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Growing concert market bucks global slowdown

The global market for live music will be worth nearly US$29 billion by 2021, as the concert business defies a plateauing entertainment and media (E&M) ecosystem to deliver another five years of solid growth.

That’s according to consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), whose respected annual Global entertainment and media outlook survey reveals live music revenue – from ticket sales and sponsorship – will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3% through 2021, making up a “little more than 50%” of total music revenue over the period.

That compares to growth of 20.7% for music streaming, which is forecast to be worth $17bn in 2021, amid a collapse in sales of physical music (-11.6%) and digital downloads (-19.2%), reveals the latest edition of the reportGlobal entertainment and media outlook 2017-2021, shared with IQ by PwC.

Analysing the data, PwC notes the concert business is becoming “increasingly international” in outlook. “The live music sector continues to deliver, with further growth expected around the globe,” reads the Outlook. “Fans appear to have an almost insatiable appetite for music events, with festival brands eager to export their franchises overseas – last year saw Miami’s Ultra Music Festival debut in Brazil, and the Mexico-based BPM Festival will be heading to two new markets in 2017.”

Its analysts additionally highlight the increasing maturity of, and consolidation in, the sector – “a handful of leading promoters dominate live music events on a worldwide basis”, it notes – with “sector behemoth” Live Nation continuing its run of acquisitions and rival AEG Presents “focusing on strengthening its ties with brands” such as MGM Resorts and Toshiba at AEG venues.

“The market is being defined and propelled by consumers’ increased demand for live, immersive, sharable experiences”

The increasing age of the average arena/stadium draw also draws comment from PwC, with the report noting that a “large proportion of the artists topping the worldwide touring charts last year, among them Bruce Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, have also been dominant for decades”.

The positive news for the live business, which is consistent with the findings of last year’s survey, comes amid a slowdown across the wider E&M landscape, with newspapers, magazines and home video all in decline and anaemic growth predicted for revenues from cinema box office (1.2% CAGR) and traditional TV advertising, especially in developed markets. “While there are increases in revenue, E&M is approaching an industry plateau,” says PwC.

Total E&M revenues – which also include books, outdoor advertising, radio, video games and more – are projected to increase 4.2%, from $1.8 trillion in 2016 to $2.2tn in 2021; down slightly on the 4.4% predicted last year.

“The broad pattern in the global E&M market is clear: as countries become more developed, E&M spending per capita relative to its GDP increases and growth slows,” the report reads. “In fact, most E&M segments will fail to keep pace with GDP growth over the next five years.

“Although only two segments, newspapers and magazines, are declining in absolute terms [as opposed to relatively], many others are slow-growing and not keeping pace with the general rate of economic growth.”

Although starting from a tiny base level, two of the fastest-growing sectors are esports and virtual reality (VR), both of which are “just beginning to accelerate” – and are also growing in importance for producers of live entertainment.

“A greater range of esports tournaments across a wider suite of games will mean many new consumers feel the pull of attending a live event”

Revenue from VR video – which has been embraced by several music-biz giants, including Live Nation and Universal Music Group – is set to grow at a CAGR of 91%, reaching a value of just over $8bn in 2021, while the esports, or competitive video-gaming, market will grow at 22%, with revenues reaching a more modest $874m over the same period.

However, PwC warns that margins for developers of VR technology remain “slim”, with hardware companies likely to seek a cut of the sales of the VR content in order to become profitable. “VR technology is complex, difficult to support and needs to retail at a cost acceptable to mainstream consumers – only a few early adopters will be willing to pay prices in excess of US$700 per headset seen in the current market,” the Outlook says. “No one will get rich from hardware alone; the endgame for these firms will be attempting to become the standard platform for VR and hence start to charge royalties or commission from content sales.”

