IQ Focus: Tech pros chart a way forward for concerts
The most recent edition of IQ Focus brought together representatives from some of live music’s leading technology, production and venue companies to shine a light on the various technological solutions helping to get concerts back on the road while Covid-19 is still a threat.
The Technology of a Pandemic, streamed live at 4pm yesterday (30 June), saw chair Steve Machin (LiveFrom.Events) invite Adam Goodyer of Realife Tech (formerly LiveStyled), Brigitte Fuss of Megaforce, Seats.io’s Joren De Wachter, ASM Global’s John Sharkey and Paul Twomey of Biosecurity Systems to discuss the technologies and systems that will allow venues to function at their peak until a coronavirus vaccine is found.
After a round of introductions, Sharkey showed a video demonstrating the concept behind ASM’s VenueShield hygiene system, as well as its successful trial at ASM’s VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, with an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event on 9 May.
“For us, the key thing is, we need to understand that we do have a viable business to come back to,” he commented, “and that it has to work to generate confidence, not just the back of house and in front of house but with our staff and everybody coming through our buildings.”
That’s especially true, he added, “whenever we are going to be changing to suit the jurisdictions that we operate in, and also the changing state and cycle of where we are in dealing with the virus.”
Moving onto social distancing, Machin suggested that “in seated venues maybe it’s somewhat easier because you can run different seat maps” and other solutions to put space between guests, but “social distancing in [standing] venues is hard.”
“The real challenge, as I see it, is making sure that customers stick to the rules,” he added.
“Regulators all saw things differently after September 11. I think the same thing is true for biosecurity with Covid-19”
For any person involved in producing live events currently, the ability to be flexible is key, said De Wachter. “There are certain things we can’t control: We don’t know when a second wave will hit a particular place, we don’t know what authorities will do… so what you need to do from the technology perspective is have this flexibility that allows you to react quickly to changing situations.”
“Covid-19 is just one of five or six diseases we’ve had which have been epidemics, if not pandemics, over the last 15 to 20 years, and we can expect to see that happen again,” commented Twomey, emphasising that events must prepare for outbreaks of other diseases in future.
“I think that the challenges for events, organisers and facilities is to make the investment now – not just for this infection, but the future ones,” he continued, adding that the coronavirus pandemic is as much of a turning point for venue safety as the events of 11 September 2001.
“The comparison with September 11 is pretty clear: there was terrorism before, there was terrorism after, but the consumers and the governments and the regulators all saw things differently after September 11. I think the same thing is true for biosecurity with Covid-19. Everything is different now, so even after we get some improvement with vaccines, etc., in the next couple years, I think it’s still important people make the investment in the sorts of facilities, equipment and solutions that consumers are going to keep looking for.”
Fuss, who also represents disinfecting company ATDS Europe, revealed that ATDS has a solution to ensure that cases of equipment brought into venues or festivals are Covid-19 free.“We have a hygiene gate which can be placed directly at the truck’s loading dock, so when the cases go out they go directly through this disinfection shower,” she explained.
Fuss also spoke on the track-and-trace system already in operation in Germany, which could be adapted to allow venues to reopen without social distancing, as they already have in places like Korea. In Germany, “we already have small events, and if you go there or if you are on the guest list you have to write down your name, your address and your your phone number or email, so that in case of Covid-19 we can follow you up and see who had contact with you,” she said.
“People want to be able to enjoy events again. If they’re willing to share their data, it’s genuinely a good thing”
Coronavirus aside, said Goodyer, this level of data capture is something venues “should be striving for anyway”. “But the reason to do it has now changed,” he continued, “and people want to be able to enjoy events again. If they’re willing to do that [share their details] – and we’re doing it across all of our portfolio – it’s genuinely a good thing.
“And we’re seeing that fans are happy to do it when it’s clearly explained and that they know their data is being held securely and privately.”
“We have to rebuild trust with people who want to go to events, so that they know that they will be safe,” added De Wachter, “and the same is true for their data and for their whereabouts. I don’t think we can wait for a vaccine, because it’s going be too long: we need to get people back into events and to rebuild that relationship now.”
