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IQ 108 out now: 10 things we learned from the pandemic

IQ 108, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

In the February 2022 edition, IQ talks to a number of business leaders to identify ten key lessons that the pandemic has taught us.

Elsewhere, IQ editor Gordon Masson talks to the recipient of the 2022 Gaffer Award, Phay ‘Phaymous’ Mac Mahon, about his 40-year career and how he became one of the go-to production managers in the international touring business.

This issue also sees Masson talk to experts about the evolving world of virus mitigation and profile ten products and services that are helping to get businesses up and rolling again.

For this edition’s columns and comments, tour manager Suzi Green explains how music industry support group The Back Lounge is helping the community through a new series of timely and topical free workshops and Driift’s Ric Salmon relives the success of The Smile’s live-stream triple header.

In this month’s Your Shout, execs including Marc Geiger (SaveLive), Georg Leitner (Georg Leitner Productions) and Nick Hobbs (Charmenko) reveal the best showcase they’ve ever seen.

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:

 


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Driift on The Smile’s game-changing livestream

Driift CEO Ric Salmon has told IQ that The Smile’s acclaimed trio of gigs in London point a new way forward for livestream shows.

The new group, comprising Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and Sons Of Kemet’s Tom Skinner, played three consecutive live shows in just over 12 hours at Broadwick Live’s intimate new Magazine venue in London’s Docklands on 29-30 January.

Performed in the round, each performance was held in front of a seated audience of 1,200 and livestreamed in real time via Dreamstage for a different timezone – 8pm UK time on Saturday for EMEA and Sunday at 1am for the Americas, with the band returning 10 hours later at 11am for APAC.

“I couldn’t have been happier,” Salmon tells IQ. “It’s been amazing watching the reactions to it and I have to admit I’ve been bombarded by a bunch of managers saying, ‘Let’s talk.’ So it’s interesting how it’s sparked the imagination.”

Advanced livestream tickets were priced £12.50 (€14.75), or £14.50 (€17.25) on the day of the show, while in-person tickets cost £79. The last few ticket sales are still being totted up as the event, which was filmed with nine cameras, is still available on demand, but Salmon puts the number of paid streams in the “tens of thousands”.

“There’s a two-day VOD window that finishes tomorrow, but suffice to say we’ve sold more tickets than we set out to sell,” he adds. “We had a target number that we set ourselves based on our hopes and expectations, given the fact that this is a new band. Yes, of course, there’s a couple of famous people in the band, but it is a new band and it’s music that hasn’t yet been released. So it was a realistic level that we thought we would hope to sell. We have probably oversold that by 20-30%, so I’m really chuffed with that.”

“We had to keep pushing ourselves creatively to reimagine what these type of events could be”

The UK-based livestreaming company was founded in August 2020 by Salmon and Brian Message and has since sold more than 600,000 tickets for livestreamed gigs with acts including Nick Cave, Niall Horan, Kylie Minogue, Biffy Clyro, Andrea Bocelli, Laura Marling, Dermot Kennedy, Courtney Barnett and Sheryl Crow.

It also partnered with the UK’s Glastonbury Festival on the Live At Worthy Farm event, which also featured The Smile, as well as artists including Coldplay, Haim, Jorja Smith, Idles, Wolf Alice, Michael Kiwanuka and Damon Albarn.

“We’ve been considering how we could evolve what we’re doing for the last year or so, and we were always cognisant of the fact that we had to keep pushing ourselves creatively to reimagine what these types of events could be,” reveals Salmon.

“This concept of a ‘hybrid’ event – where you have a traditional tour show, put some cameras in the venue and then hope to sell some livestream tickets on top of the physical tickets – that just doesn’t interest us at all.  It feels a bit of an afterthought and frankly, I just don’t think the experience would be very good for viewers at home. It would be no better than watching an old DVD or something you can get on YouTube for free. It doesn’t feel artistic, it just feels like a way of making more money perhaps, and that’s not really what drives us.

“Ultimately, we wanted to focus on all of the things that we’ve learned over the last 18 months of doing livestreams without an audience, because we’ve been super-proud of some of the shows we’ve done. The artists were filmed in such close proximity, so when you’re watching at home, it feels really special. So how do you continue to take that and achieve that when there’s an audience in the room? It sounds like a simple question, but it’s a fiendishly difficult thing to pull off.”

“I hope Driift is becoming the first specialist producer and promoter of live events for the digital era”

He continues: “Our singular challenge was to ensure that anyone who saw the show was blown away by it and enjoyed it equally, whether they were in the room or at home, and I think we got close to achieving that. I don’t think that’s ever been done before. And that’s really exciting because, as an industry, it gives us a new format that we can make use of.

“What I hope Driift is becoming is the first – and at the moment only – specialist producer and promoter of live events for the digital era. If you think about it – and this isn’t a criticism – the live music industry is ultimately almost entirely non-digital. There’s hardly anything about the live music industry that is focused for the digital world. And there are very few industries you could say that about in this day and age.

