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Moving online: The booming business of livestreaming

With fans left deprived of the live experience and much of the industry facing stagnated revenue streams,  livestreaming is developing fast as a credible new source of income for artists, promoters and other rightsholders.

Livestreaming has been used one way or another for many years now, be it by festivals looking to expand their audience reach, artists seeking to enhance fan engagement or maximise audience numbers, streaming services looking to tap into the live business, or video games crossing over into the music space.

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis and live event shutdown, many have moved into the virtual space as a means of driving much-needed revenue and of raising funds and awareness, or simply of boosting spirits.

According to International Music Managers Forum’s (IMMF) Jake Beaumont-Nesbitt, however, the coronavirus crisis has not instigated anything completely new here, but rather has “accelerated and diverted” what was already happening in this online live event space.

As the business begins to become accustomed to its new reality, however long it may last, the potential and need to properly commercialise the livestreaming game is becoming ever more apparent.

“Who knew it would take a global pandemic to serve as a catalyst for some serious conversations about what this side of the business could look like?”

“One of the flip sides of the global health crisis, so to speak, is that people are realising there is a commercial business here,” Ruth Barlow, director of live licensing at the independent Beggars Group of labels tells IQ.

“Who knew it would take a global pandemic to serve as a catalyst for some serious conversations about what this side of the business could look like?”

Barlow, who has been licensing livestreams for the Beggars Group for around ten years, occupying the space between live and recorded and attempting to get both to see eye to eye, believes there is potential for “a business that both the live industry and labels can share in here”.

“I think there are really strong indicators that a healthy online business can sit comfortably aside real-time events and has the potential to generate ancillary revenue for rightsholders, promoters and artists alike,” says Barlow.

Too often, she says, there is a tendency for the live industry to see streaming live from festivals and other events purely as ‘promotional’ activity, leading rightsholders, artists and others to miss out on commercialising the content and collecting royalties on commercial platforms.

“These big live companies could act as the trusted gatekeepers for this, figuring out the licensing and taking the strain off artists”

Beaumont-Nesbitt agrees that the trend to view livestreams predominantly as marketing opportunities has led to “a failure on the part of major record labels to properly move into this space over the past 10 to 15 years.”

Now as offline replaces online for a period, Beaumont-Nesbitt believes the major players of the live entertainment and, potentially, esports worlds can capitalise on the potential of livestreaming.

Through leveraging in-depth audience knowledge, together with pre-existing brand relationships and well-trusted festival and event identities, the live industry could gain an edge over its recorded counterparts in the online event creation space.

Much like in the real-life live events market, Beaumont-Nesbitt expects consolidation to be key here, with a few major players likely to prove to have both the recognisable identity and the diversity of offering to succeed.

“These big live companies could act as the trusted gatekeepers for this, figuring out the licensing and taking the strain off artists.”

“A proper conversation is needed about licensing to create a mutually beneficial situation for the recorded and live sector alike”

However, for Barlow, it is imperative that the recorded sector be involved too, as generally permission is needed from labels and the artists’ publishers before any form of recording or broadcast takes place.

It’s been an “uphill struggle” over the years to convince promoters that labels have a say in livestreaming, says Barlow, yet paying for an artist to play a show does not automatically include the rights to livestream these performances.

Licensing, it seems, is a sticky issue within the livestreaming business. Unlike at an offline event, audiences online spread beyond national boundaries, stretching the certainty of many national collective management organisations’ (CMOs) license agreements.

The diversity of online platforms and the lack of unification or regulation between them also complicates matters, with each negotiating different licensing rules. A live stream on Instagram, for example, is recorded as well and available on demand for 24 hours or longer after it was “live”, which technically turns a livestream into a recording, requiring a different set of rights. A growing number of platforms also stream primarily user-generated content, making it much harder to identify which licensor holds the rights in the content.

“A proper conversation is needed about licensing to create a mutually beneficial situation for the recorded and live sector alike,” says Barlow.

