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UK reports progress on first-ever 5G festival

The world’s first-ever 5G-powered festival is on track to take place early next year in the UK, following another successful round of trials.

Led by 5G specialist Digital Catapult and funded by the department for digital, culture, media & sport (DCMS), the 5G Festival will combine elements of live, in-person performance, remote collaboration and augmented reality.

The most recent trials utilised a group of experienced session musicians called The Remotes (‘the most data divided band in the UK’) to test how much audio latency (delay) can be tolerated for a group of performers to be able to play together remotely.

The vocalist, bass player, lead guitarist and keyboard player were set up to play in either the Concert Hall or the Founders Room in the Brighton Dome whilst 60 miles away at Metropolis Studios in London a drummer and another vocalist were located.

With musical direction from Kojo Samuel (Stormzy, Jess Glynne and Dave), the group performed using augmented reality (AR) glasses, livestreaming through a 5G network-ready 360° content distribution platform and an innovative immersive audio mixing interface.

“We were able to start pushing the boundaries of what 5G and immersive technology is able to do”

Though the band couldn’t perform together physically – or take cues from each other – in real life, the individual performers were able to collaborate using technology to recreate the same kind of rehearsal/performance as a band performing together on one stage.

For the audience, the technology will create a more ’emotionally connected experience’ in-venue and through AR, virtual reality and 360° video will enable streaming into their own homes on their preferred viewing device, or from one venue to another.

The next trials will introduce a third venue for testing the spatial hybrid elements, culminating in a live public event due to take place in March 2022.

“These trials were a major success with the network performing as expected and we were able to start pushing the boundaries of what 5G and immersive technology is able to do,” says Dritan Kaleshi, director of 5G Technology at Digital Catapult.

“It was actually quite an emotional experience for all involved – for the first time in such a long while, we’re hearing and seeing live music being performed, from an incredible band across two iconic venues. It feels real now. This collaboration of organisations is a creative and technical tour de force, and the effort which has been poured into this project is now starting to bear fruit.”

“This collaboration of organisations is a creative and technical tour de force”

The 5G Festival is part of the wider £200 million 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme (5GTT) funded by DCMS, that will produce a 5G powered, virtual, live immersive collaboration platform for artists.

It is hoped that the 5G Festival will help create a more sustainable live music industry and help to future-proof business models for venues and festivals adversely affected by global risks (such as coronavirus and climate change).

Digital Catapult is spearheading the project along with Warner Music Group, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, Telefonica, London’s Metropolis Studios and Sonosphere (immersive audio and live streaming).

Audiotonix (audio mixing consoles and AoIP networking), Mativision (5G, 360° immersive live streaming and distribution platform), LiveFrom (blockchain ticketing) and Wired Sussex (Brighton 5G testbed partner) are also involved.

 


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Thank you, Black Out Tuesday

Black Out Tuesday was created by Jamila Thomas, senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, and Brianna Agyemang, the senior artist campaign manager at Platoon. Tuesday 2 June 2020 saw business as usual halt in solidarity for black lives.

The entire world was shaken by the inhumane loss of George Floyd. Sadly he is not the only one whose life has been stolen at the hands of police brutality and racism – there are hundreds more, including recent cases Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. This had an effect on the black community I personally have never seen in my lifetime. Over the last week or so, I have seen and felt a sense of togetherness and support for black people, which we deserve… it is about time.

For me, Black Out Tuesday was a day of reflection and homage, and an opportunity to encourage a profound, uninterrupted level of education within our respective organisations. We used the opportunity to have an open dialogue, amplify black voices, address imperfections in our own policies, and discuss next steps towards tackling prejudice, discrimination and the outright racism black people are forced to endure.

Without this day, a lot of us wouldn’t have been able to gain the attention of our non-black counterparts; we wouldn’t have been able to open the dialogue with the same altitude of poise and tenacity.

Failure to address these key issues makes you complicit

So, what are the next steps?

