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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.

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‘The future is bright’: Tech leaders talk monetising virtual shows

The heads of some of the industry’s most inventive companies starred in the most recent IQ Focus panel, appropriately called The Innovators, which discussed the flurry of innovation going on behind the scenes during the ongoing halt in concert touring.

Dice’s UK managing director, Amy Oldham, began by speaking on the importance of “identifying the value” in new platforms and innovations. “In the beginning [of the pandemic], there was a lot of noise and a lot of not-very-good-quality shows,” she explained.

“Lewis [Capaldi] is a great example” of what the industry should be working towards, she added. “We did his show exclusively a few weeks ago. He did an acoustic set of the first album, and it actually felt like being on a night out – you had people taking photos of themselves hugging the TV saying it’s the best £5 they ever spent.”

Tommas Arnby of Locomotion Entertainment said his client, Yungblud – whose Yungblud Show Live (described as a “rock-and-roll version of Jimmy Kimmel”) was one of the early highlights of the livestreaming boom – was supposed to be “doing five sold-out Kentish Town Forums” in London this week, and his online presence is “about how to recreate that” live experience.

“In the very beginning these bedroom and kitchen performances played an important role,” but now people expect a more polished experience, said Ben Samuels, MelodyVR’s president and GM in North America. “What we’re doing is investing a lot to ensure these shows look and feel fantastic. […] They should be the best thing to actually being on stage or in the front row of a real show. So production values have been crucial to us.”

“Artists have to feel comfortable and confident about charging for their content”

Sheri Bryant, president of online ‘social VR’ platform Sansar, said a virtual concert should be looked as “additive; it’s not going to replace the live performance”.

Oldham – who revealed that Dice is now selling tickets in at least 113 countries following the launch of its livestreaming platform, Dice TV – agreed that while everyone on the panel is doing a great job keeping fans engaged while touring is on hold, “one thing we haven’t nailed is giving artists confidence that just because they’re doing something on a stream doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be charging.

“All the movie studios are shut, and yet we don’t see them dropping films online and saying, ‘Just pay what you fancy!’ Artists have to feel comfortable and confident about charging for their content.”

Chair Mike Malak, from Paradigm Talent Agency, compared charging for online video content to the transition in the recording business from fans pirating music to (legally) streaming it, noting that “we all grew up watching free YouTube videos”.

Bryant said Sansar wants “everyone to be able to experience” the platform, suggesting offering both a free tier and a “VIP experience” that could include perks for those who’ve paid, such as meet and greets with an artist or special powers inside its virtual world.

“The most important thing for us is to show agents and managers that people had a great time,” said Prajit Gopal, CEO of livestreaming platform Looped. “That’s always been really important – going back to them and showing them,‘Here’s the reaction, and this is why you should be charging for it.’”

“Imagine if this happened 20, 30, 40 years ago – it would have been catastrophic”

With talk turning to sponsorship in virtual events, Oldham warned that “sometimes you can oversaturate an artist by doing too many partnerships”. However, Bryant said the music industry has much to learn from the wider entertainment business when it comes to getting its talent out there.

“Look at how the YouTube stars, the Twitch streamers got big: through hard work and with lots of exposure,” she said. “If you’re good and you’re getting out there, you’ll see that growth. I don’t think people should be precious about exposure – you want to be across as many platforms as possible, because you never know when one of them will see a big spike [in traffic].”

The discussion ended on a positive note, with Samuels highlighting how fortunate the live music business is to have all this technology at its disposal at such a difficult time.

“Imagine if this [coronavirus] happened 20, 30, 40 years ago – it would have been catastrophic,” he said. “In a weird way, we’re lucky this happened now, with all these platforms that can continue to bring high-quality content to fans and enable artists to still make a living.”

Arnby agreed: “All these choices, all these ways to connect… The future is very bright.”

The Innovation Session is available to watch back on YouTube or Facebook now.


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Instagram allows monetisation of live streams

Instagram has introduced two new features to remunerate creators for their live streams, bringing its increasingly popular IGTV video service into line with parent company Facebook’s Live platform.

In a blog post yesterday (27 May), the company announced a new way for fans to support streamers: Badges, a cosmetic item which, for a one-off charge, will be displayed next to the viewer’s name for the duration of the stream, allowing them to stand out in the comments.