“Almost every industry has found a digital strand to it or developed a digital dimension to it, and bizarrely, the live music industry doesn’t seem to have really focused on that. So it’s cool that we’ve stumbled across this through the lockdown and through the pandemic – there’s no way we would have come up with it if we hadn’t have been forced into the situation we have. But I suppose through those great challenges comes innovation; when you’re forced to innovate, you innovate.”

 


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Driift’s Ric Salmon on what’s next for livestreaming

Livestreaming will play a supporting role in the live industry’s return to touring, according to Driift CEO Ric Salmon.

In an interview with IQ magazine, Salmon said Driift is getting a “steady” level of inquiries for livestream events in 2022.

“Managers and artists are rightly focused on getting their businesses back up and running, and that, of course, means looking at all types of activity,” explains Salmon.

“But the words ‘live stream’ have quickly become part of the common lexicon, and we’re seeing people come to us talking about album campaigns and tours happening in 9-12 months and wanting to do a live stream within that window.

“I think the question has to be: why wouldn’t you add this type of activity to your plans alongside traditional shows, releases, and promo?” he adds.

The UK-based livestreaming company was founded in August 2020 by Salmon and Brian Message and has since sold more than 600,000 tickets for livestreamed 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.

“At Driift, we’ve taken a really high level of curation and artistry to the shows we’ve produced and delivered over the last 18 months, and, ultimately, I think that’s what’s driven our momentum and success,” says Salmon.

“”Technology will have a large part to do with ensuring people remain engaged in this new format”

“Technology will have a large part to do with ensuring people remain engaged in this new format, but perhaps more importantly it comes down to artistry and creativity. Frankly, we’ve seen too many shows that just aren’t good enough. These events, these online experiences, can be so much more.”

Off the back of an impressive 18 months, Driift has attracted investment from Paris-based global streaming company Deezer, and launched additional operations in New York in US and Perth in Australia.

Going into 2022, Salmon says that the company is “well setup for whatever the coming years have to throw at us”.

“Broadly speaking, like all of us, I want to see our industry bounce back and thrive. And largely, I believe it will but with a few more bumps in the road. It’s hugely important that businesses, large or small, push themselves, innovate, diversify, and grow. At our group of companies (ATC/Driift), we’re coming out of the last 18 months a more diverse, more exciting, and better-organised business.”

Upcoming shows for Driift include a series live stream with new band The Smile, comprising Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and Sons Of Kemet’s Tom Skinner.

The Smile will play three consecutive live shows within 24 hours on 29 and 30 January at Magazine London which will be broadcast live in real time.

 


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28m tune in to Westlife livestream in China

An exclusive livestream performance by Westlife, broadcast by Tencent’s Weixin across China, pulled in almost 28 million viewers.

Produced by Driift and filmed at London’s Bush Hall by acclaimed director Chris Howe, the 17 December event was both Westlife’s first ever livestream and the first by an international artist in China to be delivered by WeChat channels.

WeChat is the international version of Weixin, China’s largest social media platform with over 1.2 billion users.

WeChat channels can be a connector of cultures

“WeChat channels can be a connector of cultures by leveraging on WeChat’s open platform and the creators’ ecosystem,” says WeChat’s head of marketing Juliet Zhu, whose team has planned a series of activities in addition to the concert, which will see more international artists engage with WeChat/Weixin channels.

The 100-minute stream included an exclusive cover by Westlife, in Mandarin, of The Road to Ordinary by Chinese singer Pu Shu. The show was followed by an extended Q&A with the Irish group, who answered questions from their Chinese fanbase.

Westlife have built a significant following in the region, having first toured China in 2006 and returned to play arena shows in Beijing and Shanghai in 2019. The quartet are due to tour the UK in 2022, with a headline date at London’s 90,000-cap Wembley Stadium scheduled for 6 August, promoted by Live Nation.

 


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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.

The business was co-founded by Ric Salmon and Brian Message and the executive team also includes COO Claire Mas and head of production Sasha Duncan.

“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.”

 


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How does livestreaming fit in a post-pandemic industry?

The livestreaming gold rush is far from over. As live gigs and festivals return, the future for this fledgling industry looks rosy, as artists around the world now know that they can leverage the global reach of the internet to allow fans to remotely view their performances.

Whereas the argument in 2019 was that people surely wouldn’t pay for tickets to watch something on their computer screen, the reality of the past 18 months has debunked that theory, while technology has also allowed those viewers to watch their favourite artists on their wide-screen TVs.

“We’ve had a year of almost working in a vacuum,” notes Driift co-founder Ric Salmon. “In this phase, now, where life returns to normal as touring starts, managers, agents and artists themselves will become hyper-focused on trying to get back out on the road and generating as much money as possible, so understandably the focus might fall away a little bit from doing live streams.