The issues have been identified – now it’s time to present the facts. Where are your ethnicity pay gap and employee satisfaction reports? If they don’t exist, now is a good time to populate that data and work towards a safer space for black employees. Data is an extremely important tool and necessary for change.

If you have the capacity to roll out anti-racism training, do so. Educate where possible, and call out racist behaviour, because failure to address these key issues makes you complicit.

If you’re reading this and you’re an executive, a business owner, a manager, a CEO, a founder or anything in between, please ask yourself, “What can I do to spark change? What can I do to make sure my company policies reflect the black square I posted on Tuesday?”

This isn’t a gimmick: systemic and institutionalised racism affects people’s lives, and you have a duty of care.

This is a battle we have been fighting since the beginning of time and will continue to fight until there is real change. If Black Out Tuesday taught me anything, it’s that there is strength in numbers.

 


What else can you do?

Watch

Jane Elliot: Blue-eyed/brown-eyed experiment
Jane Elliot, an anti-racist activist and educator, devised this experiment following the assassination of Martin Luther King.

BFI collection: Black Lives
Portraits of public and private lives against the shifting social climate of 20th-century Britain.

BBC documentary: Will Britain Ever Have a Black Prime Minister?

Unfiltered with James O’Brien: Akala deconstructs race and class

BBC documentary: The Secret Windrush Files

 

Read

Reni Lodge: Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race

Afua Hirsh: Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging

Ibram X. Kendi: How to Be an Antiracist

Ijeoma Oluo: So You Want to Talk About Race

Robin DiAngelo: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism

Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

 

Donate

Black LGBTQIA Therapy Fund

Support RECESS

Women Connect
A collective creating safer, all-inclusive spaces, good fortune and equal opportunities for women and non-binary folks in the creative industry.

Black Ticket Project
Award-winning initiative creating cultural access points for black young people.

Exist Loudly Fund to Support Queer Black YP

 


This article originally appeared in issue 90 of IQ Magazine (July 2020). Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Metropolis Music joins Live Nation

Live Nation today announced the launch of a joint venture with Bob Angus’s Metropolis Music, with the British promoter – long rumoured to be in acquisition talks with the live entertainment giant – becoming “part of the Live Nation family” with immediate effect.

A Live Nation spokesperson tells IQ the deal is not an acquisition, and a statement from the company describes the new set-up as a “reconfiguration” of Metropolis that sees the V Festival promoter “integrating into the Live Nation team”.

Angus will lead the new-look Metropolis Music as chairman, with Raye Cosbert as managing director, Andy Robbins, Kiarn Eslami and Tony Dobson on artist bookings, Sophie Pitchforth as executive booking coordinator and Ronnie Lee as production coordinator.

“We look forward to providing the best for artists and fans across the UK, together as part of the Live Nation family”

Denis Desmond, chairman of Live Nation UK, says the deal marks “another step in our commitment to promotions and world-class events in the UK. We’re bringing Metropolis on board and bolstering their existing promotions expertise with Live Nation’s established frameworks, relationships and a team of experts to grow the business together.”

Angus adds: “The team and I are excited for this new venture into Metropolis Music. We’ve been promoting events in the UK since 1985, and we look forward to providing the best for artists and fans across the UK, together as part of the Live Nation family.”

Long-serving Metropolis directors Paul Hutton and Conal Dodds left Metropolis last year for new venture Crosstown Concerts.

The tie-up with Metropolis is Live Nation’s third such deal of 2016, after its acquisition of Idaho’s CT Touring and the Bottle Rock festival.

 


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Why hasn’t dynamic pricing taken off in music?

If 2016 will be remembered in the live music business for any one thing, it will be as the 12 months in which the pitchforks well and truly came out against secondary ticketing.

It was the year of the Waterson report and the Bots and Boss Acts, of FanFair and #ResaleNO, and the year in which Italy surprised the world by announcing plans to outlaw ticket touting altogether.

