply “unwilling to drop prices… How often does that happen?”

Parsons says the eradication of ticket touting is “very much up there” in the considerations of those artists who do opt for at least partial dynamic pricing. “We’ve had discussions with artists who think it’s a problem,” he explains. “There’s a growing appreciation that you do need to take some steps [to minimise resale], and one of them is dynamic pricing.”

He adds there’s still “almost a stigma” about taking more money from fans, even in a “world where there’s no [income from] recorded”: “If you [artists and promoters] don’t take this money, other people will – you’re the ones with the creativity and who are taking the risk.”

“If you don’t take this money, other people will”

Loewen, too, is firmly in the Michael Rapino/Professor Waterson camp when it comes to the pricing of primary tickets, opining that “the level of activity in the secondary market suggests that many tickets are not priced efficiently”.

“Many view dynamic pricing as code for ‘price gouging’,” he says, “and are concerned about alienating their loyal fans with primary ticket prices that are perceived as too high.

“This is an understandable concern, although we all see that in instances of excess demand many fans will still pay the higher price – the only difference being that more of the profit is captured by the secondary market as opposed to the artists.”

He adds that dynamic pricing “isn’t only about increasing prices: sometimes it’s about lowering them too.  It’s about finding the ‘right’ price that more accurately reflects true market demand and is fair to consumers.”

Tudhope, however – who has spoken of his wish to see ticket touting criminalised in the UK – isn’t wholly convinced. “Dynamic pricing, ethically done, might be appropriate for some of my artists’ audiences, and not for others,” he concludes. “This is the main point, and an important argument to make against the secondary sites who say ‘put on more shows!’ and ‘make your ticket prices higher!’.

“If the artist and I decide that there should only be one show, and that it be priced reasonably, that should frankly be our choice – not down to a market that is completely skewed by the often-illegal practices of touts.”

 


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