Despite a steady rise in the number of people with VR headsets – there will, says PwC, by 2021 be “enough headsets in consumer hands to drive an advertising market” – virtual reality remains a potentially lucrative but “highly immature” market “with underdeveloped business models, flaky hardware and lots of experimental or low-quality content”.

The company is more upbeat on esports, which it says has so far seen “strong growth […] as interest rises worldwide, tournaments and leagues become more sophisticated and sponsorship and other development money pours in to the discipline.”

Several live music companies, including AEG, Australia’s TEG Live and Vivendi in France, have already partnered with esports promoters, with other positive indicators including the steady release of new games suitable for esports, such as recent hit Overwatch, and the creation of “suitable infrastructure” worldwide (including the opening of the Gfinity Arena, the UK’s first dedicated esports arena, in London).

“Companies need to harness the economic, social and emotional power of fans”

Additionally, “a greater range of tournaments across a wider suite of games will mean many new consumers will feel the pull of attending a live event”.

If there is one overarching theme from the 2017 report, it’s the importance of “user experience”: By increasing engagement with fans – and in the process collecting more data – companies can, it reads, “further refine, target and engage their core audiences in ways that delight and retain them. That ultimately creates further opportunities for value creation.”

Christopher Vollmer, PwC’s global advisory leader for entertainment and media, explains: “Amid an ever greater supply of media, businesses that are fan-centric will find themselves with audiences that are more engaged, more loyal and spend more per capita. To thrive in the experience-driven marketplace characterised by this year’s Outlook, companies need to attract and harness the economic, social and emotional power of fans.”

“The next era of differentiation in E&M is being defined and propelled by consumers’ increased demand for live, immersive, sharable experiences,” adds Deborah Bothun, PwC global entertainment and media leader. “Consumers want to get closer, more engaged and better connected with the stories they love – both in the physical and digital worlds.”

A similar, ticketing-specific, report published earlier this year by Technavio gave a 7% CAGR for concert ticketing, with a 2021 value of $24.6bn.


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The show will go on for Rolling Loud 2017

Kendrick Lamar-headlined festival Rolling Loud has avoided cancellation after board members of the Bayfront Park Management Trust voted unanimously to allow it to go ahead as planned next month.

The major hip-hop event, promoted by Dope Entertainment, was facing the prospect of being called off following the revelation that its move to the 32-acre Miami park had only been signed off by one board member. Frank Carollo, the chairman of the trust which manages Bayfront Park, then called a special meeting “to vote on approval/denial of the use agreement for the Rolling Loud festival”, arguing that all uses of the park must be approved by the entire board.

Cue Rolling Loud’s lawyer, Jeffrey Bass, threatening the city with a lawsuit, warning that Dope had already sold close to 40,000 tickets and would suffer damages “well in excess of $30 million” if the event were cancelled.

“I feel like I got acquitted for a crime, and I know I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s crazy”

According to the Miami Herald, yesterday’s vote “went quickly, with little discussion save a few changes to the contract limiting when the festival can conduct sound checks and requiring that the festival increase its investment in off-duty police and firefighters to nearly $800,000”.

“I feel like I got acquitted for a crime, and I know I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s crazy,” said festival co-founder Tariq Cherif after the vote. “We should have never had to go through this.”

Rolling Loud – an “Ultra for hip hop” which took place at Soho Studios and Mana Wynwood in 2015 and 2016, respectively – will this year run from 5 to 7 May. Other performers include Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Future and A$AP Rocky.

Bayfront Park is also home to EDM event Ultra and an outdoor concert venue, Bayfront Park Amphitheater, booked by Live Nation.


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Kanye, Drake fans lead way in mobile ticketing

Despite the abrupt axing last month of the final 21 dates of his Saint Pablo tour, Kanye West was still the no1 choice for mobile ticket-buyers in 2016, new data suggests.

West – whose cancellation, due to stress and exhaustion, led to a loss of US$30 million in potential ticket sales – tops Gametime’s list of the ‘most mobile music fans of 2016’ by tickets sold on its app, followed by Drake and Future, Beyoncé, Skrillex’s show at Super City Fest in Oakland, California, and a country music tour co-headlined by Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt and Old Dominion.