The purchase of a badge will also unlock certain special features, “such as placement on a creator’s list of badge holders and access to a special heart” reaction, according to Instagram.

The introduction of the badge system – which resembles other methods of ‘tipping’ such as Twitch’s cheers and YouNow’s bars – follows Facebook’s announcement last month it is to allow events organisers to charge for access to live streams.

Speaking to the Verge, Instagram COO Justin Osofsky said the badges will initially be priced at either US$0.99, $1.99 and $4.99, with Instagram initially taking no cut of badge revenue (later, a rev-share model will be introduced).

The ad split will be based on an “industry standard” of 55% in favour of creators

In addition to badges, the blog post also reveals that as of next week (commencing 1 June), IGTV will for the first time have advertising – revenue from which will be shared with creators.

“IGTV ads will initially appear when people click to watch IGTV videos from previews in their feed,” the company explains. “The video ads will be built for mobile and up to 15 seconds long. We’ll test various experiences within IGTV ads throughout the year – such as the ability to skip an ad – to make sure the final result works well for people, creators and advertisers.”

According to Osofsky, the split will be based on an “industry standard” of 55% in favour of creators.

However, the “small alpha test” will “not be available for music content at this time”, Facebook – which has no licence in place for livestreaming music – later clarified.

Along with the likes of Twitch, YouTube and more specialist platforms such as StageIt, Facebook Live and IGTV are one of a number of livestreaming services being utilised by the live music industry during the global pause on concert touring.

 


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Innovators take the virtual stage for IQ Focus panel

Following last week’s The Venue’s Venue: Building Back session, IQ’s popular Focus series of virtual panels turns this Thursday to the flurry of innovation going on behind the scenes during the halt in concert touring.

The Innovation Session will feature insights from a who’s who of music-industry freethinkers and groundbreakers, who’ll discuss with the new ideas and green shoots that are rising from the current situation.

Joining chair Mike Malak, senior agent at Paradigm London, are Sheri Bryant, president of virtual world builder Sansar; Tommas Arnby, CEO of Locomotion Entertainment (Yungblud); Amy Oldham, managing director UK of ticketer-turned-livestreamer Dice; Ben Samuels, North America president of virtual-reality pioneer MelodyVR; and Prajit Gopal, CEO of celebrity video-chat/streaming service Looped.

Expect discussions on livestreaming, 3D venues, tipping, videogaming, virtual worlds and much more.

The Innovation Session will be streamed live this Thursday, 21 May, at 16.00 BST/17.00 CET.

Get an automatic reminder when the live stream starts at Facebook or YouTube.


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Facebook announces paid-for livestreams, more tips

Facebook is to allow artists to charge for access to online performances, the social media giant announced over the weekend amid a flurry of other new video-related features.

Recognising the growing “demand for real-time video” while much of the world is shut indoors due to coronavirus, an announcement from Facebook says says it will, for the first time, allow organisers to mark events as online only, as well as charge guests for access, enabling artists to monetise livestreamed performances.

“To support creators and small businesses, we plan to add the ability for pages to charge for access to events with live videos on Facebook – anything from online performances to classes to professional conferences,” reads a blog post from the company.

“We plan to add the ability for pages to charge for access to events with live videos on Facebook”

The update will also enable event creators to raise money for charitable and other causes, with the ability to add a ‘donate’ button to live videos. It is not yet known what commission Facebook will take from either donations or paid live streams.

Elsewhere, the company is also expanding its ‘stars’ feature – a virtual currency used to tip streamers, akin to cheers on Twitch or bars on YouNow – to a wider range of content creators in more countries.

The expansion of stars, which earn video streamers one US cent per star given, comes as other media platforms, including Spotify and SoundCloud, look towards tipping as a means of helping artists and other creators make more money during the global Covid-19 shutdown.

 


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Tipping point: No shows, but donation options grow

‘Tipping’ artists, by making one-off, typically small payments during virtual events, is gaining popularity internationally, benefiting musicians who have been hit by the global stoppage in concert touring.

Virtual tipping has its origins in China, where the concept of donating to musicians, video producers, writers and podcasters has been the norm since at least 2013. Among the services that allow the tipping of creators are messaging app WeChat (for writers), podcasting platform Ximalaya FM and music streaming services QQ Music, KuGou and Kuwo. All are owned by, or have significant investment from, tech giant Tencent (which also recently acquired a 10% stake in Universal Music Group).