Although most of the industry – with, of course, the exception of the secondary sites themselves – agree on the desirability of minimising touting, it remains divided on the best way to do so. Italian-style legislation is one possibility; as is blocking individual sites, as has happened in Belgium.

Another is the dynamic pricing of tickets, in which prices fluctuate based on market demand – already common for sporting events, as well as in the booking of airline tickets and hotel rooms. Despite market leader Ticketmaster throwing its hat in the dynamically priced ring for select tickets in 2007 – followed by then-CEO Irving Azoff calling for more dynamic pricing in music – the practice has yet to find widespread acceptance in the live music industry, despite its obvious potential for making the for-profit secondary market far riskier for touts, if not redundant altogether.

The reason for that, says Barry Kahn, the CEO of Qcue, a leading developer of dynamic pricing software, is primarily logistical: “From our side, it’s a challenge working with [concert] promoters because ticketing relationships run through venues: for example, Madison Square Garden with Ticketmaster,” he explains. “If you’re an artist coming through MSG you don’t touch the ticketing system.”

Kahn says the majority of his current clients are sports teams, with “not a lot of dynamic pricing on the concert side”. While he is clear he “[doesn’t] want to say it doesn’t justify the fees” – “I’ve never seen a client that didn’t have a large positive on ROI [return on investment],” he says – he admits “it is a more expensive proposition” to dynamically price tickets, and for that reason is more popular for long runs at a single venue.

“I’ve never seen a client that didn’t have a large positive on ROI”

Manager Adam Tudhope – co-founder of Everybody’s (Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Keane) and a prominent anti-touting campaigner – says he “doesn’t doubt that it [dynamic pricing] might be one of the tools that people use alongside other ones [to minimise touting] – and I say good luck to them”.

Tudhope says it’s important that artists and promoters are upfront with their audience – that if they do decide to dynamically price, they let fans know the reason ticket prices are fluctuating – and that the ‘demand’ determining prices isn’t fixed by the secondary market.

“The ethical stance when selling tickets to fans is to be as transparent as possible,” he says. “If an artist and their business advisors think the audience can afford to pay more – and they want to make more money out of the show – then as long as they’re straightforward with their audience about what their offering is, I don’t see a problem with dynamic pricing.

“Doing it via secondary is underhand and rips off the fan, because they don’t know what the whole market has to offer.”

Ticketmaster UK, which dynamically prices most of its high-profile shows under the Ticketmaster Platinum banner, tells IQ its Platinum tickets aren’t pegged to how well shows are telling on its secondary platforms (Seatwave, Get Me In!). “Platinum prices are based on the demand,” explains managing director Andrew Parsons. “We place a portion out for sale starting at what we estimate market price to be; this is based on previous experience and our data tools. We also gauge market price on how quickly the initial allocation sells – we change price as we release more seats.”

Parsons says dynamic pricing is suitable for multi-venue tours, as opposed to just residency-style shows, explaining that the company can easily “manage it across multiple promoters and venues”.

“There are often many decision-makers involved … It can sometimes be challenging to get everyone on the same page”

While Parsons says he’d “love to think” there will be a time when Ticketmaster’s general-admission (GA) tickets are also dynamically priced, he explains it’s much easier to implement with premium seats. “With Platinum there’s a clear differentiating element: you’re selling the best seat,” he says. “That’s understood by both consumers and artists. It’s harder to do when it’s GA.”

Greg Loewen, CEO of Qcue rival Digonex, says he believes take-up of dynamic pricing in live music is being affected by a false belief among many promoters that dynamic pricing is an unreliable or unproven technology.

“Pricing is really hard, especially for a tour,” Loewen tells IQ. “Every night is in a different market and a different venue. Optimising pricing under those conditions is extraordinarily time-consuming and challenging, and not many dynamic pricing tools are designed to handle that level of complexity, so promoters may assume there is no reliable way to dynamically price a tour.” He insists that isn’t the case: “We hope to talk to those folks!”

