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I stream, you stream, we all stream (for live streams)

If there was one positive story to emerge from the unrelenting stream of bad news that was 2020 in live music, it was the dawn of the live stream. From the feel-good, lo-fi bedroom shows of March 2020 to the slick, professional ticketed events that become the norm by the end of the year, the willingness of fans to first consume, and then pay for, concert content beamed to the comfort of their homes was a small glimmer of light for the industry in the darkest year in memory.

A year on from the global shutdown that devastated the international live music business, how has the livestreaming market evolved, and where do paid-for concert broadcasts fit into touring plans in future – particularly when non-socially distanced shows are possible once again?

According to James Sutcliffe, chief marketing and content officer for LiveNow, the concert market is playing catch-up with sports, where pay-per-view (PPV) events – particularly with combat sports such as boxing, as well as ‘sports entertainment’ like professional wrestling – have long been the norm.

Unlike many companies in the livestreaming space, LiveNow “wasn’t, as a business, conceived in reaction to the pandemic,” explains Sutcliffe, who joined the company just before Christmas. Part of the Aser Ventures Group, whose Eleven Sports network holds broadcast rights to the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Uefa Champions League and Formula 1 across its platforms in Europe and east Asia, LiveNow was born out of Aser founder Andrea Radrizzani’s desire to “apply the things he’d learnt” in live sports to music, Sutcliffe continues.

Learning from its sister company’s experience in the sporting world, world, LiveNow was able to provide the industry with a quality product, free of the technical problems that plagued some newer platforms, right out of the gate, says Sutcliffe. Music events broadcast by LiveNow in 2020 include some of the biggest live streams of the year, including One World: Together at Home, Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054, Ellie Goulding’s Brightest Blue Experience, Gorillaz’ Song Machine Live from Kong and Pete Tong’s O Come All Ye Ravers, as well as a number of smaller livestreamed shows.

Another firm well placed to capitalise on the pause in physical events is Sansar, whose president, Sheri Bryant, says the digital concert boom of the past year is validation of its vision for social live experiences in the virtual realm.

“I think we’re way off having thousands of people in a field again, unfortunately”

Formerly part of Linden Lab, the developer of Second Life, Sansar launched in 2017 but came into its own over the last 12 months, with its platform used to create virtual-world festivals and venues for Glastonbury Festival’s Shangri-La (Lost Horizon), UK promoter LWE (Tobacco Dock Virtual), London Mela festival (Melatopia), German club Boothaus and Serbia’s Exit Festival, among others.

“We’ve believed in this for years,” says Bryant, who adds that 2020 “was a case of right place, right time” for Sansar, which found itself in high demand and years ahead of its newfound competition in the virtual concert space. “Now, it’s about fundraising and trying to grow as fast as possible, as we can’t keep up,” she continues. “We’re having to turn people away.”

For MelodyVR – which launched in 2018 as the first virtual-reality (VR) music platform – concerts will form part of a wider digital music offering that also includes music streaming from Napster, whose parent company, Rhapsody International, it acquired last year. The AIM (London)-listed company will soon rebrand as Napster Group, launching a new, integrated Napster app later in 2021.

It, too, was responsible for some of 2020’s most-talked-about streams, including Wireless Connect, a three-day VR stand-in for Wireless festival in July, and Live from O2 Academy Brixton with the likes of Fontaines DC, Blossoms and Tom Grennan, and hopes to build on that success this year – Covid-19 allowing – says Steven Hancock, co-founder and chief relationship officer of MelodyVR.

“We’re all on tenterhooks to see what the big promoters do – our strategy is to see what live looks like in its traditional sense,” he explains. “We’ve got some ideas around big showpieces, but there’s no requirement for us to rush this year.” (MelodyVR recently raised just over £8 million to help build and launch its new app.)

“But what we do know,” he adds, “is that ‘hybrid’ shows” – livestreamed concerts with a small, often socially distanced physical audience – “are going to become the norm. I think we’re way off having thousands of people in a field again, unfortunately.”

“Right now, as a promoter, there are very few other ways of making any money”

“I don’t perceive any concerts of note this year,” agrees Conal Dodds, co-founder and director of promoter Crosstown Concerts, which has partnered with PPV concert platform Stabal for its own on-demand shows, the first of which – a reunion concert by British folkies Bellowhead – took place in December.

Expanding into live streams is “completely inspired by Covid,” Dodds says. “People’s summer schedules are evaporating, festivals are tumbling away by the day… right now, as a promoter, there are very few other ways of making any money.”

Unlike one-and-done streams that can’t be watched back, Crosstown gives fans the opportunity to buy a deluxe ticket that gets them 30 days to watch the show, as well as additional exclusive content. “Anecdotally, 60-70% of sales so far have been for the more expensive of the two ticket options,” says Dodds.

Both Dodds and Bryant say they see a place for part-physical, part-digital hybrid concerts as restrictions on real-world events are gradually lifted – Bryant says almost all major Sansar-hosted shows in 2021 are “‘parallel’ events” – as does Russ Tannen, chief revenue officer of concert discovery and ticketing platform Dice, which rapidly repositioned itself as a platform for ticketing and promoting live-streams in the early days of the pandemic.