According to news site Ozy, the popularity of tipping on the three streaming services specifically is “credited by industry analysts for helping Tencent Music record a post-tax profit of [US]$263 million in the first half of 2018.” According to contemporary filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, 9.5 million Tencent Music users – equivalent to 40% of its total paying user base – paid for tips in the form of virtual gifts and other ‘social entertainment experiences’.

Comparatively, the Ozy article adds, “Spotify reported net losses of $461.4 million in the second quarter of 2018, and Pandora lost $92 million the same quarter.”

Now, however, Spotify is hoping to develop its own virtual tipping culture, last week announcing the introduction of ‘Artist Fundraising Pick’, which allows listeners to donate via artists’ profiles using PayPal, GoFundMe or Cash App.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for many Spotify users and people around the world,” says the Stockholm-based company, “and there are many worthy causes to support at this time. With this feature, we simply hope to enable those who have the interest and means to support artists in this time of great need, and to create another opportunity for our Covid-19 music relief partners to find the financial support they need to continue working in music and lift our industry.”

Tipping is credited with helping Tencent Music record profits of $263m in H1 2018

As well as predominantly non-music services such as Twitch, which enables viewers to tip (‘cheer’) its video streamers, several music-focused platforms are aiming to help artists get paid while touring is off limits.

Encore Musicians – a UK-based marketplace that connects event planners with artists and bands – has introduced ‘Music Messages’ for its locked-down customers, enabling them to send personalised musical messages to their loved ones. The company’s co-founder, James McAuley, tells TechCrunch that recipients of the videos (which cost from £15 to commission, with £2.50 going to the UK’s National Health Service) have the option to add a tip, with many contributing up to £50 per video.

“The reactions from both the senders and recipients have been extremely heartwarming, and musicians are having fun with it,” McAuley explains. “This is also reflected in the success of the tipping mechanism, with people sometimes tipping more than the original video amount.”

Elsewhere, SoundCloud is building on its existing tipping capabilities – a partnership with Twitch, announced in March, allows creators to monetise livestreamed concerts – by allowing artists to add ‘support links’ to their profile pages, with links to either financial exchanges (PayPal, Cash App, Venmo, etc.) or online stores/fundraising pages such as Kickstarter, Bandcamp or GoFundMe.

The company says it will retain support links, or a version of the feature, “until more impactful solutions present themselves, or it is no longer necessary for our most impacted creators.

“We’re all in this together and it’s important to everyone that creative projects continue unabated. So, use this to fund your projects, offset bills or get whatever you need to stay on your feet.”

Speaking to IQ earlier this month, British singer-songwriter Emma McGann explained that her audience on YouNow – another live video streaming platform – is large enough that when her upcoming US tour was torpedoed by the coronavirus outbreak, she sold enough $20 YouNow ‘Virtual Tour Passes’ to cover losses stemming from the cancellation.

“On YouNow, fans can tip their favourite performers throughout a broadcast”

McGann is one of a handful of artists whose fanbases are primarily on YouNow, which has long had a culture of fans tipping creators. A recent Daily Dot article explains: “In addition to being able to purchase stickers and private messages with in-app currency and status, fans can use money to purchase ‘bars’ in packs, and tip their favorite [sic] performers throughout a broadcast, earning shout-outs in turn. YouNow stars who’ve made a name for themselves can join its partner program[me], which entitles them to a cut of the proceeds from the sale of this digital currency that gets spent on their broadcasts.”

“Most livestreaming platforms have a criteria you have to hit before your channel is eligible to be monetised,” explained McGann, who is a YouNow partner, “but the community you build should be your first concern over the monetisation aspect. Interaction and community [are] the most important part of your livestreams. Monetising that content will be difficult if you’re not consistent.”

On tipping specifically, she added: “Calls to action during your streams can help to push traffic to your music, your merch store or wherever your viewers can support you…”

One company, though, that isn’t joining the tipping revolution is Google, which has reportedly nixed plans in the US that would have seen it facilitate donations to popular websites, including those of artists and musicians. The tipping tool, linked to Google Pay, would allow a one-time donation of between 25¢ and $5 via a floating button at the bottom of the screen. (On Google-owned YouTube, fans already can tip creators using the ‘super chat’ feature.)

Google trialled the functionality with artist Miranda Sings, as well as the New York Times, Tech Crunch and the Points Guy, a travel advice site.

 


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