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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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‘The future is bright’: Tech leaders talk monetising virtual shows

The heads of some of the industry’s most inventive companies starred in the most recent IQ Focus panel, appropriately called The Innovators, which discussed the flurry of innovation going on behind the scenes during the ongoing halt in concert touring.

Dice’s UK managing director, Amy Oldham, began by speaking on the importance of “identifying the value” in new platforms and innovations. “In the beginning [of the pandemic], there was a lot of noise and a lot of not-very-good-quality shows,” she explained.

“Lewis [Capaldi] is a great example” of what the industry should be working towards, she added. “We did his show exclusively a few weeks ago. He did an acoustic set of the first album, and it actually felt like being on a night out – you had people taking photos of themselves hugging the TV saying it’s the best £5 they ever spent.”

Tommas Arnby of Locomotion Entertainment said his client, Yungblud – whose Yungblud Show Live (described as a “rock-and-roll version of Jimmy Kimmel”) was one of the early highlights of the livestreaming boom – was supposed to be “doing five sold-out Kentish Town Forums” in London this week, and his online presence is “about how to recreate that” live experience.

“In the very beginning these bedroom and kitchen performances played an important role,” but now people expect a more polished experience, said Ben Samuels, MelodyVR’s president and GM in North America. “What we’re doing is investing a lot to ensure these shows look and feel fantastic. […] They should be the best thing to actually being on stage or in the front row of a real show. So production values have been crucial to us.”

“Artists have to feel comfortable and confident about charging for their content”

Sheri Bryant, president of online ‘social VR’ platform Sansar, said a virtual concert should be looked as “additive; it’s not going to replace the live performance”.

Oldham – who revealed that Dice is now selling tickets in at least 113 countries following the launch of its livestreaming platform, Dice TV – agreed that while everyone on the panel is doing a great job keeping fans engaged while touring is on hold, “one thing we haven’t nailed is giving artists confidence that just because they’re doing something on a stream doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be charging.

“All the movie studios are shut, and yet we don’t see them dropping films online and saying, ‘Just pay what you fancy!’ Artists have to feel comfortable and confident about charging for their content.”

Chair Mike Malak, from Paradigm Talent Agency, compared charging for online video content to the transition in the recording business from fans pirating music to (legally) streaming it, noting that “we all grew up watching free YouTube videos”.

Bryant said Sansar wants “everyone to be able to experience” the platform, suggesting offering both a free tier and a “VIP experience” that could include perks for those who’ve paid, such as meet and greets with an artist or special powers inside its virtual world.

“The most important thing for us is to show agents and managers that people had a great time,” said Prajit Gopal, CEO of livestreaming platform Looped. “That’s always been really important – going back to them and showing them,‘Here’s the reaction, and this is why you should be charging for it.’”

“Imagine if this happened 20, 30, 40 years ago – it would have been catastrophic”

With talk turning to sponsorship in virtual events, Oldham warned that “sometimes you can oversaturate an artist by doing too many partnerships”. However, Bryant said the music industry has much to learn from the wider entertainment business when it comes to getting its talent out there.

“Look at how the YouTube stars, the Twitch streamers got big: through hard work and with lots of exposure,” she said. “If you’re good and you’re getting out there, you’ll see that growth. I don’t think people should be precious about exposure – you want to be across as many platforms as possible, because you never know when one of them will see a big spike [in traffic].”

The discussion ended on a positive note, with Samuels highlighting how fortunate the live music business is to have all this technology at its disposal at such a difficult time.

“Imagine if this [coronavirus] happened 20, 30, 40 years ago – it would have been catastrophic,” he said. “In a weird way, we’re lucky this happened now, with all these platforms that can continue to bring high-quality content to fans and enable artists to still make a living.”

Arnby agreed: “All these choices, all these ways to connect… The future is very bright.”

The Innovation Session is available to watch back on YouTube or Facebook now.


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Innovators take the virtual stage for IQ Focus panel

Following last week’s The Venue’s Venue: Building Back session, IQ’s popular Focus series of virtual panels turns this Thursday to the flurry of innovation going on behind the scenes during the halt in concert touring.

The Innovation Session will feature insights from a who’s who of music-industry freethinkers and groundbreakers, who’ll discuss with the new ideas and green shoots that are rising from the current situation.

Joining chair Mike Malak, senior agent at Paradigm London, are Sheri Bryant, president of virtual world builder Sansar; Tommas Arnby, CEO of Locomotion Entertainment (Yungblud); Amy Oldham, managing director UK of ticketer-turned-livestreamer Dice; Ben Samuels, North America president of virtual-reality pioneer MelodyVR; and Prajit Gopal, CEO of celebrity video-chat/streaming service Looped.

Expect discussions on livestreaming, 3D venues, tipping, videogaming, virtual worlds and much more.

The Innovation Session will be streamed live this Thursday, 21 May, at 16.00 BST/17.00 CET.

Get an automatic reminder when the live stream starts at Facebook or YouTube.


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Dice launches Dice TV

Live music ticketing and event discovery platform Dice has announced the launch of Dice TV, allowing fans worldwide to discover and stream shows online.

Dice TV connects fans to personalised livestreams using its discovery algorithm to recommend streamed gigs, festivals and DJ sets, as well as online arts, culture and lifestyle events in accordance to users’ tastes.

Dice TV kicks off today (24 April) with a partnership with Trap Nation and Chill Nation, who are producing the Nations’ Room Service 2020 Festival. The three-day virtual festival will feature performances from over a hundred acts, including A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Pink Sweats, Channel Tres, Lolo Zouaï, Zeds Dead and Hayden James.

Over the weekend, fans will also be able to watch the second edition Beatport’s electronic 36-hour music marathon ‘ReConnect’ on the platform, which had its first outing on Friday 17 April. Fans can donate exclusively through Dice in advance of the event to Bridges For Music, a non-profit organisation using music to uplift communities.

“Our mission has always been to get people out more, but we can’t go out”

Acts playing ReConnect include Tiësto, Jack Back (David Guetta), Claptone, Bob Moses, Deborah De Luca, Sasha, Erick Morillo and Boys Noize.

“Our mission has always been to get people out more, but we can’t go out,” says Dice CEO Phil Hutcheon. “However, artists have shown how important music and culture is to us all and they inspired us to adapt Dice to this new world. Dice is now truly global and can be accessed anywhere in the world.”

“The simplicity of Dice and the discovery algorithms have been fine tuned for remote shows and we’re bringing personalised events for fans.”

Hutcheon adds that platforms such as Dice TV “will grow to be a long term solution for the industry”.

Founded in London in 2014, Dice is active in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, Australia and the US. The platform partnered with Barcelona festival Primavera Sound earlier this year. The festival, which typically takes place in June, recently rescheduled to August, in a bid to avoid disruption from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Read more about how livestreaming is helping the live industry during the coronavirus crisis here.

A new dawn of digital: Behind livestreaming’s “massive explosion”

 


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