“We made a call in April that it was time to give livestreaming a go,” recalls Tannen. “I was very sceptical – we’d never talked about livestreaming before the end of March – but obviously it took off very quickly and before long we’d had thousands of streams entered into the app.”

Dice’s live-streaming successes to date include a string of shows with Ric Salmon and Brian Message’s Driift, including Laura Marling, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue (who sold 30,000+ tickets), Rough Trade, David Bowie’s Lazarus and DJs David Guetta and Bicep – as well as thousands of events with emerging and mid-level artists, whose fans are willing to pay similar money for digital concerts, at least during the pandemic.

The concert market is playing catch-up with sports, where PPV events have long been the norm

“It’s obviously Nick Cave, Kylie, etc., that got lots of headlines, but there’s actually a really interesting middle section of emerging artists, people like Black Country New Road, Cinematic Orchestra, who are also putting on viable shows and delivering really great live experiences,” Tannen says.

As to the hybrid question, “what we saw before lockdown is that socially distanced hybrid shows were selling really well,” he adds, “so I think we will see more of those – they will happen again and they will sell.”

“This summer is not going to happen in any major way,” says Sutcliffe, “so that hybrid model will be key as the first step back to live.”Whatever the reason – whether it’s fear of Covid, or maybe because they haven’t got the vaccine – a lot of people are still going to be scared to go back into a stadium, so this allows for both: a [physical] live ‘experience’ and the livestreamed show.”

Interestingly, a large proportion of the people who are buying tickets for live streams aren’t regular gig-goers temporarily shut out of venues, according to Tannen.

“One of the reasons I think they’re going to stick around is that we’re reaching a different demographic,” he says. “Maybe it’s people who have moved out of the city, or are a bit older, or for whatever reason can’t get to a venue, a lot of those people don’t want to be locked out of live music.”

Similarly, Dodds says Crosstown aren’t necessarily focusing on acts the company has promoted before. “We target people that we think there’s an audience for,” he explains. “We’re not really going after a young audience, as I don’t think they’re prepared to pay £10–15 for a concert broadcast – our target, really, is grown-ups.”

“Everyone is interested in capturing that incremental revenue, and livestreaming is part of that”

Even after non-socially distanced, full-capacity shows return, live streams will offer artists and promoters a reliable additional revenue stream for little risk or outlay, Sutcliffe adds. “If you sell out the O2 in London and then do another 20,000 tickets on top, that’s pure profit,” he says. “We don’t want to replace live – nothing beats the live experience – but [with streaming] we’re able to dd a layer of extra value for fans, artists and the industry.”

“The objective used to be 75%, 80% – whatever the magic number was, once you reached that, everyone was happy,” Hancock echoes. “But it seems like now, from the agents and promoters we’ve spoken to in the last year, everyone is interested in capturing that incremental revenue, and livestreaming is part of that.”

Dodds says while it “remains to be seen whether people want to continue [doing dedicated live streams] after live music returns, “it’s definitely something that could augment touring in the future, particularly if all shows on a tour are sold out, or for territories where people aren’t able to tour.”

For some performers, even archive performances can be repackaged and ticketed as a standalone ‘live’ stream – British comedian James Acaster, for example, sold 30,000 tickets at £10 each for a show that was originally filmed at the end of 2019, Tannen explains.

For virtual worlds like Sansar, where fans participate in the show as opposed to simply watching, the key to long-term success is “deeper engagement,” both between fans and artists and between the real and virtual words, Bryant suggests.

“One thing we explored last year is this thing we call ‘windowing,’” she says, “which allows different audience from around the world to mix and mingle, blending the lines of who and what we consider ‘real’.” Windowing, Bryant explains, involves putting up an LED screen on which real-world concertgoers can see and communicate with the Sansar avatars, and vice versa, with those inside the virtual world able to see the physical concert crowd.

“I’m hoping the live streams coming out now might ignite that little spark that we need to plant in the heads of gen Z”

While everyone IQ spoke to sees a place for livestreamed or virtual concerts post-pandemic, all are clear that they must not – and cannot – replace the live experience, instead functioning as an add-on to physical shows that benefits the industry and live music fans alike.

However, from a sustainability point of view, consumer willingness to pay for live-streams could enable artists to reduce the environmental impact of their tours by playing fewer physical dates, Sutcliffe suggests. “I’m romantic about live, but we have to be realistic about the situation,” he says.

“The logistics involved in an international tour – from the many forms of transport to hotel rooms, bars, restaurants – has a huge environmental impact.” From a coronavirus perspective, “that’s also a lot of movement that the world won’t allow to happen again quickly.”

Dodds agrees, stating, “As something to augment tours – maybe by adding a few livestream-only dates, with an extra show filmed at the be ginning of the tour – it’s definitely an option for artists who want to minimise their carbon footprints.”

For Tannen, the hope is that live streams can help get the next generation of concertgoers – for whose attention concerts are competing with video games, esports, YouTube, Twitch, social media and countless other electronic distractions – excited about live music, just as watching and rewatching old pop-punk videos did him at the turn of the millennium.

“I had all these Warped Tour VHSes [tapes], and they’re what got me obsessed with the idea of live music,” he says. “I’m hoping that might be the same with the live streams that are coming out now, that they might ignite that little spark that we need to plant in the heads of gen-Zers. We need to make sure the kids that are coming through want to go and watch shows, the same way we did.”

