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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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Moment House launches in Japan with ticketer Zaiko

Moment House has launched in Japan through a partnership with digital ticketing platform Zaiko, which invested in the company in September.

The LA-based live media platform, which powers ticketed livestreamed ‘Moments’ for leading musicians and entertainers, has processed more than one million tickets across 168 countries since its launch in 2019.

Tame Impala, KSI, Halsey, St Vincent, Kygo, Kaytranada, Brockhampton, Grouplove, Yungblud and Justin Bieber are among the artists that have worked with the platform.

Moment House Japan has now announced its first virtual shows showcasing talent from across Asia. LA-based Japanese artist Jin Akanishi will be showcasing his first “online digital experience” on 25 December.

Tame Impala, KSI, Halsey, St Vincent, Kygo, Kaytranada, Brockhampton and Justin Bieber have worked with the platform

In January, the platform will present a performance from Korean-American rapper Jessi as well as a virtual gig from Thai singers Billkin and PP Krit.

Moment House’s expansion comes after the platform received US$12 million in new funding from investors including UTA Ventures, the investment arm of United Talent Agency, artists Halsey and Kaytranada, and Max Cutler, founder of podcast studio Parcast and head of new content for Spotify.

The new investors joined existing backers including high-profile artist managers Troy Carter, Scooter Braun, Myles Shear (Kygo), Austin Rosen (Post Malone), as well as actor Jared Leto, UnitedMasters’ Steve Stoute, Patreon CEO Jack Conte and ex-TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer.

 


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Q&A: Move Concerts boss details LatAm’s recovery

As markets across Latin America gradually reopen, Phil Rodriguez of Move Concerts – the biggest independent concert promoter in the region – says he’s optimistic about the region’s recovery.

Emerging from the most difficult year in live music history, Rodriguez expects the industry to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic “stronger and wiser”.

However, according to the Move Concerts boss, there are a number of obstacles that stand between Latam’s industry and a full recovery.

Below, Rodriguez outlines those obstacles, reflects on the lessons learnt from the pandemic, and addresses “the elephant in the room”…

IQ: How is Latin America’s return to business going?
PR: It’s a patchwork of different sets of rules and regulations per country so it has been a challenge to get them all aligned to have a proper tour of the region. But we’re finally getting there!

In which markets are you now able to fully operate?
Puerto Rico was able to start at full capacity (with proof of vaccination) as of August and business has been incredible. Not only have the shows been selling out, but single dates became multiples. That market came back STRONG.

What’s the deal with vaccine passports and capacity restrictions in Latam?
As noted, it’s a patchwork. Brazil is operating at 70% capacity with proof of vaccination and will open to 100% this week. Argentina will open at 100% capacity with proof of vaccination and with requirements for face masks from 16 November.

Uruguay is at 55% without vaccination and 70% with vaccination. Colombia will be at 100% capacity for vaccinated people from 16 November. Chile is currently held to 40% and in some cases 60% capacity – vaccinated and socially distanced. The expectation is to be open at 100% for the vaccinated by January 2022. Costa Rica will be at 100% as of March 2022 for the vaccinated.

“The lack of cancellation insurance for Covid is the elephant in the room for all of us”

Where has Move’s focus been since markets started to open up?
Rescheduling, booking new tours for the end of 2022 and 2023. Plus our management company and indie record label, Grand Move Records, which are both at full speed.

What opportunities do you see during this recovery period?
The chance to reinvent ourselves and look outside our comfort zone. We all had to do this during the pandemic. We should not get complacent once we return to some normalcy and forget that.

What are the challenges you’re facing right now? 
The lack of cancellation insurance for Covid is the elephant in the room for all of us. The rest we can deal with but will still present a strong challenge such as inflation and devaluation of currencies – which have been hit hard by the pandemic – and the economic consequences of the lockdowns, etc.

How long do you think it’ll take for Latam to get back to pre-pandemic levels of business?
The Covid issue, in my opinion, has been both a health and political issue, unfortunately, and that has not helped us get a better picture of what is ahead of us. But if by the second half of 2022, we are not on a solid road to pre-pandemic levels, we will ALL have bigger problems to worry about. That said, I’m an optimist by nature and I think we’ll come out of this wiser and stronger!

“If by the second half of ’22, we are not on a solid road to pre-pandemic levels, we’ll all have bigger problems to worry about”

When and how do you see international acts coming back to Latin America?
In South America, we kick off with a-ha in March 2022 – Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

Move hosted Latam’s first drive-thru show during the pandemic. Is that a format you’ll be returning to?
Not really…we do not see the need nor demand for this any longer as live concerts startup.