“We’ve pre-empted it for months, but now we have to see how livestreaming will fit in the overall plan for an artist. I don’t think we have the answers to everything yet, but there’s still a huge amount of interest and there’s a lot of new business coming our way.”

“[StageIt] did 6,400 shows in 2020. That’s about a third of what Live Nation does”

While some predict a temporary downturn in livestreaming activities, others are more bullish about the prospects as touring resumes.
“The past year has been bananas,” states Stephen White of San Francisco-based StageIt. “We did 6,400 shows in 2020. That’s about a third of what Live Nation does, so it was a crazy year for us, in terms of volume, as artists just didn’t have other ways to connect with their fans.

“When I took over as CEO in May of 2020, we immediately started a venue programme, as we knew that without some sort of revenue stream these venues were going to die. So, we started putting cameras into venues where folks wanted to work exclusively with us, figuring out how to bring in mobile crews safely, and really getting venue staff trained on how to do this, so that the sound and lights guys can also operate the live stream without a huge learning curve.

“That was massively important for us as it established a network of venues that were already using the platform. And now that they are starting to reopen, we’re not seeing any downturn. If anything, what we’re seeing is, the more shows there are, the more opportunities there are to live stream.”

“The more [in-person] shows there are, the more opportunities there are to live stream”

Changing Landscape
When Live Nation acquired streaming platform Veeps in January, it became apparent that partnerships between livestreaming platforms and venues would play a major role in the future of the business.

Veeps is installing its technology in more than 60 Live Nation venues, including institutions like The Wiltern in Los Angeles, where From the Wiltern shows are already available to stream from $15 (€13) a ticket.

Elsewhere, YouTube is working on a new 6,000-seat theatre in Los Angeles from where it intends to stream shows, while on a smaller scale, streaming platform Mandolin recently agreed an exclusive partnership with City Winery to stream concerts from its eight music venues around North America.

However, the fact that a venue signs a deal with a livestreaming platform does not necessarily mean that the artist will agree to that service streaming their show, because broadcasting contracts are usually thrashed out between the artist/artist management and the streaming service itself.

“The agents and promoters are coming back into the picture, so we’re having to do a bit of that education cycle again”

But the landscape is changing and Live Nation’s deal with Veeps, in particular, is prompting some to envisage new exclusivity clauses appearing in promoter contracts to cover streaming rights.

That doesn’t deter White, who notes that if a venue has an existing agreement with the likes of StageIt, that presence will give the incumbent platform an advantage when it comes to any visiting act.

He comments, “One thing that has been really interesting for us is that we’re now having a different set of conversations. Through the pandemic, all of the efforts from our side were with the artist – either directly with the artist or, in some cases, through artist management.

“All of a sudden, now that the world is re-opening, the agents and promoters are coming back into the picture, so we’re having to do a bit of that education cycle again.

“[Agents] are now seeing us as a service provider rather than a chequebook”

“We know that artists are probably going to perform fewer times on a tour but do bigger shows as they try to address sustainability.”

That’s a scenario the hierarchy at UK-based LIVENow also recognises. “During lockdown, some agents struggled to find out where their place in the ecosystem was and some were trying to generate revenue for their clients,” says chief content officer James Sutcliffe.

“There were some tough conversations because the approach was ‘my client wants to do a live stream, make us an offer.’ But now, they are back to their day jobs and we’re having much more sensible and collaborative conversations. It’s not true of every agent and every agency, but, generally, they are now seeing us as a service provider rather than a chequebook.”

Nevertheless, there’s no escaping the numbers. Steve Machin reveals his former company, LiveFrom, paid out substantial sums to its artist partners in the past year. “LiveFrom did 400 shows last year, using about 1.5 petabytes of streaming data, and we wrote cheques to artists for $3million [€2.5m],” Machin tells IQ.

“There is a lot of content that has been filmed, shown once and is languishing, so there’s a wealth of under-monetised stuff”

“That $3m came from tickets and merch. We would bundle packages so that we’d have, for instance, a $10 [€8.50] ticket; a $30 [€25.50] ticket with a T-shirt; and a $70 [€59.30] ticket with a T-shirt and poster.

“We also got into a super bundle that involved a moderated Q&A with the band, which was a $75 [€63.50] ticket for a limited run of tickets. But we did it for a week, so you’d do 15 meet-and-greets a day, Monday to Friday, then the show would go out on the Friday night, and you’d have the Q&A afterwards. It generated a lot of money.”

While LiveFrom was all about live-streaming shows, Machin’s new operation, Concert Vision is developing a different business model. “It’s going to be like Disney Plus for concerts,” he says.

“So, we’re going to be licensing everything from Blondie or The Ramones at CBGBs, all the way through to all the Eagle Rock catalogue and then stuff that’s taking place in a month’s time. There is a lot of content that has been filmed, shown once and is languishing, so there’s just a wealth of under-monetised stuff for a mix of casual and super fans.”