 


Read this feature in its original format in the digital edition of IQ 97:


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

LWE partners with Sansar for Tobacco Dock Virtual

London-based electronic music promoter LWE has launched Tobacco Dock Virtual, a virtual-world recreation of the Wapping venue of the same name.

Created by Sansar, the virtual live events platform behind other digital venues including Lost Horizon and Melatopia festival, Tobacco Dock Virtual replicates the 16,000m² Tobacco Dock in “minute detail, from the sweeping staircases to the cavernous dancefloors”, says LWE, which will organise shows, parties and interactive experiences in the new venue.

LWE has previous organised virtual concert experiences, taking its Junction 2 festival online first as J2v last summer and then as Junction 2: Connections earlier this month. The latter event integrated with popular racing game Asphalt, with Asphalt players able to stream DJ sets from within the game, and attracted an audience of 3.1 million people globally.

The long-term plan for Tobacco Dock Virtual (TDv) is hybrid, the promoter says, with a merging of “all three platforms: virtual, gaming and real” and shows taking place simultaneously virtually, physically and in mobile video games.

“TDv is our next step in the evolution of LWE and the development of our long-term event concepts, where we see virtual worlds sitting alongside the real world,” says LWE director Paul Jack. “Tobacco Dock has hosted some of our most exciting shows and led the way in the UK for vast daytime events.

“LWE is creating an entirely new event experience for fans”

“This next step on our journey will pave the way for hybrid events within a fully immersive digital and physical space, providing a huge new platform to showcase music.”

Sheri Bryant, president of Sansar, adds: “LWE is creating an entirely new event experience for fans with their series of epic 2021 shows in Sansar across multiple digital platforms and in real life simultaneously. They are leading the charge of innovation across the music industry. We couldn’t be more proud than to be their virtual event partner, providing them with the technology to do so.”

Details for the opening weekend at Tobacco Dock Virtual will be announced on Tuesday 9 February, promising “some of the planet’s biggest party brands and a programme of globally acclaimed artists and exciting new sounds” across mobile, PC, Mac and VR. In the meantime, fans are encouraged to create a TDv account at www.tobaccodockvirtual.com.

“Tobacco Dock is excited to be working alongside our long-term partner LWE to develop a cutting-edge virtual venue that will enable remote audiences to have a truly immersive, rich experience with the attributes of being present without the travel,” says Tobacco Dock commercial director Jonathan Read. “It is a bold new step on our journey to make Tobacco Dock a global destination for music, cultural, fashion and tech events.”

 


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Sansar introduces tipping, announces December shows

Virtual live events platform Sansar has announced it will introduce artist tipping with its latest slate of concerts, set to kick off tomorrow (16 December) in partnership with Lost Horizon.

The December concert series, which features performances from the likes of the Martinez Brothers, Infected Mushroom and Kill the Noise, will also premiere Sansar’s browser option, which gives viewers on any device with an internet connection, including Mac and PC, the full Sansar experience, in addition to mobile and VR devices.

Tipping is already available in several other livestreaming services, though the Sansar functionality is the first in a virtual world-type online events platform. It will enable fans to “shower performers not only with love emotes” but with hard cash, from 1¢ up to US$50.

“Sansar is focused on ways artists can monetise their performances”

The platform already offers other money-generating features for artists, including ticketing and virtual merchandise sales.

“Today, when musicians are amongst the hardest hit, Sansar is focused on ways artists can monetise their performances with touring and festivals just about completely shut down,” comments Sheri Bryant, president of Sansar.

“We’re thrilled our incredible partner Lost Horizon is bringing such a diverse and stellar line-up to a vast, global audience, who is eager to see and support artists in any way they can.”

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Live music to start 2021 with a (virtual) bang

Tomorrowland, Big Hit and Lost Horizon have each announced virtual New Year’s Eve events to close a year of hugely successful livestreamed events.

Belgium EDM giant Tomorrowland has announced New Year’s Eve celebration ‘31.12.2020’, which will see more than 25 DJs perform across 27 time zones to usher in the new year.

The festival will start at 8 pm local time in all zones and will close at 3 am after performances from Armin van Buuren, CamelPhat, Charlotte de Witte, David Guetta, Diplo, Major Lazer, Martin Garrix, Snoop Dogg aka DJ Snoopadelic and more.

The festival will be hosted on Tomorrowland’s website and performances will be streamed from four stages in Naoz, a brand new digital entertainment venue in which “some of the festival’s most iconic themes” will feature.

Tomorrowland held its first-ever digital festival, Tomorrowland Around the World, in July and saw 1 million fans pay to attend – 150% more festivalgoers than usual.

K-pop superstars BTS are also expected to expand on the success of their 2020 virtual events, which have seen them break records and earn millions.

The group’s management Big Hit yesterday announced that artists from its roster would come together under one banner for the first time for a hybrid New Year’s Eve event.

Big Hit announced that artists from its roster would come together under one banner for the first time for NYE

The concert, presented by Weverse, will be livestreamed and limited seating will be available, in accordance with the government Covid-19 restrictions. If restrictions change, preventing the in-person aspect, the event will go fully digital.

Nu’est, Enhypen, Txt and Gfriend have already been confirmed for the event, with more line up announcements expected tomorrow (12 November).