What about livestreaming – is there still demand in that area of the business?
This has essentially stopped. With the return of live shows – with reduced capacities – streaming has lost its initial appeal. I’m sure it will still be a good tool to have in our toolbox for use in the future but in a different form… more related to marketing or a special event, etc.

What one thing are you most proud of doing during the pandemic?
That we kept all our team in place and did not have to furlough or lay off anyone. We all took salary cuts and weathered the storm together.

Also, our office in Bogota took the initiative and created an internet site with different content – entertainment, cooking, lifestyle, etc – that raised over US$10,000 to support the local production crews and their families in the middle of the pandemic. That was a fabulous effort that made me very proud of our team there.

 


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100k fans tuned into Firefly live stream, says Mandolin

More than 100,000 fans tuned in to a live stream of AEG Presents’ four-day Firefly Festival, according to Mandolin.

The US festival took place in The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway, in Delaware, and offered performances from the likes of Billie Eilish, Tame Impala, The Killers, Lizzo and Phoebe Bridgers.

As the festival’s official partner, Mandolin users were able to get instant access to the live stream and new fans could tune in for free by creating an account on the platform.

Mandolin says the festival stream was watched by more than 100,000 fans across the entirety of the event, which covered 70 artist performances spread across four stages, according to Celebrity Access.

Those fans tuned in for an average of 78 minutes each, with a total time watched of 1,771,980 minutes, which works out to 29,533 hours of viewership.

The majority of views were attributed to Billie Eilish’s headline performance

The festival’s live stream drew an international audience, with fans from 134 different countries around the world watching the festival.

Most fans tuned into sets from the festival’s main ‘Firefly’ stage and the majority of views were attributed to Billie Eilish’s headline performance.

Marc Rebillet, Cage The Elephant, Wiz Khalifa, Roddy Ricch, Diplo, Glass Animals, Megan Thee Stallion and Machine Gun Kelly also performed at Firefly.

In addition to streaming, Mandolin also offered virtual VIP meet-and-greets with select artists on the line-up via its VIP Suite —the latest addition to the Mandolin Live+ platform.

Launched in the summer, the Live+ platform offers new products and enhancements built specifically for the “hybrid event future” of concerts and festivals.

This is AEG Presents and Mandolin’s second partnership in the virtual concerts space, having first teamed up to stream A Night at the Ryman with Lauren Daigle and Friends earlier this year.

 


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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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BTS announce mini-residency at LA’s new SoFi stadium

BTS have announced a mini-residency at the brand new SoFi stadium (cap. 70,000) in Los Angeles this winter, promoted by Live Nation.

The record-breaking K-pop stars will bring their ‘Permission to Dance on Stage’ show to Inglewood, California, for four nights.

The in-person concerts will mark the first time BTS have been able to be face-to-face with fans since the 2019 BTS World Tour.

The four shows, taking place on 27, 28 November and 1, 2 December, will follow the group’s recently announced livestream concert scheduled for 24 October.

The ‘BTS Permission to Dance On Stage’ live stream comes a year after the ‘BTS Map of the Soul On:e’ event in October 2020.

The four shows will follow the group’s recently announced livestream concert scheduled for 24 October

The stars grossed an estimated $44 million from the two-day live stream, which reached 993,000 viewers in 191 regions.

BTS’s record label, Big Hit Music, says they decided to hold the concerts in the US after “taking the national and regional health regulations and circumstances into consideration”.

“It is [with] our deepest regret that we are unable to hold more concerts in more areas,” it added. “We will do our best to put on additional concerts for not only Korean fans but fans from all around the world who have been patiently waiting for a long time.”

Fans can register for ‘Permission to Dance on Stage’ tickets here.

 


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Livestream platform Mandolin acquires rival NoonChorus

The livestreaming market has consolidated further with the acquisition of NoonChorus by US-based startup Mandolin.

Launched by brothers Andrew and Alex Jensen, NoonChorus has hosted more than 600 virtual shows by artists including Angel Olsen, Future Islands, Fleet Foxes, Bright Eyes and Parquet Courts, grossing a reported $4 million in ticket sales.

Both companies were founded amid the live shutdown of spring 2020.

“Like Mandolin, NoonChorus was born out of the pandemic,” said Mandolin CEO and co-founder Mary Kay-Huse in a blog post.

“They’re young and fast-moving, but knowledgeable and respectful of tradition – their team carrying years of industry experience and connections to help guide the industry toward a more prosperous future. They hold themselves, their shows, and partners to a high standard to deliver best-in-class services.

“All of this has allowed their company to generate not just an impressive, highly engaged fan base, but a network of artists and partners to supply those fans with the experiences they crave. The company is also just full of great people who we want on our team.”