Hundreds of new enterprises have taken advantage of the demand for entertainment over the past year, with varying degrees of success

Competition & consolidation
The relatively low cost to entry in the livestreaming sector means that hundreds of new enterprises have taken advantage of the demand for entertainment over the past year, with varying degrees of success.

Online events hosting service Hopin has been on a strategic shopping spree, acquiring the likes of Attendify, Boomset, Jamm, Streamable, StreamYard and Topi in its attempts to bolster its portfolio.

Other players such as Flymachine are expected to target independent venues, making it the indie to Live Nation’s Veeps, much in the way that Ticketfly was the indie to Ticketmaster.

And elsewhere, pure-play tech players like Mandolin and Maestro are offering back-end services, while other platforms such as Moment House have been compared to a Patreon model for music artists, thanks to its fan engagement capabilities.

“It will be tough for some of the smaller platforms to sustain a real business when they do not have the volume of performances”

“There are already a few companies that have quietly disappeared, and I think there will be a few more go the same way,” observes Salmon.

“There was a moment in the middle of it all when there were a bunch of crazy offers flying around – bidding wars between streaming companies and platforms who had only in been in business for a month – and that was not sustainable. So, in many ways, a bit of consolidation is probably a good thing.”

StageIt’s White agrees. “A lot of the companies that started in 2020 are now at the one-year anniversary and are wondering what to do as they figure out how to be a real business,” he says.

“It will be tough for some of the smaller platforms to sustain a real business when they do not have the volume of performances, so we’ll continue to see consolidation over the course of the next 12 months, in pretty significant ways.”

“The pandemic has been a catalyst for people taking livestreaming really seriously”

One operator that is benefitting from the mergers and acquisitions element is Melody VR, which in August 2020 pulled off the surprise purchase of Napster.

“We’ve rebranded as Napster, but we’re still operational as Melody VR,” explains Melody VR founder and CEO Anthony Matchett. “We’re re-building the Napster platform to have a lot of Melody’s content, to give it a real edge and create a service that isn’t really out there.”

Matchett is quick to acknowledge the role that the pandemic has played in helping to establish the credentials of livestreaming.

“It’s one of the sectors that got overlooked when it really probably shouldn’t have been,” he says. “But the pandemic has been a catalyst for people taking livestreaming really seriously, which is interesting because when you can’t tour, you suddenly realise that there was maybe a different way to do things, all along.”

“To say that it is here to stay would be an understatement – it’s very much part of the fabric now of live performance”

In terms of business models, StageIt’s White reveals that his company now operates on an 80/20 split with the artists – a deal he believes will become the industry norm. He adds, “To realise that you can still have an experience – which is not the same as being there – but you can do it from the comfort of your living room, on your big-screen TV, across your nice hi-fi system, and not have to pay $14 for a beer, has been a real eye-opening experience for a lot of people. Both fans and artists figured it out, so to say that it is here to stay would be an understatement – it’s very much part of the fabric now of live performance.”

The importance of control
Unsurprisingly, for a business that relies heavily on technology, there have been a number of broadcasting failures that have hit the headlines over the past year – notably a Marc Anthony show, and a live stream from the site of Glastonbury Festival. Despite such problems, consumer confidence has remained high, while for the streamers themselves, the lessons appear to revolve around ensuring they have control over all aspects of operations.

“There have been enough bad live streams where customers are asking why they paid £15 or whatever, especially with bands you thought would have done better. And fans only have so much patience with that stuff,” notes Driift’s Salmon.

“Look at what happened with us at Glastonbury: we delivered something that I’m hugely proud of, artistically, but with the access code issues that we had, which affected about 25% of ticket purchasers […] If anything is anything other than perfect these days, if you cannot access it immediately, we’re out, and that’s one of the great challenges of all of this.”

“Having numerous providers of tech trying to interlink with one another is where issues can occur”

Dissecting the Glastonbury experience, Salmon tells IQ, “The biggest takeaway for us was that having numerous providers of tech trying to interlink with one another is where issues can occur. Ultimately, the best solution is for a platform or a company like Driift to have everything housed within one vertical – to have ticketing, access codes, stream hosting, the video player itself all within one singular ecosystem.”

That’s a concept Napster’s Matchett recognises. “We don’t rely on anyone external, apart from internet providers,” he says. “So, the servers, the back end, the cameras, are all ours, because you cannot really rely on a third party when you are going to put your name to something. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to the fan and the artist, so we do everything in-house to give us greater control. It’s more costly, but it provides stability, and artists knowing your stream isn’t going to fall over, is a really important element.”

Thankfully, the sector has seen many more successes than failures, with some events like LIVENow’s Studio 2054 show with Dua Lipa, in November 2020, introducing millions of new customers to the livestreaming concept. That event, along with the company’s growing roster of shows, has required an army of people to join the operation’s ranks.