BTS performed on New Year’s Eve last year, headlining Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest in New York’s Times Square alongside Post Malone, Sam Hunt and Alanis Morissette and more.

Lost Horizon, the VR music venue created by the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La, will also be hosting a special New Year’s Eve event to end a season of virtual events in December.

The season will take place in VR event platform Sansar and will play host to DJs, underground acts and visual artists, before culminating with ‘Chasing Midnight’, a 24-hour global celebration on New Year’s Eve, taking in 12 time zones and 12 countdowns.

Lost Horizon launched its premiere festival in July, a four-stage event in Sansar featuring artists including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, which reached 4.36m viewers, according to organisers.

 


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Lost Horizon announces season of VR events

Lost Horizon, the VR music venue created by the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La, has announced its first season of virtual events in VR event platform Sansar.

The season will take place throughout December, playing host to DJs, underground acts and visual artists, before culminating with ‘Chasing Midnight’, a 24-hour global celebration on New Year’s Eve, taking in 12 time zones and 12 countdowns.

Lost Horizon launched its premiere festival in July, a four-stage event in Sansar featuring artists including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, which reached 4.36m viewers, according to organisers.

Commenting on the upcoming season of events, Robin Collings, co-director of Lost Horizon, says: “We are incredibly excited to launch the second phase of Lost Horizon with a raft of exciting shows in December, plus we have some huge plans for 2021 and beyond. In these troubled times, our mission is to bring some joy and real culture into people’s lives.

“In these troubled times, our mission is to bring some joy and real culture into people’s lives”

“Lost Horizon’s virtual platform offers so much more than other VR events, allowing people to connect with their friends and meet people from around the globe, you can literally chat, live using your computer’s mic and speakers, to other people in the virtual world, while watching some amazing DJs and live music! Real events in a virtual world”.

The acts, which are yet to be announced, will perform across six customisable areas in the virtual venue, including festival stage Freedom; 360-degree digital arena the Gas Tower; media centre SHITV; underground club Nomad; plus a virtual open-air art gallery and the interactive Landing Zone, which features merch stalls, art, seating and info points recreating the festival experience.

Viewers can explore the interactive, multi-stage venue in Sansar via PC and VR, web browser or app. The season’s events will also be streamed live, globally.

Prior to Lost Horizon’s season of events in December, the virtual reality venue will host the 18th edition of London Mela, the UK festival of South Asian culture.

For 2020 London Mela – usually held in Southall Park, west London – becomes Melatopia, a VR event taking place online on 7 and 8 November 2020, and featuring the same mix of music, dance and culture from the Indian subcontinent and surrounding countries.

 


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Livin’ the Stream: Going live to survive

2020 will forever be known as the year that paused the live music industry worldwide. But it should also be recognised as the point when monetised livestreaming shows became the norm, as artists and fans leveraged technology to connect and get their collective fix of live entertainment.

While online giants such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have pivoted to deliver much more concert and festival footage, eager entrepreneurs have taken the risk, during lockdown, to launch a number of new platforms and production firms to deliver high-quality broadcasts of live music performances.

IQ talks to some the pioneers who are establishing live streaming as a crucial new outlet for creativity and, potentially, a lasting revenue stream for artists and their teams. First in the spotlight are LiveFrom, Streamyard and Wookey Technologies’ Sansar…


LiveFrom

LiveFrom has operations in the UK (London and Manchester) and the US (Los Angeles, New York and Seattle). Co-founders Alan Rakov and Steve Machin have been working on streaming projects since 2010. In 2020, their focus expanded to create a broader secure-streaming platform, which resulted in the launch of Livefrom.events and its proprietary blockchain-secured StreamingTicket.

Deals
LiveFrom provides a full-service streaming solution to artists on an à-la-carte basis. This allows it to provide a cost-effective suite of services, including ticketing, streaming, production, facilities, hosting, merchandise and marketing. It has three types of fee depending on the needs of the artist, ranging from co-promotion deals to simple per-stream deals.

Successes
LiveFrom has streamed more than 250 performances and events since March 2020, including Dermot Kennedy, 808 State, Maxi Jazz, Rob Da Bank, Hue and Cry, Deaf Havana, Dead Poet Society, Fran Healy, Fatherson, KT Tunstall, Wet Wet Wet, Adamski, Mr Scruff, Idles, Down and Zander Hawley.

Partners
LiveFrom believes in an open distribution model to power its fan-friendly/artist-centric services. Its stream ecosystem works with partners across the technology and service spectrum to deliver the best outcomes for artist and venue clients alongside their fans and customers. With decades of worldwide ticketing experience, the founders have preferred partnerships in place with venues, and with ticketing and marketing services providers.

“Over the last year, we have built relationships with a handful of hosting companies, that means we can offer great value streaming while adding the services and experiences across desktop and mobile platforms that make a difference, including fan engagement, chat and stream commerce,” says Machin.

USP
LiveFrom combines innovative technology with highly experienced artist and ticketing support services throughout all parts of the streaming lifecycle. It offers a full-service streaming platform featuring the unique StreamingTicket, a blockchain-secured access token that integrates the access to, and delivery of, an online or offline event in one engaging and dynamic digital ticket. LiveFrom works directly with artists to create sustainable streaming strategies and deliver unforgettable experiences to fans. It monetises interactive fan experiences according to the artist’s objectives, offering multiple solutions for sales, distribution and non-exclusivity.