“I think the way we communicate about all of this is going to be absolutely key,” he concluded. “We need to make sure that people know that they can trust event organisers that the right thing will be done. […] There’s going to be a need for a massive amount of increased transparency, in how ticket buyers are being treated before, after and during the event.
“It’s a human business, and in human businesses, in order to build trust, you need to communicate as much as possible.”
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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IQ Focus to spotlight the technology of a pandemic
This week’s IQ Focus virtual panel will shine a light on the various technological solutions helping to get live back on the road and enabling venues and events to operate within coronavirus-related restrictions.
The recent pandemic has changed the face of our industry as we know it, almost overnight. Since March we have seen complete closure of venues, festivals, tours and all live music operations. Overtime we have seen the relaxing of those restrictions and in some countries venues are open, albeit with certain restrictions, and more countries will follow.
However, until powerful anti-virals are in play or ultimately a vaccine, we will need to put into place technology and systems that allow venues to function at their peak with social distancing in mind.
The Covid tech panel looks at these technologies, whether they be software solutions, access control and biometrics or automated disinfecting systems, with individuals presenting various technology across all genres, the panel will present ideas of what can work for your venue or event.
Joining chair Steve Machin of LiveFrom.Events, is Adam Goodyer (Realife Tech), Brigitte Fuss (Megaforce), Joren De Wachter (Seats.io), John Sharkey (ASM Global) and Paul Twomey (Biosecurity Systems).
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LiveFrom launches in-app StreamingTickets
LiveFrom Media has launched its mobile app and new digital ticket format, StreamingTickets.
Livestreaming firm LiveFrom, co-founded by Steve Machin and Alan Rakov earlier this year, describes the StreamingTicket as a “completely new ticket type”: issued as a digital ticket in the LiveFrom app, the ticket then becomes the stream when the event starts.
“Alan and I came to streaming from the world of ticketing. As artist interest and fan demand started to explode, we instinctively recognised the live industry was going to quickly need a simple, yet secure, solution for monetising and delivering high-quality streams beyond free-to-air channels,” says Machin. “We are building a new suite of streaming commerce tools that unlock a whole new category of monetisation that we are calling ‘stream-commerce’.”
Powered by FanDragon Technologies, where Machin and Rakov are also execs, the LiveFrom app will serve as an all-in-one hub for streams, tickets, vouchers and messaging.
“We view streaming as a fundamentally new element of the artist to fan relationship that will continue long after the return of live events,” comments Rakov. “We think new content opportunities and formats are emerging, and with them new stream-commerce opportunities.
“The ability to deliver access to a stream and/or an IRL event through the same platform creates a whole new world of fan engagement for artists”
“The ability to deliver access to a stream and/or an in-real-life (IRL) event through the same platform creates a whole new world of fan engagement for artists. We’re looking forward to bringing together a diverse group of partnerships and individual talents to fully realise the opportunity ahead of us.”
LiveFrom has streamed more than 200 performances over the last three months, including Clutch, the Slackers and more, and will stream three concerts this weekend: Badflower on 18 and Deaf Havana’s James Veck-Gilodi and Silverstein on 19 July.
The company is also supporting Music Venue Trust’s Save our Venues campaign and was the streaming production partner of Save our Scottish Venues festival, headlined by KT Tunstall, Fatherson and Wet Wet Wet, following a launch party with Fran Healy.
Angus Blue of Riverman Management says: “With so many streaming options emerging, LiveFrom provided us with the most strategic streaming vision, helping us to understand how to really deliver for our artists.
“Working on the forthcoming stream for Deaf Havana with LiveFrom, it’s become crystal clear that creative fan orientated streaming events can continue to play a part in connecting our artists to their fans, even in a post-Covid world.”
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Livestreaming platform LiveFrom Events launches
LiveFrom Events, a new ‘streaming-as-a-service’ platform that aims to make it easy to livestream concerts and other live events, has launched.
“Livestreaming, as well as recording and serving up video on demand, is here to stay,” explains the company. “Right now it’s proving to be a vital lifeline, and creating a whole new ecosystem for the live music and events industries.