The future of livestreaming looks bright, as more consumers get accustomed to viewing live content online and the return date of live events as we know them remains uncertain

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Beggars Group has been partaking in another form of livestreaming, one that does not originate from a live – or even “virtual” event – in real time, but rather involves the resurfacing of old live footage, that is then repurposed and broadcast at a set time on platforms such as YouTube Premieres.

This form of livestreaming allows viewers to watch and react to content together, mimicking the temporality and collectivism of a live show. Beggars Group is able to use such content as, over the years, it has been licensing and retaining the rights to a whole host of live performances.

“The level of engagement with long-form content on certain platforms has been pretty bonkers,” says Barlow, hinting that more previously unseen footage from across the Beggars Group’s roster is set to be aired soon.

The future of livestreaming looks bright, as more consumers get accustomed to viewing live content online and the return date of live events as we know them remains uncertain. As the lockdowns rumble on and infection rates continue to rise in many places, it seems that rebuilding consumer confidence may prove tricky and, even after the peak of the pandemic has passed, there will be a demographic that may seek their live experience elsewhere, at least for a time.


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‘A dire situation’: EU orgs call for urgent investment

In an unprecedented display of European music-biz unity, a total of 36 industry associations – including festival association Yourope, managers’ bodies IMMF and EMMA, venue associations Live DMA and Liveurope and PRO collective Gesac – have written an open letter calling for urgent emergency aid for the entire EU music industry, which they warn is in crisis due to the continent-wide shutdown.

In the letter, addressed to both national governments and the EU Commission, the 36 warn of a “dire situation”, in which “festivals suspend their activities, performances are cancelled, group activity is stopped, shops close and new releases are put on hold”, threatening the European “music ecosystem”.

The signatories – which also include recording industry bodies IFPI and Impala, the European Talent Exchange Programme (Etep), the International Music Publishers Forum (IMPF), Live Performance Europe/Pearle* and showcase festival network INES – name “artists and their management, performers, composers, songwriters, music educators, conductors, booking agents, record shops, labels, publishers, distributors, promoters, manufacturers, technicians, events managers and event staff” as being among those “whose livelihoods are on the line.”

Funding is available at a national level in many European countries, including, in some territories, specialist aid for creative-sector freelancers. However, the associations urge that a coordinated Europe-wide approach is needed to stave off “profound harm” to the industry that will continue into 2021.

“We call for emergency … structural policies at EU, national, regional and local level to consolidate the music ecosystem”

“[W]e see how important the cultural sectors are in promoting solidarity and in providing rallying points,” they continue. “Within the confines of their homes, artists and DJs have been streaming their own live performances to fight isolation by engaging online communities. Drawing upon the example of Italy, citizens from across Europe gather on their balconies to play music and regain a shared sense of common purpose.

“This reminds us that music is a vehicle to recreate a sense of community. In times of containment and pressure, music builds bridges between individuals and cultures irrespective of social, ethnic, cultural backgrounds. […] As decision-makers reflect on how to address the crisis, culture must be recognised as a priority sector.”

The intervention comes as live music industry associations across Europe lobby to be allowed to offer ticket vouchers, or credit, in lieu of cash refunds, to avert a cashflow crisis, amid widespread cancellations.

Read the 36’s letter in full, as well as the list of 36 signatories, below.

 


Music is one of the first sectors hit by the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. It will also be one of the last.

As borders close, venues as well as festivals suspend their activities, performances are cancelled, group activity is stopped, shops close, and new releases are put on hold, the entire creative value chain is stalling. Artists and their management, performers, composers, songwriters, music educators, conductors, booking agents, record shops, labels, publishers, distributors, promoters, manufacturers, technicians, events managers and event staff count among the many actors of the ecosystem whose livelihoods are on the line.

These risks will persist, even after the public health emergency is solved. The stark reality is that profound harm will be felt long into 2021 due to how the music ecosystem operates.

In light of this dire situation, we call for emergency as well as sustainable public support and structural policies at EU, national, regional and local level to consolidate the music ecosystem, and help it thrive again in all its diversity.

