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New Orleans’ Essence draws ‘record’ 4bn impressions

Essence Festival – an annual celebration of African-American music at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (76,468-cap.) in New Orleans – welcomed more than 470,000 attendees to its 24th edition last week, increasing attendance by 25,000 and garnering what organisers call a “record-breaking” four billion impressions on social media.

Complementing a night-time concert series (headliners were Diana Ross, John Legend, Chance the Rapper and Mary J. Blige), the festival once again featured “entertainment, empowerment and cultural experiences” targeted at black Americans, with actress Halle Berry, film director Ava DuVernay, civil-rights campaigner Al Sharpton and spiritual leader Iyanla Vanzant among the more than 100 speakers.

In addition to increasing attendance by ~6%, organisers say posts tagged with the #EssenceFest hashtag drew 4bn+ impressions on social media, with the festival also trending daily on Twitter.

This, say promoters, is a new record – although it should be noted iHeartRadio claimed its 2015 festival generated more than 6.5bn impressions. (New record or not, 4bn social engagements with an arguably fairly niche festival is undeniably impressive.)

Essence Festival is produced by Essence Festivals LLC, a division of Essence Communications (the publisher of the eponymous magazine), and New Orleans-based Solomon Group. Sponsors in 2017 included AT&T, Ford, McDonald’s, Walmart and naming partner Coca-Cola.

 


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UTA London signs first digital ‘influencer’

United Talent Agency (UTA) in the UK has signed up its first digital ‘influencer’, 23-year-old magician and prankster Julius Dein.

London-born Dein – known for his viral video series How to Impress a Girl with Magic Tricks, which has garnered more than 200 million views – has 10m+ followers across all his social platforms.

Dein (pictured) is the first such signing for UTA’s London office, and joins fellow YouTubers Shane Dawson, Kandee Johnson, Joey Graceffa on UTA’s global roster. He will be represented by a team of global agents for digital, endorsements, touring and TV.

“Partnering with UTA globally represents a very interesting business model for Julius”

“Dein is a unique talent who has combined his creative sensibilities with fantastic on-screen talent to reach a massive global audience,” comments UTA’s Greg Goodfried. “We are excited to find new and innovative opportunities for him across multiple platforms”.

His manager, Mark Denby, adds: “Partnering with UTA globally represents a very interesting business model for Julius. Combined with my detailed boutique personal management services, UTA’s global expertise, reach and deep market intel gives our client, Julius Dein, everything he needs to maximise his success worldwide.”

 


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It’s happening: Musical.ly lip-synchers going on tour

Has the rise of arena-filling competitive esports left you baffled? Are you, like your elderly correspondent, mystified by the popularity – and earning potential – of the YouTubers and internet currently celebrities cutting their teeth on the live circuit?

Then you could be forgiven for not having heard of Lisa and Lena Mantler, two 15-year-old German twins who just became the first ‘musers’ to amass 20 million fans on Musical.ly.

For the uninitiated, Musical.ly is a video-sharing social app that now boasts more than 40m monthly active users. Popular among tweens, the majority of its content consists of musers lip-synching to pre-recorded backing tracks – although since the decline of Vine, many have also branched out into producing more general short-form video, such as Vine-style comedy skits.

The Shanghai-based company behind the app, Musical.ly, Inc., has signed licensing deals with all major labels and publishers – which in return receive a bump in sales/streaming when the most popular musers post a new clip. “When stars ask users to post, it can be potent,” writes Forbes. “Last year a promotion of Selena Gomez’s ‘Kill ’em with Kindness’ rendered 1.3m Musical.ly clips and 34.6m likes, reportedly boosting the song’s performance, according to her label Interscope Geffen A&M.”

A sample of Lisa and Lena’s video output can be seen below:

The twins (pictured) “shared their first video, a six-second black-and-white rendition of ‘Treble Heart’ by Anna Graceman,” in August 2015, reads a press release from Musical.ly, “and since [then have] posted clips that have become more sophisticated with lighting, choreographed moves and matching outfits.”

To coincide with reaching the 20m milestone, Lisa and Lena have announced plans for a European tour, kicking off with three shows in the UK jointly produced by Global and WME.

Dates announced so far are below:

Lisa and Lena Pop Up Party Tour 2017

What a time to be alive.