“Our vision is for artists, DJs, venues, clubs, producers and festivals to easily use the power of HD live streams to put their performance and events in the hands of fans wherever they are globally.”
“All you need is a laptop and internet”
As a software-as-a-service company, LiveFrom Events provides all the software and bandwidth needed to broadcast shows – whether free or paid, on a single channel or as a multi-‘stage’ festival.
LiveFrom also has the capability for private fan-club events, merch sales, sponsor presentations and more.
“All you need is a laptop and internet and you could be livestreaming right now,” the company adds. “And if you already have a video and audio set-up ready to go, even better.”
For more information, or to submit information about your event, visit www.livefrom.events.
Why 2020 will see a ticketing revolution
Live events will see a technological revolution in 2020, with breakthrough innovations in the event experience and ticketing platforms bringing transformational change to the industry.
These bold predictions are being made by FanDragon Technologies founding CEO Robert Weiss (pictured, centre), global director of ticketing strategy and innovation Steve Machin (right) and vice president of business development and ticketing partnerships Alan Rakov (left).
As FanDragon, a leading innovator in blockchain-powered SaaS mobile ticket delivery solutions, gears up for a year of expansion, the company’s executive team shares their vision for the future of live events and mobile ticketing as we begin a new decade.
RW: The year 2020 will be a pivotal inflection point. Technology will transform the live event experience, making it better for fans while unlocking more revenue for rightsholders – and those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. These new revenues are predicted to be enormous, with the live music industry alone projected to be worth $31 billion by 2022.
I feel exceptionally lucky to have superstar executives like Steve Machin and Alan Rakov helping to lead FanDragon. Collectively, Steve and Alan bring nearly half-a-century of ticketing knowledge to our company. Their expertise will not only help us navigate this upcoming revolution – but ensure that FanDragon actively takes the lead in creating ticket delivery solutions for the future.
The year 2020 will be a pivotal inflection point
The mobile ticket will become a personalised hub powered by smart data
SM: The live entertainment market will capitalise on enhancements to the fan experience before, during and after an event. The ticketing industry is fully focused on improving platforms to power the next generation of fan experiences with smart, but secure data analytics.
The shift to mobile will continue to accelerate, providing increased personalisation, communication, security and monetising capabilities for event organisers and attendees.
Mobile tickets aren’t just a convenient way to get into a concert or game, they are becoming a hub for so much more activity – from serving up personalised promotions and offers, to receiving targeted communications ahead of an event. Digital tickets bring with them a whole range of benefits across ‘the three Cs’ – commercial, communication, community – and as we see more providers adopting a mobile-first mindset, we will see continued innovation around what a ticket can represent.
AR: Mobile tickets will power new fan engagement opportunities.
Ticketing giants and tech companies have the opportunity to put the needs of fans first by focusing on an area of the event cycle experience that hasn’t been explored – the time after a ticket is purchased through to the entrance to the show itself.
Organisers have a real chance to engage with fans during this time period and get them excited about what’s coming up. Tickets are their access to the show, and a mobile wallet application is their access to a myriad of opportunities relating to the event.
Mobile tickets aren’t just a convenient way to get into a concert or game, they are becoming a hub for so much more activity
The issue of ticket transferability will be addressed – but not by government regulation
AR: Ticket transferability will continue to be a hot debate in 2020. In 2019, we saw new government regulation on the topic with the reintroduction of the BOSS Act, including a clause that primary ticket sellers may not restrict a purchaser from reselling tickets. I believe this is a fixed mindset that will hinder the ticketing industry from protecting both fans and ticket rightsholders. Instead, the industry must focus on fixing technical issues to protect the integrity of tickets.
I personally think it’s the artist on stage, or the team on the field, that truly owns the ticket. They have the right to control the marketplace for their tickets. It’s not a product that you own. Rather, it’s a license to occupy a seat for a period of time in a venue where an artist is going to do something amazing to entertain you. What you can do with that license depends on who you are, your relationship with the artist and what experience the artist wants you to have.