The undersigned music organisations urge Member States and the European Commission to take a stance and significantly increase the national and EU budgets dedicated to culture, and within that to music. Secondly, under the EU Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, it is imperative that each Member State provides Europe’s creative sector with swift and comprehensive access to Structural Funds in order to offset the harm in the shorter term.

The full magnitude of the current turmoil will build for months and the number of casualties will be high. Even when the complete standstill ends, the crisis will continue due to hyper saturation of events and new releases and audiences will be unpredictable.

All this points to a slow recovery, with less job opportunities, less participation in music and less room for artistic risk-taking. Jobs and diversity are at stake.

At the same time, we see how important the cultural sectors are in promoting solidarity and in providing rallying points. Within the confines of their homes, artists and DJs have been streaming their own live performances to fight isolation by engaging online communities. Drawing upon the example of Italy, citizens from across Europe gather on their balconies to play music and regain a shared sense of common purpose.

This reminds us that music is a vehicle to recreate a sense of community. In times of containment and pressure, music builds bridges between individuals and cultures irrespective of social, ethnic, cultural backgrounds.

Music and culture are essential to offer citizens the renewed social and cultural bond that Europe will sorely need.

As decision makers reflect on how to address the crisis, culture must be recognised as a priority sector.

The undersigned organisations

AEC, Association Européenne des Conservatoires, Académies de Musique et Musikhochschulen

CIME/ICEM, International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music

DME, Digital Music Europe

ECA-EC, European Choral Association – Europa Cantat

ECSA, European Composer and Songwriter Alliance

EFNYO, European Federation of National Youth Orchestra

EMC, European Music Council

EMCY, European Union of Music Competitions for Youth

EMEE, European Music Exporters Exchange

EMMA, European Music Managers Alliance

ETEP, European Talent Exchange Programme

Europavox

EJN, Europe Jazz Network

EVTA, European Voice Teachers Association

FIM, International Federation of Musicians

GESAC, the European Authors Societies

IAMIC, International Association of Music Centres

IAO, International Artist Organisation of Music

ICAS, International Cities of Advanced Sound

ICMP, International Confederation of Music Publishers

ICSM, International Society for Contemporary Music

IFPI, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry

IMMF, International Music Managers Forum

IMPF, Independent Music Publishers International Forum

IMPALA, Independent music compagnies associations

INES, Innovation Network of European Showcases

JMI, Jeunesses Musicales International

JUMP, European Music Market Accelerator

Keychange

Live DMA, European network for music venues and festivals

Liveurope, the platform for new European Talent

Pearle*, Live Performance Europe

SHAPE, Sound Heterogenous Art and Performance in Europe

REMA, European Early Music Network

We are Europe

Yourope, the European festival Association

 


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New chairman for Dutch music managers forum

The Dutch association of music managers, MMF NL, has appointed Martijn Swier as its new chairman, taking over from former chair Rob Kramer.

MMF NL consists of almost 70 managers who represent artists in the Netherlands.

“I think it is an honour to be the chairman of an association consisting of managers of the best that Dutch pop music has to offer,” says Swier.

“An important ambition of the board is to ensure that we are even better represented in the urban and dance genres in particular, so that is high on the agenda. ”

“An important ambition of the board is to ensure that we are even better represented in the urban and dance genres”

Swier founded Amsterdam-based boutique music management company Endless Music in 2000. He represents artists including symphonic metal band Within Temptation and My Indigo.

MMF NL is a member of the International Music Managers Forum (IMMF) and the newer, pan-European managers’ body, the European Music Managers Alliance (EMMA).

EMMA, chaired by Stevie Wonder manager Jeith Harris, launched in London last year, using a similar format to the long-established IMMF.

 


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Germany: Red tape and fierce competition

It is not an easy time for promoters in Germany at the moment.

There are too many offers per genre/ audience, limitations on decibels, changing security requirements and, of course, secondary ticketing and its impacts, including personalised ticketing. Add to that noise pollution claims in venues’ local neighbourhoods, and crowd management, including the local impact of visitors’ arrivals and departures.