 


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Twitter inks live-streaming deal with Live Nation

Social network Twitter, known primarily for its 140-character microblogging platform, today announced a major expansion of its live video offering, signing live-streaming content deals with Live Nation and 15 other news, sport and entertainment partners.

New York Stock Exchange-listed Twitter, which is estimated to have close to 700 million users and turned over US$548m in Q1 2017, says the deal with Live Nation will see the world’s largest promoter “deliver select Live Nation concerts and original content exclusively on Twitter”.

Other content partners include news outlets Bloomberg and BuzzFeed News, broadcaster Viacom and sports leagues MLB (baseball), WNBA (basketball) and PGA Tour (golf).

The partnerships, announced at today’s Digital Content NewFronts conference, are, says Twitter, part of a concerted effort to grow the service’s “premium video” offering. “People have always come to Twitter to see and talk about what’s happening,” reads a statement. “Over the last four years, we’ve brought users video content around the things they’re already discussing on the platform, working with the world’s top TV networks, sports leagues, publishing houses and magazines and professional news outlets.

“In 2016, we started building on this to bring live-streaming video to Twitter to create a one-screen experience for great live content and the conversation around it. Brands align with all of this content to reach engaged audiences at scale.”

“Fans around the world will be able to experience concerts live on the same platform where they talk about what’s happening in music”

Since launching its live video service in Q4 2016, Twitter has streamed more than 800 hours of “premium”, or professionally produced, video content to an audience of 45m viewers.

According to Josh Contine of TechCrunch, who is attending NewFronts, the Live Nation/Twitter concert series will kick off Saturday 13 May with a show by Zac Brown Band (pictured). Future performers include Train, Portugal the Man, Marian Hill and August Alsina.

“Music has always been one of the most tweeted-about topics on the platform, and now fans around the world will be able to experience concerts live on the same platform where they talk about what’s happening in music,” says Live Nation chief strategy officer Jordan Zachary.

In the video space, Twitter (and subsidiary Periscope – it of accidentally-live-streaming-The Cure fame) is once again competing with Facebook, which is similarly pushing its live-streaming offering, Facebook Live. Facebook Live recently signed a deal to broadcast 22 Major League Soccer matches this year, raising speculation a music partner could soon follow suit.

 


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Instagram is gig-goers’ favourite social app

Instagram is American concertgoers’ social network of choice, with 83% of those active on social media at shows making use of the photo-sharing app – more than any other platform.

That’s according to new research by Nielsen, which also found found Instagram users are more likely to attend live music events – particularly shows with live DJs – with 39% of Instagrammers saying they’ve attended a concert with one main headliner (compared to 23% of the US general public) and 24% a music festival (compared to 11% of the general public).

(A study by MIDiA Research in June found 76% of US concertgoers post on social media while at the gig.)

In addition to taking photos and videos, music fans on Instagram (IG) are also more likely to use their smartphones for “various activities while attending live events”, such as buying music, visiting the artist’s website and ringing friends to let them hear the show.

In September Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said the promotion giant is tapping into IG users to drive the sale of tickets. “[Instagram is] one of the best converters for us,” he explained. “If you’ve already liked Rihanna on Instagram and you’re following her, we use that data feed.”

An infographic showing Nielsen’s findings is below:

Instagram Nielsen Music Study

 


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Peter Shapiro’s Fans.com debuts venue timelines

Fans, a social network for live music enthusiasts founded by veteran New York promoter/venue owner Peter Shapiro, is targeting venue partners with the launch of a new ‘venues timeline’ platform.

The site, which lets users build profiles based on concerts they have attended, will be rolling out a “series of updates […] to support venues in the coming months”, beginning with the venues timeline feature, which allows partner venues to “catalogue their entire concert history in an interactive way, featuring photos, videos and memories from past shows”.

The first partners are the Shapiro-owned Capitol Theatre (1,800-cap.) and Brooklyn Bowl (3,000-cap.), both in New York.

“The Cap is a veteran concert hall that’s seen countless iconic shows in its tenure, from the Grateful Dead to the Stones, My Morning Jacket to the Strokes,” says Shapiro. “Fans is proud to provide means for venues like it and the Bowl to keep these important memories alive for fans. Nostalgia is a powerful part of the fan experience, and there’s no other place for music lovers to dig into these mementos.