LIVENow’s chief commercial officer, James Massing, who became employee number 12 in September 2020, reveals: “We’re now at more than 100 staff!”

“When the pandemic hit and live paused, we had to then create our [own] events”

Indeed, the pandemic meant a rapid re-examination of LIVENow’s remit was needed as the company pivoted to take advantage of the situation. “The business was originally set up to stream live events that were happening: we wanted to be the go-to place to stream an event anytime from anywhere in the world,” continues Massing.

“But when the pandemic hit and live paused, we had to then create our [own] events, and that’s why shows like Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054 originated.”

Acknowledging that control over such events is crucial, Massing adds, “We became a virtual venue, a promoter and a ticketing platform – we were investing in the content, investing in the show and then we were monetising that content through pay-per-view ticketing sales, bringing sponsors on board, sub-licensing after the event, and selling merch, which is a simple formula and very similar to what live music promoters do.”

Economies of Scale
While livestreaming allows artists to tap into a global reach, it’s not just established acts and big corporations that have been benefitting from the opportunities that the technology can deliver.

“We’ve also been approached by artist management and a couple of labels who would like to do album release events using our software”

Berlin-based promoters Z|art agency tapped into the possibilities of livestreaming to help expand its capabilities during the pandemic. MD Max Wentzler says the broadcast element will play a bigger role in the business as physical touring returns.

“As promoters of international acts, sometimes we only get two or three markets to play in and sometimes those markets are more of a logistical decision rather than based on the fans,” says Wentzler.

“Germany is huge and we have a lot of people living in densely populated areas outside of the popular media cities, which often means those people cannot get to the actual gig.”

He continues, “We see ourselves as an add-on to existing shows. We’ve also been approached by artist management and a couple of labels who would like to do album release events using our software – something we’ve successfully done for Giant Rooks who went into the charts at number three after the show.”

“Being existing promoters means we know the politics of the business… a pure tech company does not have the same knowledge”

Wentzler reveals that Z|art received funding from the German government to help it develop its livestreaming platform, while more recently, CTS Eventim has inked a deal for Z|art to distribute content.

“It was only us [in Germany] at the beginning, but relatively quickly there have been a couple of other livestreaming platforms that have launched here. They are more tech companies that developed software for conferences and other areas but who see music as a great market where there is high demand.

“But we’re still a little ahead of the curve, because we’ve been doing it a bit longer than the others, and the fact that we’re also existing promoters means we know the politics of the business and what is involved in putting together a show, whereas a pure tech company does not have that same knowledge.”

Of course, the ability of livestreaming to reach every device screen on the planet can pay dividends for acts hoping to build a fanbase. That realisation spurred Liverpool Sound City organisers to become early adopters of the technology.

“Fans of grassroots music from around the world are also coming into the platform to discover new talent”

“We’d been looking to branch out through some kind of digital strand for the company, even pre-pandemic,” explains Sound City marketing manager Sean Fay who talks up streaming’s ability to connect to a global audience, “because Sound City at its core is a music festival for new music discovery.”

He tells IQ, “For instance, we had a band called Say Sue Me from Korea, who are capable of selling out arenas in their own country, and we brought them to arguably the most famous music city in the world, Liverpool, where they played a tiny venue like the Cavern Club. But their hardcore fans back in Korea would love to see that, so that’s one of the reasons behind our investment into livestreaming.”

The move was accelerated when it became apparent that Fay and his colleagues could not even put on a gig by a band from around the corner. “It became a question of how can we continue to provide entertainment to audiences who come to our festival for music discovery, off the strength of our curation, as well as how we could help to support artists through the pandemic.”

As a result, Sound City launched its Guesthouse platform in April 2020, and since then, it has showcased more than 300 artists. “Everyone is looking forward to getting back out to gigs and festivals, but Guesthouse is very much here to stay as it’s a new opportunity for artists and we really believe it can continue to grow in the future. Fans of grassroots music from around the world are also coming into the platform to discover new talent,” reports Fay.

“We’ve found over the past 16 months is that a lot of artists do not have a good way to communicate with their fans”

Wentzler says Z|art is also advising acts on how they can use the broadcast format over a longer period of time “to help build a fanbase and strengthen those artist/fan community relationships.” He discloses, “One of the things we’ve found over the past 16 months is that a lot of artists do not have a good way to communicate with their fans – they maybe have Instagram or Facebook, but that’s not wholly reliable with the way the algorithms work.”

And, of course, the soar-away success of livestreaming has also led to the birth of a support industry. Switchboard Live, for instance, has a remit to help operators boost the number of eyes that see their content.