“We’ve set our goals high – building a platform for clients to not just put on great shows, but to execute data-driven strategies”

Kay-Huse said the firm’s ‘playbook’ for hybrid concerts were more valuable than ever for artists and event creators coming out of Covid-19.

“We’ve set our goals high – building a platform for clients to not just put on great shows, but to execute data-driven business strategies enabled with critical fan and business insights,” she said.

“With each show, artist teams, venues, festivals and brands everywhere will access event-level data and fan insights to propel their business forward.

In the summer, Mandolin launched Live+, its platform of new products and enhancements built specifically for the “hybrid event future” of concerts and festivals”.

“Live+ – the digital amplification of in-person concerts – will become ubiquitous,” added Kay-Huse. “And this acquisition is just the beginning.”

The deal marks the latest move in the rapidly developing livestream market. Live Nation acquired a majority stake in Veeps, the ticketed livestreaming platform developed by Good Charlotte’s Joel and Benji Madden, in early 2021.

 


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UTA invests in livestreaming service Moment House

Moment House has received US$12 million in new funding from investors including UTA Ventures, the investment arm of United Talent Agency, artists Halsey and Kaytranada, and Max Cutler, founder of podcast studio Parcast and head of new content for Spotify.

The series-A funding round, led by venture-capital firm Forerunner Ventures, also includes design firm Ideo, actors Whitney Cummings and Tom Felton, artist manager William Robillard-Cole, and YouTuber and comedian Noel Miller.

LA-based Moment House, which powers ticketed livestreamed ‘Moments’ for leading musicians and entertainers, has processed more than million tickets across 168 countries since its launch in 2019. It has worked with artists including Tame Impala, KSI, Halsey, St Vincent, Kygo, Kaytranada, Brockhampton, Grouplove, Yungblud and Justin Bieber.

The new investors join existing backers including high-profile artist managers Troy Carter, Scooter Braun, Myles Shear (Kygo), Austin Rosen (Post Malone), as well as actor Jared Leto, UnitedMasters’ Steve Stoute, Patreon CEO Jack Conte and ex-TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer.

“This fundraising round allows us to execute on our ambitious product roadmap”

“We’re excited to welcome more top tech and entertainment leaders to Moment House as we continue empowering creators to deliver special live experiences to their worldwide communities digitally,” says Moment House co-founder and CEO Arjun Mehta.

“This fundraising round allows us to execute on our ambitious product roadmap, which involves deepening the consumer social experience, and on the supply side, opening up the platform so that any creator in the world can easily make a Moment.

“Everything we have done so far is just step one of a much bigger plan to help build the ‘metaverse’.”

Upcoming shows for Moment House, which recent made a string of senior hires, include Halsey, Tinashe, Michelle Branch, Louis the Child, the Tiny Meat Gang Podcast, the Small Town Murder podcast and more.

 


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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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We for India benefit show raises $5m for Covid relief

We for India, a livestreamed fundraising event featuring performances from Ed Sheeran, Nile Rodgers, Annie Lennox and AR Rahman, raised more than US$5 million for the India Covid Response Fund, organisers have announced.

Held on Sunday 15 August 2021, India’s 75th independence day, the show featured more than 100 musicians, actors, film directors, TV stars and other celebrities and was broadcast to a global audience on Facebook. Other participants included Steven Spielberg, Mick Jagger and Indian film stars Ajay Devgan, Hrithik Roshan, Nagarjuna and Arjun Kapoor.

Shibasish Sarkar, group CEO of Reliance Entertainment, which organised We for India in association with GiveIndia, Facebook and the UN platform The World We Want, says: “The honest and sincere effort of our team and our partners is the reason behind the great success of this event. I would like to extend my gratitude to all the talent, artists, philanthropists and everyone who supported this fundraiser. It is our humble contribution to our nation’s ongoing battle against the invisible enemy.”

“I would like to extend my gratitude to all the talent, artists, philanthropists and everyone who supported this fundraiser”

The money, around 370m rupees, was raised from a combination of corporate partners, philanthropic foundations and individual donors, reports IANS. It follows a similar event, I for India, which raised $7m in May 2020.

Atul Satija, CEO of GiveIndia, comments: “We are grateful for all the support we have received from each and everyone who donated and came together to make We For India such an impactful journey. Thank you for making it a success and contributing to our India Covid Response Fund. We all know that the pandemic and the suffering it has caused is far from over. We for India is a great, timely initiative to remind us of the need to continue to provide humanitarian aid and strengthen our health infrastructure.”

“The great success of this initiative is the result of the collective efforts of so many people, and truly epitomises the power of communities,” Manish Chopra, director and head of partnerships for Facebook India, adds. “As Facebook, we are proud to have supported the voice of leading artists from all over the world and partnered Give India and Reliance Entertainment in this laudable effort towards Covid relief.”

 


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