Post-Covid future
“We believe streaming is a fundamentally new medium for artists to develop deeper relationships with their fans and expand their reach to new audiences,” says Machin. “Online events and streams will help hasten the return to in-real-life events and will be an integral part of how an artist or venue views their income and activity mix well into the future.”

“Online events … will be an integral part of how an artist or venue views their income and activity mix well into the future”

StreamYard

StreamYard is based in Tualatin, Oregon, and launched in October 2018, born out of its founders’ fascination with live-streaming’s rapid growth in the gaming community. Founders Geige Vandentop and Dan Briggs wanted people who weren’t techy, or who simply didn’t want to deal with the hassle of streaming, to still go live, share their stories and grow their own communities, so they built StreamYard.

Partners
StreamYard has partnered with Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Periscope (Twitter) and Twitch for broadcast distribution. It recommends ViewStub and Eventbrite for live-stream ticketing.

USP
StreamYard makes it easy to create professional live-streams and link the broadcast to social media platforms. StreamYard is also known for its stability.

Successes
Among the highest viewed StreamYard broadcasts to date are Bill Gates, the Lumineers, Rosie O’Donnell, Brian Chesky and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Post-Covid future
StreamYard’s head of marketing, Dana Bentz, says, “Over the last several months, the people who have dived into livestreaming have reaped the benefits of content marketing and it has now become a part of their world. Businesses gain new customers from live-streaming, non-profits find more donors, schools connect with students, entrepreneurs build their brand. The live-streaming industry is only going to grow, even as we slowly begin going back to work.”

“The virtual concert experience will develop and grow to outdo and outperform the traditional concert”

Sansar

Based in San Francisco, California, Sansar was founded by Linden Lab about five years ago and sold to Wookey Technologies in March 2020. Sansar was born out of the desire to create a new virtual platform from the lessons of virtual world Second Life and the imminent rise of VR. The platform has its own proprietary engine to accommodate the massive scale of user- generated content for live events.

All of the company’s events are global, yet originate on the Sansar platform. Its last music festival, for instance, featured more than 70 artists from around the world who filmed their performances on green screen in 12 different locations globally before beaming that data to Sansar. People from more than 100 countries and 1,285 cities participated in the two-day festival.

Partners
Sansar has its own bespoke ticketing system, but the company has also partnered with the likes of Eventbrite, Live Nation and Skiddle to help promote its concerts and festivals. For broadcast distribution, Sansar has worked with Twitch, Facebook Live, YouTube and Beatport.

Deals
Sansar is a free platform where anyone can host their own event. However, clients often choose to build their first virtual custom venue through Sansar Studios, the in-house creative team with dozens of years of experience in building virtual worlds. Once a venue is built, clients can perform there as often as they like, paying a monthly subscription fee. Sansar operates a revenue share model for revenue streams that includes ticket sales, sales of virtual and IRL merchandise, tipping, and sponsorship.

Sansar says it is one of the few platforms with the ability to monetise across multiple revenue streams, boasting the flexibility to bundle albums, offer discount codes, link directly to outside web stores, and so much more. “We can be as creative as our partners want to be!” says the company.

Successes
Sansar says it allows artists to more deeply engage with their fans in a social virtual setting, all the while performing in photorealistic 3D venues. Sansar was built to enable artists and promoters to monetise through ticketing, merchandising, tipping and sponsorship revenues.

Post-Covid future
The company says, “With access to a global market, instead of a specific geographical one, there can be no other choice. While we believe the in-person experience can never be replicated and will always be cherished, we believe the virtual concert experience will develop and grow to outdo and outperform the traditional concert, spreading the love of the music experience to the farthest reaches of the Earth.”

 


Read the full feature in the digital edition of IQ 92. To keep on top of the latest live music industry news, features and insights, subscribe to IQ now


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Shangri-La’s Lost Horizon records 4m+ viewers

More than four million people worldwide tuned in to Lost Horizon, the new virtual festival by the team behind Glastonbury Festival’s Shangri-La, which took place on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 July.

According to organisers, a total of 4.36m viewers, from over 1,100 cities in 100 countries, attended the event, which took place over six stages built in VR events platform Sansar, some of which recreated real places in Glastonbury’s after-hours Shangri-La area. That figure includes viewers on Sansar/VR, PC, iOS and Android, as well as streams on Beatport, Twitch and social media services.

More than 70 DJs and artists, including Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox and Frank Turner, performed at Lost Horizon, which transformed performers into in-world avatars or green-screen holograms. Those who attended the festival in Sansar could visit six virtual worlds, with nine camera angles apiece, purpose-built for the occasion.

Tickets were free, though fans could buy merchandise for their avatars, as well as ‘premium’ tickets, which raised money for the festival’s charity partners, the Big Issue and Amnesty International UK. Streams of the content remain available online, and catch-up viewers can still donate to the charities.

In addition to the music, those who visited the in-world freedom stage could see a virtual-reality exhibition, Yours Truthfully, while 50 films were available to view.