“Our SaaS [software as a service] application was built to manage the distribution and syndication of live content to more than one social channel,” says Switchboard Live CEO Rudy J. Ellis. “Our end goal is to get any type of live content creator or publisher more viewers on their live streams by leveraging multi-streaming, which is the ability to take that one single stream and publish it to multiple social destinations at the same time.”

Recently, Ellis oversaw the launch of a new product called StreamShare that allows clients to invite participants, sponsors, brands, influencers and ambassadors to opt-in their own social channels, so that they can also carry content live.

“What we’ve built was germane to the pandemic, where now you have more people watching content on different platforms”

“Switchboard Live has experienced 4x growth in monthly subscribers since the beginning of the pandemic, primarily due to the fact that a lot of people were scrambling to figure how they could take an in-person event to online.”

Ellis adds, “What we’ve built was germane to the pandemic, where now you have more people watching content on different platforms. Some people who have a Facebook account may not have a YouTube account, for instance, so we are facilitating the video to make it to those platforms.”

Experience is Key
With so many platforms now competing for attention, those that are focussing on the details may well emerge triumphant, as delivering excitement to fans who watch online will undoubtedly help persuade those consumers to return again and again.

Revealing that Z|art has established set-ups that allow events to break even after just 300 or 500 ticket sales, Wentzler says that the company has spent much of the last year creating something unique.

“We’ve tried to emulate the gig experience, so that when you buy a ticket you get to the venue door and enter into the foyer”

“My business partner, Hauke [Steinhof], and I have always been interested in technology, behavioural economics and psychology, and we’ve approached our events in a way that we try to create an experience from the point you buy a ticket to when you leave the show as well. So, we brought that same ethos to our livestreaming concept,” says Wentzler.

“We’ve tried to emulate the gig experience, so that when you buy a ticket you get to the venue door and enter into the foyer where there is a merch stand and a virtual bar. If you visit the merch stand and click on an item, it will directly link to the band’s online merch store, so 100% of the revenue goes to the artists.

“The virtual bar is a pure interactive space where you’re thrown together with four or five random fans from wherever in the world they’re watching. And in the concert room you’re thrown together with four random people to emulate the people around you at a gig: you can interact with them, or mute them, which is maybe something we’d like to have in real life when we’re at a gig too.”

And as a promoter, Wentzler has already identified solutions to address key areas of concern for event organisers. “If a show in Berlin is sold out but Hamburg isn’t, we can geoblock off Hamburg plus 20 or 30 or 40 kilometres. And then, if Hamburg also sells out, we can bring those people back in.”

“If a show in Berlin is sold out but Hamburg isn’t, we can geoblock off Hamburg plus 20 or 30 or 40 kilometres”

Licensing & Rights
Although the revenues are flowing, the elephant in the livestreaming room remains the question over rights, which many territories are still trying to come to an agreement on.

Concert Vision’s Machin declares, “The bit that remains elusive is the licensing and the rights stuff, and there will be a natural coalescing around the organisations that get those rights nailed down.”

Napster’s Matchett comments, “A lot of people who have entered the space don’t really understand the rights. So maybe as well as consolidation, we’ll just see some of the start-ups who lacked the tech infrastructure or the means to secure the rights licences just fading away.”

Machin adds, “The licensing side is definitely going to become a driver in livestreaming as the market matures. The rights stuff is going to bite a load of people on the ass. It needs solving and we have a solution that Concert Vision will be marketing later in the year.”

“The rights stuff is going to bite a load of people on the ass”

Noting that the rights issues become hugely complex when multiple territories are involved, Machin predicts that some platforms may opt to only operate in certain countries. “National players might spring up, so that anyone that does a deal with the PRS in the UK might end up having a different approach and a different model to someone else in the States who has a deal with ASCAP or BMI,” he says.

The Future
Far from spelling the end of the livestreaming boom, the return of live events is invigorating action in the sector, with many predicting that most tours will now involve at least one livestream show.

Napster’s Matchett says, “From the artist side, if they’re already doing the show, they can see the livestreaming side as pure upside. If they can sell an additional 40,000 tickets for the live stream, then wonderful. That’s part of the mentality shift: people now realise there is actual money in livestreaming, whereas a few months ago I’m not sure anyone had really done it that successfully.”

While the livestreaming business is having a significant impact on the popular music world, Wentzler says Z|art is taking lessons from its classical compatriots. “The philharmonic in Berlin has been running its own livestreaming for years, so we can maybe look to the classical world to learn a bit more and take that as inspiration,” says Wentzler. “In fact, we’ve recently started to do dynamic pricing on ticketing – something the classical world has been doing for years too.”

“The future will depend on where you fit your livestream element”

Predicting massive growth in the years ahead, StageIt chief Matchett is eyeing global expansion. “Overall, what we’re going to see is just 100% more livestreaming,” he states. “Our user base and artist base is broader than North America. It’s still about 65% North America, but we’ve got quite a footprint in Ireland and the UK, and we’re now live in South Africa and Nigeria and starting to do a good volume of shows there.”

