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Backstreet Boys livestream pulls in 45m viewers

A free livestream performance by the Backstreet Boys attracted a record-breaking 45 million viewers in China via Tencent’s WeChat app.

Broadcast last Friday (24 June), the two-hour show was recorded at Rock Lititz Studio, Pennsylvania, US. Sponsored by Lincoln and produced by 24/7 Productions, it reached 10m viewers within its first half hour and was the highest-attended livestream concert on the platform by an international artist.

The show incorporated a special guest appearance from Westlife, broadcast from Smock Alley in Dublin. Directed by Chris Howe and produced by online event promoter Driift, it enabled the two bands to duet on the Backstreet Boys’ hit I Want It That Way and Westlife’s My Love.

“Achieving this level of engagement in China is unprecedented for international artists”

It marked the second time Howe and Driift have collaborated with Westlife and their management for a WeChat livestream. The Irish group’s previous show, which took place in December 2021, attracted 28m viewers. On both occasions, the performances were filmed specifically for viewing and consumption on mobile devices.

“It’s been a real joy to work with Westlife again as part of such an extraordinarily successful collaboration,” says Sasha Duncan, Driift’s head of production. “Achieving this level of engagement in China is unprecedented for international artists, and also highlights the versatility of the livestream format.

“Whether it’s a high-end cinematic production or a performance like this, tailored for viewing on mobile devices, we’re proving it’s possible to forge a genuine connection with online audiences.”

 


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Live Nation, Hulu extend deal to stream C3 Presents fests

Live Nation has extended its partnership with American subscription streaming service Hulu, after a successful turn as the official streaming destination of Lollapalooza in 2021.

Under the new deal, Hulu will become the official streaming platform for C3 Presents’ largest festivals – Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits – throughout 2022 and 2023.

For all three festivals, select performances will be livestreamed exclusively to Hulu SVOD (subscription video on demand) subscribers at no additional cost. Additional special footage and behind-the-scenes looks will also be available.

Two streaming channels will be made available for performances taking place between Friday and Sunday at each of the festivals. For Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, only one streaming channel will be available on the Thursday of each event.

The deal marks the first time a streaming platform has had streaming rights to all three of the iconic festivals.

“The demand for live music is at an all-time high and the live experience has never been more connected to digital”

“Hulu and Live Nation are both committed to delivering exceptional entertainment to fans, so we are thrilled to be collaborating with them, again, as we expand our offering to include these three legendary festivals,” says Hulu president Joe Early. “Each event is unique, but all three bring people together for incredible music, artistry, and experiences, which we are fortunate to be able to share with Hulu subscribers.”

Charlie Walker of C3 Presents adds: “The demand for live music is at an all-time high and the live experience has never been more connected to digital. By expanding our partnership with Hulu, even more fans will be able to tune into each of these incredible festival experiences in real-time and enjoy live performances from their favourite artists with the fans on-site.”

Bonnaroo is set to take place 16–19 June as it returns to the farm in Manchester, Tennesse for the first time since 2019, with Lollapalooza slated for 28–31 July and Austin City Limits will return for two weekends from 7–9 and 14–16 October.

 


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BTS concert screening breaks box office record

BTS have broken the global event cinema record after grossing $32.6 million (€29.8m) with the first live worldwide cinema broadcast of a concert from South Korea.

Beamed from Seoul’s Olympic Stadium, BTS Permission to Dance on Stage – Seoul: Live Viewing was presented by HYBE and Trafalgar Releasing on 12 March in 3,711 cinemas in 75 regions for a one-day limited release, reaching a reported 1.4 million viewers worldwide in total. In North America, the production reached the No. 2 spot in the Saturday box office, generating more than $6.84m and a per-screen average of over $8,500 across 803 movie theatres.

Livestreams on 10 and 13 March attracted 1.02m fans from 191 countries/regions on March 10 and 13, bringing the total worldwide audience to 2.46m.

“As the pandemic made it difficult to access the concert venue, we wanted to create an opportunity for fans to gather and watch the concert together,” says HYBE 360 president DJ Kim said, We came up with the idea of Live Viewing at cinemas and are delighted to offer an alternative experience for fans to enjoy the concert live.”

The event, which was HYBE and Trafalgar Releasing’s fourth global title with BTS, marked the group’s long-awaited return to a stage in South Korea in front of a live audience for the first time since 2019.

“It’s a testament to both the overwhelmingly dedicated fandom of the [BTS] Army and the overall return to cinemas on a global scale”

“We are delighted with the record-breaking success of this project, not only for Trafalgar Releasing but the event cinema industry as a whole,” adds Marc Allenby, CEO of Trafalgar Releasing. “It’s a testament to both the overwhelmingly dedicated fandom of the [BTS] Army and the overall return to cinemas on a global scale.”

BTS completed a three-concert run at Seoul Olympic Stadium on March 10, 12 and 13, attended by a total of 45,000 people in compliance with the Covid-19 protocols, with a maximum capacity of 15,000 per show.

The production used a gigantic moving LED screen that moved up and down, and forward and backward, to maximise the impact of live interaction with the audience.

Covid-19 regulations banned any chanting, shouting or standing-up on-site through the concert. Fans were allowed to clap or use the clappers as well as the official lightsticks to cheer the band during the concert.

BTS will perform additional show dates for BTS Permission to Dance on Stage – Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium on 8-9 and 15-16 April. The in-person live broadcast event Live Play in Las Vegas will be available at MGM Grand Garden Arena on all four days. There will also be an online live stream on the last day on April 16.

 


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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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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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