“It was spooky how similar it was to the real thing”

Kaye Dunnings, creative director of Shangri-La and Lost Horizon, says: “I don’t think you can ever recreate the feeling of being in a crowd of people, and how powerful that is, but it was spooky how similar it was to the real thing.

“I met up with friends, made new ones, was able to make an avatar that could dance – with moves I could never pull off in real life – and the classic festival experience of bimbling between areas, overhearing conversations and marvelling at the wonderful looks people had created for themselves was just like people watching at a festival.”

“Lost Horizon broke so many firsts we’re still counting,” says Chris ‘Tofu’ Macmeikan MBE, Lost Horizon and Shangri-La director. “It is the closest you can get to being at a festival without leaving your lounge. We all worked really hard to create this next-level thing to see our friends and raise money for the Big Issue and Amnesty. I’m old and remember seeing colour TV for the first time, but this is 100 times better.”

Ed Jenkins and Jolyon Klean, from Orca Sound Project, jointly add: Programming the Gas Tower in Lost Horizon felt like putting together a dream festival line-up. The goodwill and excitement surrounding such an innovative and experimental project just goes to show how the rule book has been rewritten by the challenges we all face in the entertainment industry.

“Hopefully we’ve proven that there are new frontiers to explore and ways to communicate with fans that continue to push boundaries.”

 


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How to stay ahead of the curve

It’s time to forget what you know – or risk getting left behind.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain that statement.

We will absolutely get the live business back on track, but it goes without saying that it will be a process to get there. With that, those that do not understand and embrace the role technology will play will inevitably become the new dinosaurs of our business – and nobody wants that title.

Technology in music was always gaining prominence. However, this global pandemic has simply sped up the process and forced us to rethink how we are to use it in its entirety. Just like how Napster backed the recorded music industry into a corner in the early 2000s and subsequently birthed iTunes and streaming, we are essentially going through our own moment in history that will be just as monumental for our business. This is an incredibly exciting time for the live industry – if we embrace the change.

The technology we have been using is not a ‘temporary solution’ while we are at home. Livestreaming, gaming platforms, virtual events and a more strategic approach to content is part of how we can rebuild the live industry to be more resilient. It also allows us to create strong revenue streams supporting the foundations of our business and allowing us to survive a future global crisis more efficiently.

It is vital we educate our audiences and be comfortable with exploring new processes as we work towards moving the needle. The aim is to create a new model whereby consumers are willing to pay for music content. Along with that, the existing culture and the attitudes of fans needs to adapt.

It’s time for us to hack the tech out there and make it work in our favour

We have understood how losing a year of business in live music has affected so many of us in these unprecedented times. From venues and festivals struggling to artist revenue decreasing, and thus having an adverse effect on managers, agents and promoters. And not forgetting – and most importantly – our incredible touring crews, who work so hard, day in and day out, on the road, away from their families, and are now suddenly unable to provide. I truly believe that technology can help change this.

We cannot be scared of failing. Jimmy Iovine once said: “Turn fear into a tailwind.” This is a scary time, but you and only you can decide how you move forward. I urge you to innovate and embrace a willingness to learn.

I myself have been trying a variety of things, from delving into TikTok and discovering their live feature to launching #ZoomFest with partners Ronnie Madra, Richie Akiva and Mike Jurkova, hacking at Zoom’s technology and original intent to bring artists and brands closer together for a unique experience that fans can re-stream in its entirety after the show.

Understanding how each tech platform works will be as important to us as agents and promoters as knowing how to cut a deal. Technology moving forward is part of the deal.

It is also our responsibility that we as a live business do not let tech companies dictate our every move. Let’s get behind these businesses and platforms to work closer than ever and to let our voices be heard. By working with them, we can ensure the best options are being created for our artists instead of it being an afterthought. If you wait for technology to fix your problems, it is going to overtake you. Get ahead instead.

Please remember we are not on pause permanently and change is a part of life, whether you like it or not. Technology is going to constantly evolve, so we know change is coming, while artists’ attitudes will continue to grow in terms of what they expect or how they want to run their business. That is a fact. We are only at the beginning – it hasn’t even started yet.

We are not on pause permanently – and change is a part of life, whether you like it or not

As an entire music industry, we will see much change in the rest of our careers everywhere, from streaming to how record deals are done to how audiences and artists want to experience music. Side note: if Joe Rogan can get a $100 million deal in place with Spotify for his podcast, you now things are about to get very interesting.

We need to learn and understand that the comfort zones we have been in for years in this industry stop now, and if we want to have the privilege of working with incredible artists we need to go back to the drawing board with an open mind.

My hope is that this article serves as a springboard and wake-up call to anybody who reads it. Start today and experiment and discuss. What could work well for your artist or festival? What does each platform do? How can content be monetised and add value to the audience? Where and how to brands fit in this equation?

In the spirit of us all working together as an industry and looking forward to a boom in the live industry, I have shared some examples for everyone to dive in, as well as a list of useful platforms and streams to check out to help you get started with this process.

Time for us to hack the tech out there and make it work in our favour. This will be our legacy.

 


Examples

Some things I have seen over the recent months that have worked well:

Yungblud: I highly recommend you check out his online TV show if you haven’t already and take note of the platform, the comments and the overall engagement. This artist is doing a great job leading the front during this time and authentically connecting with his audience.