Sutcliffe is similarly optimistic about the year ahead for LIVENow, highlighting that the pent-up demand for live music brings real opportunities. “There are going to be waiting lists of people who could not get a ticket to the actual show for any number of reasons […] and that’s where livestreaming can really layer in.”

Machin concludes that the development of the online gig will open doors for operations like Concert Live to introduce other entertainment packages for fans. “Imagine it’s David Bowie’s birthday, so you do a Bowie Weekend where you make available all of his concert video for fans to watch, but crucially you also allow those fans to interact, because we’ve discovered that the ability for fans to connect around the world is a significant part of the streaming experience.”

Driift’s Salmon believes that there is still some evolution needed in livestreaming, but the format has now been established, thanks to the revenues it can provide. “The future will depend on where you fit your livestream element,” he says.

“We’re finding our position within the music ecosystem, working with people rather than against them”

“Do you fit it around an album campaign, or an album launch, or an album announce, or a tour announce, or the beginning of a tour, or the end of a tour? I think you can look at it in all those ways, but it will all depend on the type of artist, type of demographic, genre of music and so many other factors.”

Massing highlights the growing desire of artists to cut their carbon footprints as another driver. “We know that artists are probably going to perform fewer times on a tour but do bigger shows as they try to address sustainability,” he says.

“We’re finding our position within the music ecosystem, working with people rather than against them,” continues Massing.

“LIVENow has sold tickets across 190 countries, our platform is in ten languages, and we have a proven ability to reach and engage audiences live for the artist. So we’re expecting huge growth in terms of the number of events on the platform in the year ahead.”

 


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Driift “mortified” about Glasto technical issues

Livestreaming business Driift has “apologised unreservedly” for the technical issues that prevented thousands of ticketholders from accessing Glastonbury’s global live stream event on Saturday (22 May).

Fans in the UK who bought ‘Live at Worthy Farm’ tickets (priced at £20) were unable to watch performances from the likes of Coldplay, Jorja Smith and George Ezra after their unique codes were flagged as invalid.

Two hours after the event started (7 pm local time), Driift were forced to release a free link to the stream and offer refunds.

The company, which has hosted livestreams for Laura Marling, Nick Cave, Andrea Bocelli and Kylie Minogue, has now issued an apology and a statement explaining that a third-party provider was partially responsible for the fault.

“Driift is not a tech business or a media platform, and we rely on a third party company for certain aspects of protecting the stream. This provider has now identified the cause of last night’s problems, and, although we are awaiting a full technical report, there were no subsequent issues for ticket buyers accessing later streams for North America or Australia.”

Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis shared a statement on Twitter saying she was “gutted” about the technical issues experienced by some viewers but that despite the problems, “the Glastonbury community has showed us such solidarity and love and we are overwhelmed by your generosity, patience, kindness and appreciation of the incredible film, which was so wonderfully put together by [Grammy award-nominated director] Paul Dugdale”

“We made no financial gain from this livestream event, and we hoped it would generate much needed revenue for the festival”

Driift added that the company “made no financial gain from this livestream event, and we hoped it would generate much needed revenue for the festival”.

“In that spirit, we sincerely hope that those who encountered problems will take the opportunity to watch and enjoy the event today, and that many more will buy tickets to support the festival and its three associated charities.”

Live at Worthy Farm was set up to support Glastonbury’s three main charitable partners, Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid, as well as helping to secure next year’s edition of the flagship festival.

Stagehand, the live production hardship fund that has been providing financial support to crew members throughout the pandemic, will receive the proceeds from a limited edition line-up poster for the event.

The five-hour production also saw performances from Damon Albarn, Haim, Idles, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka, Wolf Alice and DJ Honey Dijon across the site’s landmarks.

Three other streams set up to suit other timezones were unaffected by the malfunction.

 


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Sasha Duncan joins Driift as head of production

UK-based concert livestreaming company Driift has hired Sasha Duncan, formerly of BBC television, as head of production.

The Bafta-nominated producer brings more than 20 years’ experience in music TV and production to Driift. At the BBC, she headed large production teams at flagship events such as Glastonbury Festival, Reading Festival, the Mercury Prize, BBC Radio 2 In Concerts and the BBC Proms, with other TV work including V Festival 2020 for ITV and Sing It Loud: Black and Proud for Channel 4.

Duncan, says the company, is already playing a key role in Driift’s upcoming livestream event, Live at Worthy Farm, broadcast from the Glastonbury Festival site on 22 and 23 May. Directed by Paul Dugdale, the five-hour outdoor show will feature exclusive performances from Coldplay, Damon Albarn, Haim, Idles, Jorja Smith, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka, Wolf Alice and more.

Ric Salmon, CEO of Driift, says: “Sasha’s track record speaks for itself. She is one of the most respected figures in music TV, with vast experience of translating excitement from the biggest live shows and festivals into hugely successful broadcast events.