Today, we’re facing a drastic imbalance of ticket supply and fan demand throughout the event sales cycle. To solve this challenge, the entertainment market must usher in a new era of smart ticket transferability. It’s on the rightsholders to collaborate – not compete – with companies that sell tickets and the technology providers that support these platforms. Simplifying and securing the ticket storing and delivery process will be critical to protecting fans and improving the overall event experience.
The industry must focus on fixing technical issues to protect the integrity of tickets
Say goodbye to barcodes, and hello to blockchain and RFID
SM: The industry will continue to innovate and enhance the technical components of next-generation mobile wallets, starting to get rid of the anonymous barcode for more advanced RFID technologies. I believe these advancements will change how fans access mobile tickets.
The anonymous barcode will start to become much less prevalent in 2020. We will definitely begin to see alternative technologies such as NFC (near field communication) take shape and become widely deployed for improved access to tickets.
AR: Technical innovations will disrupt the ways consumers use their mobile devices at shows – from storing their tickets to making payments at events, and more.
Blockchain and RFID will continue to make their mark on the ticketing space in 2020, with innovative companies using smart contracts to create a safe and secure ticket marketplace. Going back to the importance of transferability, these technologies will empower artists, teams and performers to set their own rules for how their tickets are obtained and shared.
In addition, RFID will expand with cashless payments to provide a seamless fan experience from entering to exiting the building. Finally, mobile hardware developments will force us all to reconsider what we know about what people can – and want to – do with their devices during the entire event process.
The anonymous barcode will start to become much less prevalent in 2020, with alternative technologies such as NFC (near field communication) becoming widely deployed
In the coming decade, the fan will rise again
RW: The live events market will undoubtedly undergo continued transformation throughout the decade to come. The overarching takeaway from these ticketing and live event industry predictions is that the fan will regain a sense of control when making purchases in the marketplace.
Multiple factors are merging – from the growing sophistication of mobile ticketing and the rising importance of data privacy to an inevitable curve bending towards transparency in the ticket lifecycle – that will result in the balance of power tilting back towards consumers, perhaps not entirely by 2020, but certainly within the next decade.
In the meantime, other fan-friendly developments such as the recent announcement of FanDragon’s Fan Experience Index Fan Forum will give consumers a stronger voice in the marketplace. Ultimately, smart people using new technologies will enable the live events industry to fix these issues and create better outcomes for everyone – keeping people in seats at shows while creating new revenue opportunities – a true win-win situation.
Robert Weiss, Steve Machin and Alan Rakov are executives at FanDragon Technologies, a blockchain-powered mobile ticket firm.
Authenticity, AR, facial recognition: The future of ticket tech
From methods of tackling fraud to improving the visitor experience, ticketing firms are exploring a variety of tools.
High on everyone’s minds is the rapid rise of mobile tickets – as frequently reported in the market profiles throughout ITY 2019. But this is just the start of a mobile-first paradigm shift.
“We’ve got a generation of new consumers coming through now and they don’t just expect their services to be on mobile, they expect them to be mobile first,” says industry veteran Steve Machin, global director of ticketing strategy and innovation at FanDragon. “People are buying tickets now who don’t ‘go online’ to do something, they just use their phone. This move to mobile will make the shift away from CDs look like a slow meander.”
Security is the top priority, says international ticketing consultant Tim Chambers. “Unfortunately, prevention of fraud costs time and resources and all too often organisations fail to plan for worst case, without any regard as to how to recover post-incident, and assume they’ll continue to get away without specialised focus.”
He adds: “Related to this is the issue of combatting automated bots that impact site availability (DDoS), on-sale queueing, event webpage reload, ticket purchase and other operational factors. Unfortunately, as an industry, too little has been done with shared expertise, best practice or market intel.”
Maureen Andersen, president and CEO of the International Ticketing Association (Intix), thinks ticket authenticity is a significant focus for companies when considering how new technology can help them.
“As an industry, too little has been done with shared expertise, best practice or market intel”
“Tickets delivered to your mobile is well established, but what will be more important in this matter is that the distribution is tied to your mobile, for example, by using a barcode that’s refreshed frequently. Ticketmaster has now released SafeTix, which is not unlike other technologies out there, but that the largest ticketing company in the world has done this shows how important authenticity is.”