“Where else can you see Pink Floyd opened the Capitol Theatre back in 1970 with ‘Grantchester Meadows’ and closed with ‘Interstellar Overdrive’?”

“Where else can you see that Pink Floyd opened the Capitol Theatre back in 1970 with ‘Grantchester Meadows’ and closed with ‘Interstellar Overdrive’?”

The timelines will be embedded on both the venues’ websites and their Fans pages.

Shapiro adds that “more Fans-powered venue timelines will be rolling out in the coming weeks”.

Fans launched in August after more than two years of development. “There is no platform for being a fan,” Shapiro told The New York Times at the time. “Facebook was meant to be a connector to friends and family. But if you are a Slayer fan, you might not want to post about that if you work at Chase Bank or if your grandma is on your Facebook page.”

Crowdmix, a similar platform based in the UK, filed for bankruptcy in July after burning through over £14 million in funding.

 


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The future of live music event ticketing

The pace of change over the last ten years in the music industry and ticketing make the challenge of predicting the next ten a perfect exercise in silliness. I have seen tech fads come and go, and sometimes never even come – anyone remember when two-way paging was going to revolutionise the market? – so what to do?

Our team at VMusic, the strategic business unit within Vendini focused on live music, knows that the technology of the future needs to succeed in accentuating, amplifying and accelerating the essential and timeless quality experiences that live music can bring. This is the excitement of discovery, the power of social connection and sharing, the experience of art and the freedom of rock and roll. At the very heart of the matter for us is our focus on developing tools that widen the possibility of discovery and narrow the gap between commitment and purchase and give our members the tools to understand their audience and how to best reach them with compelling experiences.

The challenge is tough. I’m sure many of you already know first hand that it’s not easy to get the right show to the right people at the right time. Most venues and promoters are buried in ‘data’ and still really use a tiny fraction of what they have.

Most venues and promoters are buried in ‘data’ and still really use a tiny fraction of what they have

I kind of get things right every once in awhile, but I can’t pretend I’m a fortuneteller. What I can tell you is a few things I know for sure about the future of ticketing.

Customer experience will remain a priority, and content-rich multi-platform sites and communication channels will be among the tools venues use to inform and entice concertgoers to get the hell out of their homes. I can also tell you that strategic partnerships will continue to be paramount for live event businesses that want to widen distribution channels and meet the fan where they live.

At VMusic, we have already started to think about the way our tools and technology will evolve. We’re looking at how we can innovate the entire process – from ticket purchase, to event entry, to customer interactions at the event and even after. For most live event venues, the focus will be on implementing horizontal tools that make it easy to share socially and allow organic curation among groups of friends and possibly wider groups from there. As leaders in this industry, we have to constantly improve the purchase process to make it easy and intuitive. A big part of that innovation is really thinking about how we can make our software even more intuitive and seamless for our members. Their experience of creating and selling tickets for an event should be as easy as it is for the patron to buy a ticket from them.

Companies in our industry will be creating post-event tools to capture other meaningful transactions, such as digital ‘nightbooks’ that include pictures, videos, sounds and posts from the night

As patrons become more active and interactive on their mobile devices, they have the power to open doors to revenue for a venue. I foresee companies in the live event ticketing business creating more event tools to enhance and share the experience. Obviously, this can be a rich source of data that can be used by our members to make better offers and enhance sponsorship opportunities. But since I have been a promoter and a venue operator, as well as now being on the provider side, I strongly urge our members and all producers out there to weigh the value they are providing their customers versus how they are using this rich trove of data.

I would also bet companies in our industry will be creating post-event tools to capture other meaningful transactions. This could be as simple as digital ‘nightbooks’ that include pictures, videos, sounds and posts from the night. Patrons could be prompted with follow-up opportunities to spark engagement with the venue or the artists – or even something transactional, like buying a T-shirt.

Ultimately, the core value of live music events will remain the same. Live events will always be about feeling the excitement, anticipation and discovery that comes with a new experience. Live events will always be a place where people can connect and feel like they belong; the only thing that will really change is how we amplify that experience. Bet on the technologies and the companies that are focused on doing that and you don’t really have to predict the future – you will be creating it.

 


Mark Meyerson is vice-president of live music at Vendini. He was formerly GM at CrowdTorch, which Vendini acquired in December 2015, and has served spells at Ticketmaster, AEG Live, House of Blues and Bill Graham Presents.