Travis Scott x Fortnite: This incredible experience is one to check out.

Post Malone x Nirvana: I personally loved this stream because it was accessible to all and the songs of Nirvana are familiar to all of us. The editing was also on point.

Lewis Capaldi x Dice: Lewis did a great acoustic show via Dice which resulted in sales that could easily fill an arena, and proved the model of paying for content with his audience.

 

Tech guide

A guide of what is on offer to get you started in a constantly evolving world.

Beyond the basics – YouTube Live, Facebook Live and Instagram Live – I recommend checking out:

Looped

What it is: A livestreaming and virtual meet-and-greet platform.
Advantages: It is the only platform to effectively run live streams and virtual meet-and-greets in a flexible manner, allowing you to capitalise on VIP.
Where to find it: loopedlive.com

 

Dice

What it is: The leading digital ticketing platform, with the recently launched Dice TV.
Advantages: Strong database and direct relationships with venues and festivals.
Where to find it: dice.fm/tv

 

Sansar

What it is: An immersive virtual environment available to access for free.
Advantages: You can literally create your own venue, branded event and concert within Sansar and charge for tickets, merch and more to generate income. An incredible platform to delve into. Recommend you check out what they are doing with Shangri-La at Glastonbury this year.
Where to find it: sansar.com

 

Fortnite

What it is: An online video game available to download for free.
Advantages: This really applies to a particular audience and can be very powerful, as we have seen from the performances of Marshmello, Travis Scott and more.
Where to find it: fortnite.com

 

Veeps

What it is: Enables you to ticket your livestreams.
Advantages: Great livestreaming platform from the US.
Where to find it: veeps.com

 

Moment House

What it is: Jimmy Iovine-backed ticketed livestreaming platform.
Advantages: Early days but I am loving the lay-out of the stream with chat boxes.
Where to find it: momenthouse.com

 

StageIt

What it is: Another livestreaming platform enabling you to ticket your livestream.
Advantages: No performance is recorded or archived so all you see is live.
Where to find it: stageit.com

 

Seated

What it is: A ticketing experience through text message.
Advantages: Follow your favourite artists’ profiles and get alerts via text when they announce a show near you.
Where to find it: seated.com

 

Twitch

What it is: A live streaming service popular with gamers, but everyone is on it now. Owned by Amazon.
Advantages: Huge audiences on Twitch so engagement can be high with the right event.
Where to find it: twitch.tv

 

TikTok Live

What is it: TikTok is an incredible social media app based on video.
Advantages: Two main advantages in my opinion are firstly that the algorithm works in your favour, meaning content is more likely to be seen, and secondly you can go live. Music is also a key component of TikTok.
Where to find it: tiktok.com

 


Read part two of this three-part series, which focuses on the opportunities and positives for the live industry presented by the coronavirus, here.

Embracing the new normal: Now what?


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Glastonbury’s Shangri-La team unveils VR festival

The team behind Glastonbury Festival’s famous after-hours mini-city, Shangri-La, has announced virtual-reality (VR) festival Lost Horizon.

Glastonbury Festival, which was set to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, was the first major European festival to cancel due to coronavirus, with many others since following suit.

Lost Horizon will bring the festival’s much-loved Shangri-La area to life, in conjunction with virtual live events platform Sansar. Tickets for the event are free, with fans encouraged to make a donation to UK homeless charity the Big Issue and Amnesty International by purchasing a “premium ticket”. Premium ticket buyers will also receive an exclusive piece of art from Lost Horizon creatives, Instruct Studio and a virtual shirt from Instruct Studio.



Featuring performances from 50 acts across four stages, the festival will be streamed live via Beatport and other platforms from 3 to 4 July.

Acts including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Peggy Gou, Jamie Jones and Seth Troxler will perform at a virtual replica of Shangri-La’s 360°, audiovisual Gas Tower arena, with additional performances taking place at the Freedom and SHITV (Shangri-La International Television Centre) stages, and brand-new Nomad stage, which will celebrate the history of underground UK culture and feature predominantly drum-and-bass artists.

“With Lost Horizon, we’re delivering the music festival of the future: deeply immersive, fully online, accessible to anyone and anywhere with a PC or phone at their disposal”

Available on PC, mobile and VR devices, viewers will be able to experience the festival from multiple camera angles and switch between performances, as well as exploring hidden venues and over 200 artworks.

“Now more than ever, fans are looking beyond traditional live shows to connect with the artists they love,” says Sansar president Sheri Bryant, who discussed virtual events in the recent IQ Focus panel, The Innovation Session.

“With Lost Horizon, we’re delivering the music festival of the future: deeply immersive, fully online, accessible to anyone and anywhere with a PC or phone at their disposal. We’re at the vanguard of something truly incredible, and we couldn’t be more excited to turn this page.”

Shangri-La and Lost Horizon creative director Kaye Dunnings adds that: “We need unity more than ever right now, in an industry that is falling away in front of us.

“By creating a digital platform to experience art and music in a new way, we are at the forefront of defining the next generation of live entertainment and creative communities as we know them.”

Tickets are on sale now at sansar.com/losthorizon, with full line-up information available here.

 


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Gamers: 750m new live music fans?

Live music professionals who fail to capitalise on the lockdown-era boom in videogaming will miss out on a confirmed audience of more than three quarters of a billion potential fans, new analysis of player numbers for some of the biggest online games reveals.