Launched in May 2019, SafeTix uses a barcode that changes every few seconds, meaning it can’t be copied or screenshotted. Fans can transfer tickets to friends or family using mobile phone numbers or an email address. A new digital ticket is tied to the recipient’s account and phone, each time a ticket is transferred or sold, making the journey of each ticket visible to organisers.
Of course, knowing who all the attendees are provides venues and companies with a rich source of data – an opportunity to track what experiences are valuable to any given consumer.
Generation Z is more comfortable with being tracked in exchange for a fast service, says Andersen. “They know they leave a digital footprint, but they want information right in their hand and they want it immediately. They understand they’re being tracked and they’re okay with it because they get served options and they’re all about options.”
She points to statistics showing that in Las Vegas while 68% of visitors attend a show or event, two thirds of them decide what to see after their arrival, and 60% of event tickets are sold within 72 hours of event. “This is because people are waiting to look at all the options that are fed to them before they make a decision. They’re in the moment. It’s only the older generation that’s worried about being tracked.”
Nonetheless, we are moving towards a world where consumers will have more control over their data. That will affect not just the ticketing industry but all sectors of public-facing commerce, from the motor industry to travel.
“People are waiting to look at all the options that are fed to them before they make a decision”
“This means we will need to be able to deliver hyper-relevant services to individuals even when you don’t know who they are,” says Machin. “You’ll be tracking behaviour in an anonymised way. This is one of the benefits of blockchain.”
FanDragon’s ticket-wallet feature means while the person owning the wallet remains anonymous, their behaviour can be analysed. For example, if a wallet buys tickets every time a certain artist comes to their town, but suddenly stops, that sort of information might be interesting to the client. Similarly, if a wallet has 600 tickets in it, it’s a scalper.
“Tickets are no longer simply ‘a revocable licence to attend the event listed on the front,’ they are a personal communication hub,” says Machin. “Once you buy a ticket, you can have experiences, messaging or content delivered to your phone because the organiser knows you’re going and who you’re going with. It means the event experience can start much sooner. It’s a much deeper relationship but that requires greater responsibility not to impinge on people’s privacy and data.”
My face is my ticket
Using your face to unlock a smartphone has been commonplace since Apple launched FaceID in 2017 (other earlier phones used facial recognition but it could be easily hacked). But when Live Nation Entertainment invested in biometric company Blink Identity in 2018, the prospect of being able to walk into a venue without needing to get your phone or paper ticket out took a step closer to becoming reality.
Justin Burleigh, LN-owned Ticketmaster’s global chief product officer, says: “We didn’t want to have a database of millions of customers’ faces, so instead this technology uses the same mechanism as the facial recognition tech that unlocks many smartphones. By scanning a face and converting that information into code, it negates the need for storing images of people’s faces.
“Facial recognition will be able to create some really compelling experiences for backstage, or VIP personnel control. For example, if you’re carrying some beers and food it will mean you don’t have to reach into your pocket for your phone or ticket to gain access.”
“Facial recognition will be able to create some really compelling experiences for backstage, or VIP personnel control”
However, he adds, “We have a lot more to do in the lab before this gets rolled out. We want to get it right because we know if we get it wrong we won’t be given a second chance.”
It’s not just the world’s biggest ticketing company that’s interested in the technology. Former Ticketmaster CEO and later head of commerce at Twitter, Nathan Hubbard, recently announced a facial recognition-powered ticketing platform of his own, Rival. Its first client is Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, owner of Denver’s Pepsi Center (20,000-cap.), although migrating from AXS had some teething problems.
And while there may be what Machin calls some “ickiness” around the idea of facial recognition at music events at the moment, the technology’s use at airport security is commonplace. And as people become more comfortable with it in this context, that will smooth the path for its arrival in entertainment.
Enhanced real life
Augmented reality is becoming increasingly sophisticated and more common in live entertainment, so how will the ticketing industry respond to that? Andersen reckons the answer will be driven by how much consumers want to buy into these things and what they want to experience.