Gametime is a last-minute mobile secondary ticketing platform for music and sporting events, on which resale prices fluctuate dynamically according to market demand. “Unlike other ticket providers that rely primarily on web-based platforms,” it notes, “Gametime is 100% mobile, revealing consumers who are on the go, largely Millennials (>75% of user base) and looking for a speedy transaction accompanied by great value.”

“A consumer behaviour shift is happening in the live event industry, with a migration toward the last-minute window”

The San Francisco-based company says its research – which correlates with previous predictions of 20% year-on-year growth for mobile ticketing until 2020 – shows that “a consumer behaviour shift is happening in the live event industry, with a migration toward the last-minute window – 7 days or less until the event – driven by a younger, more spontaneous and experienced shopping consumer”.

“For example,” it explains, “55% of concert tickets sold on Gametime are happening on the week of the event, and 30% on the day of the event. As events draw near, prices decline roughly 25% and buying activity spikes via mobile millennial fans.”

Gametime’s top 20, and the average US ticket price of each tour, is shown below:

Most mobile music fans of 2016, Gametime


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Could chatbots soon be selling concert tickets?

The CEO of a Seattle tech start-up which has sold over US$1 million worth of vinyl records in eight months through a text message-based ‘conversational commerce’ channel says the technology could soon also be applied to concert tickets.

ReplyYes chief Dave Cotter, a former Amazon general manager and the co-founder of the private SquareHub social network for families, tells IQ its first two channels – the aforementioned The Edit, and Origin Bound, which sells comic books/graphic novels – are “just the beginning”, and that the live music business is poised to take advantage of the growing trend towards text-based ecommerce chatbots.

So how does ReplyYes work? Each person who signs up to The Edit or Origin Bound (by texting ‘start’ to join the service) receives a text message daily with a personalised record or comic suggestion. Users can then reply ‘yes’ to purchase the item, or ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ to help ReplyYes’s algorithm learn their preferences.

“Beyond the ability to be able to deliver messages more quickly than email, there’s no app people have to download, which reduces the friction,” explains Cotter. “In other words, text messaging works on every phone, smartwatch or any device that supports SMS.”

“The chat platform is really exciting right now. It offers a much more intimate channel for retailers and brands to connect with their customers, and with much better open rates”

However, “the nuances of human conversations are really hard for a bot to handle”, he continues (just ask Microsoft, whose Tay chatbot became a sex-crazed Holocaust-denier in less than a day), so ReplyYes has humans on the other end of the phone, too. “When bots can’t handle it, it can be a really bad customer experience. Bots are good at tasks, not conversations; this is why [we have] human operators as well, to jump in when bots aren’t right for the job.”

These human operators – unlike, say, the staff of a call centre in Bangalore – are also experts in their field, picked for their “deep knowledge of the channel”. (The staff of The Edit, for example, include a “puppy-loving neighbourhood riot grrrl”, a “feisty text artisan who puts the ‘wreck’ in ‘record'”, a Golden Girls-watching, Justin Bieber-loving, ‘Psycho Killer’-singing vinyl therapist and Britanny, who is “fuelled by laughter and driven by hip hop.”)

While ReplyYes is by no means alone in exploring the possibilities of chatbots for ecommerce – Facebook, for example, earlier this month announced the launch of a feature that will enable businesses to offer automated customer support via its Messenger app – it remains one of the most successful examples so far of how the technology can be harnessed to build a solid customer base, boasting 50,000 users across both platforms, and has secured over $2.5m in investment from various venture-capitalist groups since its inception.

“I do think it’s great for live [music],” concludes Cotter. “The chat platform is really exciting right now. It offers a much more intimate channel for retailers and brands to connect with their customers, and with much better open rates.”