A total of 758.5 million people – more than live in Europe, and some 2.5 times the population of the US – regularly play one or more of the 20 most popular online multiplayer video games for which there is recent, reliable data on active users, according to IQ analysis.

Gaming is thriving during the Covid-19 crisis, with firms such as Epic Games, the company behind the Fortnite phenomenon, and Tencent, the Chinese publisher of hit multiplayer titles League of Legends and Honor of Kings, seeing sales soaring while consumers worldwide remain stuck at home.

Especially interesting for the concert industry is how successfully the virtual worlds of FortniteMinecraft and other online games lend themselves to live performance, as well as the apparent receptiveness of those games’ existing audiences to live music content. For comparison, One World: Together at Home – aka the star-studded, Taylor Swift-headlined virtual Live Aid – was watched by 20.7m people in the US; the figure for Travis Scott’s 20-minute ‘Astronomical’ event in Fortnite Battle Royale (albeit globally) was 27.7m.

Estimates of the number of videogamers worldwide range from 877m to 2.7bn

Before we continue, a note on IQ’s numbers: the 758.5m figure includes only active users. so while EA’s Apex Legends, for example, has been played by at least 70m people on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the only available data on monthly active users (MAU) shows just shy of 7m playing regularly on console, which is the figure IQ has used. Similarly, Epic Games does not share data on active Fortnite users, so IQ has used the 27.7m who turned out for Travis Scott, even though the real number is far higher.

This, combined with the choice to limit the research to 20 games, means the aforementioned three quarters of a billion is a conservative estimate – with the actual total likely far higher. (Estimates of the number of videogamers worldwide range from around 877m for online gamers only to 2.7bn in total, including those who play single-player titles, casual mobile games and others).

Videogame concerts, it should be noted, are nothing new: Second Life, the forerunner of event-focused video game-cum-virtual hangout Sansar, hosted what was billed as the world’s first virtual gig in 2007, with Duran Duran, Suzanne Vega and, most famously, U2, also performing as virtual avatars during the game’s late-2000s heyday.

However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the push towards digital forms of ‘live’ entertainment, with Travis Scott’s spectacular (albeit prerecorded) show in Fortnite in April and upcoming Diplo-headlined festival Electric Blockaloo in Minecraft among recent high-profile virtual events capitalising on the influx of new gamers.

A number of other multiplayer titles are nipping at Minecraft’s heels

Mojang Studios’ Minecraft, which launched in 2011, is both the best-selling video game of all time, with 200m copies shipped, and the most popular online game, with 126m monthly active users as of 18 May. It hosted its first music festival in 2016, and has held several more in the years since, including Fire Festival in January 2019 and the recent Block by Blockwest, with Pussy Riot, Idles and Sports Team.

However, Minecraft’s status as top dog of the notoriously fickle online gaming world is by no means secure, with a number of other multiplayer titles – such as tween-friendly create-your-own-game platform Roblox (115m MAU), esports favourite League of Legends (100m MAU) and two Chinese games, Fortnite-style mobile battle royale Free Fire (80m daily users) and blatant Minecraft knock-off Mini World: Block Art (80m MAU) – already nipping at its heels.

To date, none of those games have hosted a large-scale, artist-backed live music experience akin to Travis Scott or Marshmello in Fortnite – and the same is true of Fortnite’s battle-royale arch-rival, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), which has 55m active daily users excluding China according to developer PUBG Corporation.

Other as-yet untapped videogame phenomena include another free-to-play battle royale, Call of Duty: Warzone, which has been played by 60m people since its launch in March; mobile strategy game Teamfight Tactics, spun off from League of Legends by developer Riot Games, which had 33m active users as of September; and first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, another game played as a competitive esport, which recorded over 26m players in April.

“Going forward, there will be more partnerships with the wider entertainment industry”

Given Fortnite’s success, it seems likely the next major in-game musical performance will be in a similar battle royale-type title; DJ Deadmau5, who recently performed in Fortnite’s new combat-free Party Royale mode, is known to be a PUBG player, while Taylor Kurosaki of developer Infinity Ward has suggested live events could be held in Call of Duty: Warzone in future.

What the future has in store for digital live performance – whether consumers will ever flock en masse to concerts in video games or virtual-reality worlds, or if ‘simple’ livestreamed video will suffice – only time will tell. What is certain, however, is that music and other traditional entertainment businesses, keen to claim their slice of the US$160bn global videogame market, will seek increasingly to partner with gaming companies in the years ahead, according to Stefan Hall of the World Economic Forum.

“Going forward, there will be more partnerships with the wider entertainment industry, as media companies seek to take advantage of the momentum gaming has produced,” says Hall, who also highlights recent reports linking Japanese tech giant Sony with efforts to improve the VR content, including concerts, available for its upcoming PlayStation 5 console as proof of the growing power of virtual experiences.

The latest IQ Focus session, The Innovators, will discuss the growth of videogaming, virtual worlds, 3D venues, livestreaming and more. Featuring Sheri Bryant, president of Sansar, alongside other technological innovators, the panel takes place tomorrow (27 May) at 4pm UK time on Facebook and YouTube:

Innovators take the virtual stage for IQ Focus panel


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