Then there’s the new EU GDPR regulation that must be kept in mind when promoting shows to regular customers. And the social security and tax regulations with regional and local differences within a fragmented German market… and these are just a few of the issues that have to be considered when drafting a reliable event costing and turnover estimates.

So, when it comes to delivering successful shows, each region in Germany has specific challenges. Venue owners have been dealing with these issues on a daily basis for years, while also trying hard to provide emerging talent with opportunities to showcase and build a following.

Thanks to some European Commission-funded activities like Liveurope and Europavox, emerging artists have an opportunity to cross borders.A healthy culture market needs, and audiences want, plurality and diversity; it’s where the next trend comes from, so one of the major challenges club owners and local promoters are facing nowadays is how to support local talent in a globalised playlist and festival environment. If they do not succeed, it is just a question of time until Europe loses its cultural richness, and we will see a monoculture-dominated live market – which, to some degree, we already have.

In some music genres, we definitely have a saturated market, but most of the venues that have invested in technology and facilities still maintain a thriving business. The newly opened Warsteiner Music Hall in Dortmund reflects the up-to-date philosophy of venue management.

Alex Richter, managing director of Four Artists Booking GmbH, says: “Particularly in the last five years, the German live market has become more dynamic, and more diverse, but also more fragmented. The fee offer and, in particular, admission prices, have almost doubled, so that I already have the feeling that we are close to the bubble bursting. Especially in the open-air/festival area in Germany, we have reached a saturation limit.

“There’s room in the market for niches, with German-language and regional acts for example”

“On the other hand, there is a lot of interest in high-quality shows. In addition to the artist/show, the venue is a key part of the concert experience: a great venue contributes significantly to the success of a production.

“This was our approach at the Warsteiner Music Hall, which has a capacity of 3,600 visitors. In my opinion, it is the best venue of this size in Germany. It is located in the centre of the Ruhr area with a total population of 5.1 million, so it’s good not just for artists but also for a large audience. With a lot of experience and thought we created a modern venue with the charm of an old industrial hall built in 1903.”

For many years, the company Südpolmusic has worked together with German-language acts, and experienced significant growth doing business in a niche market. According to MD Patrick Oginski, “The German live music market is increasingly divided into nationally active, large-scale marketers and small- to medium-sized tour organisers.

“Fortunately, while the big-players’ tours are about the major cities and often just about market share, there’s room in the market for niches, with German-language and regional acts, for example. This is also a great opportunity for small- and medium-sized companies, who are able to look after live acts more intensively, and with a longer service life and thus establish themselves in the long-term in the live market.”

Juicy Beats Festival booker Uli Künneke warns of an unhealthy business perspective due to the significantly increasing fees and production requirements. “The requirements of the stage directions are getting bigger and bigger,” he reports. “This does not truly reflect if an act is a successful ticket-seller or not. The status of the act is nowadays sometimes linked to the number of trucks and coaches, and stage sizes and roadies. Together with the increasing artist fees for festival performances, this pursuit of scale can drive the presale ticket price into an unhealthy region.”

 


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Managers’ association EMMA launches, IMMF responds

A new pan-European artist managers’ body, the European Music Managers Alliance (EMMA), launched in London last night, bringing managers’ associations in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Poland under one umbrella, in a similar format to the long-established International Music Managers Forum (IMMF).

Chaired by Stevie Wonder manager Keith Harris, EMMA comprises each country’s Music Managers Forum (MMF), along with the Norwegian Entertainment Managers and Agents Association (NEMAA), and will collectively represent more than 800 European managers. With partners MMF Canada, MMF New Zealand and Association of Artist Managers Australia (AAM), the organisation will additionally represent another 600 managers worldwide.

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of MMF UK, comments: “The UK MMF is committed to thinking beyond Brexit and working even more closely with our European and international manager colleagues to campaign for fairness, transparency and bringing down barriers to music. Our members all represent artists with global businesses. We believe we are stronger and more influential working together to affect change for the better.”

All EMMA member associations are already part of the International Music Managers Forum (IMMF). Sources tell IQ the IMMF was last year the subject of an unsuccessful takeover bid by MMF UK, which is leading the new EMMA initiative.