“Being part of the Driift team has been an absolute joy”

“Her knowhow and dynamism is already proving invaluable to Driift as we look to attract the world’s most brilliant artists and directors, and create similar bridges between live performance and this new format we’re building in the global livestream space.”

“Being part of the Driift team has been an absolute joy,” comments Duncan. “The level of creative detail that goes into planning and executing these shows is astonishing, as are the production values, and it’s genuinely humbling to witness the immediacy and passion of audience reactions. There’s been a real spark.

“Obviously the opportunity to work with Glastonbury on the Worthy Farm livestream is incredibly exciting, but it still feels that we’ve only scratched the surface of this format. There’s so much more to come, not only with music but across all other art forms.”

Headquartered in the UK and with offices in North America and Australia, Driift has sold more than 500,000 tickets to audiences in more than 170 countries since launching last year, with shows including Niall Horan, Nick Cave, Biffy Clyro, Andrea Bocelli, Kylie Minogue, Dermot Kennedy, Courtney Barnett, Laura Marling and Birdy.

 


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Glastonbury goes global with ticketed livestream

Glastonbury will host an exclusive global livestream from its Worthy Farm festival site on 22 May, in lieu of the flagship event which was called off for a second consecutive year.

Coldplay, Damon Albarn, Haim, Idles, Jorja Smith, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka, Wolf Alice and DJ Honey Dijon will perform across the site’s landmarks – including the Pyramid Field and the Stone Circle – for the event, dubbed Live at Worthy Farm. There will also be a number of unannounced surprise performances.

The uninterrupted five-hour production will be shot by acclaimed Grammy-nominated director Paul Dugdale and co-promoted and produced by Driift, the pioneering UK livestream business which has hosted livestreams for Laura Marling, Nick Cave, Andrea Bocelli and Kylie Minogue.

“For one night only people all over the world will be able to join us on this journey through [Worthy Farm] together”

The performances will be interspersed by a spoken word narrative, written and delivered by special guests.

“After two Glastonbury cancellations, it brings us great pleasure to announce our first online livestream, which will present live music performances filmed across Worthy Farm at landmarks including the Pyramid and, for the first time ever, the Stone Circle,” says Glastonbury organiser, Emily Eavis.

“It will feature a rolling cast of artists and performers who have all given us enormous support by agreeing to take part in this event, showing the farm as you have never seen it. There will also be some very special guest appearances and collaborations. We are hoping this will bring a bit of Glastonbury to your homes and that for one night only people all over the world will be able to join us on this journey through the farm together!”

Live at Worthy Farm will support Glastonbury’s three main charitable partners, Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid, as well as helping to secure next year’s edition.

Stagehand, the live production hardship fund that has been providing financial support to crew members throughout the pandemic, will receive the proceeds from a limited edition line-up poster for the event.

The online event will be broadcast in full across four separate time zones, with staggered livestreams.  Tickets are on sale now at worthyfarm.live for £20/€23/US$27.50/A$35.

Live at Worthy Farm

 


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Driift appoints Claire Mas chief operating officer

Claire Mas, the former head of digital for Island Records, has joined UK-based livestreaming business Driift as chief operating officer.

Mas, who more recently started her own marketing consulting business, has been consulting for Driift since August and has played an increasingly important role in the company’s expansion. The firm is behind a number of high-profile ticketed online shows, including live streams by artists like Nick Cave, Niall Horan, Andrea Bocelli, Laura Marling, Dermot Kennedy, Kylie Minogue, Courtney Barnett and Biffy Clyro.

Under Mas’s digital marketing guidance, Driift has sold almost 500,000 tickets in 150 countries, promoting a series of shows in iconic buildings such as the Royal Albert Hall and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and in cities including London, Glasgow, Parma, Melbourne and Los Angeles.

“We believe passionately that this is a unique format of the future”

“Since formally launching Driift in August 2020, Claire has played an absolutely pivotal role in our successes, combining creative zeal, commercial acumen and an innate understanding of the digital landscape,” says Driift’s CEO, ATC Management’s Ric Salmon. “‘She’s an absolute linchpin of our team, and we’re over the moon to appoint her formally as COO as we enter what’s going to be another hugely exciting year filled with incredible shows.”

“I’m absolutely delighted to take on the role of COO and it’s an honour to be working alongside Ric and Brian [Message, Driift co-founder],” says Mas. “Driift is building something utterly distinctive in the livestream space, and our focus remains always around the artist and how to compel their audience into this new experience. It’s really inspiring to be at the heart of creating a critical new format in the industry.

“My background in digital means I love creating new opportunities in an ever-changing environment, and it’s been really enjoyable exploring the unknown. We believe passionately that this is a unique format of the future, capable of tapping into the global dynamics of streaming while delivering all the value and excitement associated with live performance.”

 


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