“Whereas a 50-year-old might want to come into a venue and sit down, buy a hot dog and watch the show, somebody younger wants to engage with technology that recognises them as an individual. You could be watching the game from your seat but also see it from the players’ perspective by looking at your device.”
Other examples include creating 3D virtual venue models that can be expanded using AR. This could mean being able to see a model of the venue before you go to a show and finding out where everything is, as well as seeing sponsorship activations, and even connecting it to a Facebook account to see where your friends are sitting. You could find out where the bar queues are shortest, or where to get your favourite pretzel.
“SafeTix is not unlike other technologies out there, but that the largest ticketing company in the world has done this shows how important authenticity is”
That’s the present situation. But what nascent tech or business models might we see in the near future?
Ticketmaster’s Burleigh says he is excited to see new hardware come online, such as more powerful NFC tech, which would mean people don’t have to take their phone out of their pockets to scan on entry. He would also like to see more powerful cashless opportunities across venues. Andersen suggests a subscription-based model could have potential in the future.
“Like a Netflix model, where you buy something today and have access to it later – for example, if you want to go to a big game or play-off you can get access to early booking because you’ve paid a subscription.”
It’s not without precedent. In the cinema industry, MoviePass allowed people to go see films for a monthly subscription fee. Currently, the venture is in difficulty as the company behind it struggles to control its cash burn. However, US cinema chains AMC Theatres and Cinemark are also running subscription models with some success. AMC’s programme, which allows customers to see three movies a week for $19.95 a month, has over 900,000 subscribers. Could that model be transferred to live? While it’s unlikely to work for the largest companies and artists, it could be more viable for grassroots-level venues and promoters.
Whatever the future holds for ticket tech, Chambers predicts that the fragmented nature of all the options means there will need to be open-API schemes to ensure that a seamless customer delivery service is provided: multiple backends but unified consumer experience.
“This is increasingly evident in [London’s] West End theatre or with the NFL ticket retail and distribution agreements, and will inevitably spread to other sectors and territories to become much more commonplace,” he says.
Ticketing start-up FanDragon makes senior hires
Mobile ticketing firm FanDragon Technologies has announced three new hires, including ticket industry veteran Steve Machin as global director of ticketing strategy and innovation.
Machin is joined by chief business officer/general counsel Mark Weiss and chief of staff Jason Black, with all three reporting director to FanDragon’s CEO, Robert Weiss.
“Seasoned executives like Steve, Mark and Jason will help inform our market strategy and push the limits of innovation,” says Robert Weiss. “These key hires bring decades of ticketing, business and tech expertise to FanDragon. I’m excited to continue building out our roster of industry experts who will fuel rapid company growth and reimagine the ticketing experience for all events.”
The appointment of Machin, Weiss and Black comes after FanDragon’s official launch late last month. According to the LA-headquartered company, the three will oversee FanDragon’s “efforts to deploy its full portfolio of SaaS services across the entire ticketing ecosystem”, including sports, music, theatre, cinema, family entertainment and more.
FanDragon provides software solutions that can be integrated into existing applications, and has been designed to commercialise the Aventus digital assets-focused blockchain protocol.
“These key hires bring decades of ticketing, business and tech expertise to FanDragon”
Steve Machin’s industry experience comes from several senior corporate roles, including at Live Nation, where he developed the UltraStar fan-club business. At Ticketmaster, Machin served as head of European music, introducing several new services, including global presales, following a spell overseeing acquisitions in corporate development.
More recently, he has worked as an independent entrepreneur and consultant on various ticketing and tech businesses. He also chairs the popular annual new tech session at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in London.
Mark Weiss, meanwhile, spent 18 years at Staples, where he closed over US$15 billion worth of mergers and acquisitions, and recently worked at private investment firm Cerberus, while Black’s experience includes spells at MTV, Fuse and EMI Music Publishing.
“With our proprietary SaaS [software-as-a-service] tech, FanDragon is setting a new standard for mobile ticket delivery,” continues Robert Weiss, “from tackling fraud head on and simplifying ticket transfer to putting the digital ticket at the heart of fan engagement.”