One of Digonex’s live-entertainment partners is a well-known American comedian, who has seen significantly increased ticket revenues as a result of adopting dynamic pricing. “When we started out, his manager was concerned about the price going up too much,” explains Loewen. “But because of his popularity, we’re now seeing significant growth in ticket price – and we haven’t had a single complaint from any consumers.”

Despite the success stories in sports and live comedy, both Loewen and Kahn admit dynamically pricing live music is more difficult.

“There are often many decision-makers involved: promoters, agents, venue management, artists,” says Loewen. “It can sometimes be challenging to get everyone on the same page regarding a significant change like adopting dynamic pricing. It takes time.”

“As promoters we spend far too much time having to discuss ticketing and allocations – time that could be better spent on marketing and selling shows”

Former Metropolis Music director Conal Dodds – now running Crosstown Concerts with Paul Hutton and Fraser Duffin – says he can’t see it becoming commonplace in touring. “I think [it] works on theatre runs, and could work on festivals and residencies, for instance, but it would be incredibly complicated to strike a deal on the basis of one-off shows or tours where more than one promoter is involved,” he explains.

While Crosstown is committed to minimising touting for its shows – and has an exclusive ticketing partnership with Songkick to that end – Dodds says, as a promoter, he just isn’t interested in getting into the nitty-gritty of ticketing, gradually or otherwise: “As promoters we spend far too much time having to discuss ticketing and allocations – time that could be better spent on marketing and selling shows, which is where we all earn our monies.”

Kahn believes in order for dynamic pricing to see wide adoption in live music, “you need a restructuring in contracts”, with promoters “properly incentivised to take more risks” via a more generous share of the show’s revenue. At the moment, he says, there’s “too much risk and not much upside for the promoter”, leading to the temptation to “purposefully” pass tickets to secondary sellers.

There’s also the thorny issue of the potential for dynamic tickets to drop in price if the demand isn’t there. “Bands,” says Kahn, are simply “unwilling to drop prices… How often does that happen?”

Parsons says the eradication of ticket touting is “very much up there” in the considerations of those artists who do opt for at least partial dynamic pricing. “We’ve had discussions with artists who think it’s a problem,” he explains. “There’s a growing appreciation that you do need to take some steps [to minimise resale], and one of them is dynamic pricing.”

He adds there’s still “almost a stigma” about taking more money from fans, even in a “world where there’s no [income from] recorded”: “If you [artists and promoters] don’t take this money, other people will – you’re the ones with the creativity and who are taking the risk.”

“If you don’t take this money, other people will”

Loewen, too, is firmly in the Michael Rapino/Professor Waterson camp when it comes to the pricing of primary tickets, opining that “the level of activity in the secondary market suggests that many tickets are not priced efficiently”.

“Many view dynamic pricing as code for ‘price gouging’,” he says, “and are concerned about alienating their loyal fans with primary ticket prices that are perceived as too high.

“This is an understandable concern, although we all see that in instances of excess demand many fans will still pay the higher price – the only difference being that more of the profit is captured by the secondary market as opposed to the artists.”

He adds that dynamic pricing “isn’t only about increasing prices: sometimes it’s about lowering them too.  It’s about finding the ‘right’ price that more accurately reflects true market demand and is fair to consumers.”

Tudhope, however – who has spoken of his wish to see ticket touting criminalised in the UK – isn’t wholly convinced. “Dynamic pricing, ethically done, might be appropriate for some of my artists’ audiences, and not for others,” he concludes. “This is the main point, and an important argument to make against the secondary sites who say ‘put on more shows!’ and ‘make your ticket prices higher!’.

“If the artist and I decide that there should only be one show, and that it be priced reasonably, that should frankly be our choice – not down to a market that is completely skewed by the often-illegal practices of touts.”

 


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