Responding to the creation of EMMA – which the organisation says it “learned of through a press release” – a spokesperson for IMMF expresses surprise at the move, saying it has always welcomed the contributions of MMF UK.

The spokesperson tells IQ: “We value fairness and transparency. IMMF holds open elections every two years, and we have always encouraged MMF UK to participate. MMF UK left IMMF a few years ago, and only recently came back.”

“We can’t help but note this move is being led from the UK with less than a year to go to Brexit”

IMMF also notes the timing of EMMA’s launch, which follows the recently announced EU-backed Music Moves Europe project, which aims to grow the continent’s music industry.

“We can’t help but note that this move… is being led from the UK with less than a year to go to Brexit,” they continue, “and follows closely behind the first significant achievement of the united European Union music-industry stakeholder dialogues, Music Moves Europe, which should start to increase the funding available for creators [and] European industry organisations post-2020.”

The three main aims of EMMA will be licensing and fair remuneration, public policy, and education and research, which are similar to IMMF’s three stated pillars of lobbying (public policy), training and education, and networking.

Summing up the aims of EMMA, Harris says: “As the business representatives of artists, songwriters and producers, the role of the music manager has assumed ever greater importance in the digital era. […] Going forward, digital services, legislators and other industry partners will have opportunity to connect with the widest range of music managers via a single networked organisation.”

We believe the future is about where tomorrow’s artists are going, and about sharing the opportunity together,” agrees IMMF.

 


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Closing the data gap: YouTube adopts ISNI IDs for creators

The International Music Managers Forum (IMMF) has welcomed news YouTube is to assign an ISNI ID to all creators, including artists and songwriters, whose work is used on the video platform, saying the move “could be a significant step towards closing music’s data gap”.

Google-owned YouTube yesterday became the first registration agency for the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI), an ISO-certified standard used for uniquely identifying the public identities of contributors to creative works, including recording artists, songwriters, composers and publishers. By using a 16-digit ISNI number, rather than names, to identify creators, music and media distribution platforms can accurately determine which people were involved in creating any one piece of content (while there is only one Prince Rogers Nelson, for example, the myriad John Smiths would otherwise have more trouble getting paid).

Google-owned YouTube is the world’s largest video-hosting platform and the web’s second most popular site (after Google). It is also by far the most popular site for on-demand music streaming, although it is remains controversial for the royalties it pays, with the so-called ‘value gap’ – or the mismatch between the value YouTube extracts from music and the revenue given back to creators – regularly coming in for criticism from the recorded music industry.

“Authors of music are often also performers, and performers who make recordings also play live, take photographs, and many write books, appear in films, etc., etc. They need a single ID for all their activity, or for sector IDs to link together to a single point,” says IMMF, who discussed the issue at recent conferences including Tallinn Music Week and Eurosonic Noorderslag, in a statement.

“We view this as a transformative opportunity to offer the music industry a valuable identifier scheme”

YouTube, the association says, will now “drive adoption of ISNI from the B2C [business to consumer] end of the supply chain”, although it adds the music industry’s reaction to the news should be “less about YouTube and more about ISNI and solutions to music’s data gap”.

“By adopting ISNI, artists, songwriters and other creators will be unambiguously identified, enabling better visibility and tracking on YouTube,” says YouTube technical program manager FX Nuttall. “Bringing the ISNI open standard to music opens the door to more accurate credit for creators, discovery for fans and transparency for the industry.”

“We’re delighted to partner with YouTube on such an ambitious effort”, adds Tim Devenport, executive director of ISNI International Agency. “Many organisations active in the music sector have already shown interest in using ISNI identifiers as part of the infrastructure they need to manage rights and royalties effectively. Working closely with YouTube, ISNI is very pleased to contribute its experience and skillsets to these critical objectives.

“We view this as a transformative opportunity to offer the music industry a valuable identifier scheme and, in so doing, to deepen ISNI’s knowledge of this domain and improve its technical facilities and approaches.”

 


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