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‘The opportunities are there’: 2018’s vital trends in sponsorship

Newsflash: live matters.

OK, not much of a newsflash – we know that a healthy live sector makes for a healthy music industry. We know very well that live music has a transformative role in turning passive listeners into passionate, irrational fans who are willing to spend their time and hard-earned cash on music.

As it stands, live music in the UK is in as good health as it has ever been: audiences for concerts and festivals rose 12% between 2016 and 2017, bringing £4 billion (€4.5bn) into the UK economy.

But the industry isn’t immune to change. Competition has never been as fierce, and the need to use insight to better understand and engage with fans is vital to thriving in a tough business. Changes in fan behaviour mean that the live sector will have to reinvent itself or risk irrelevance.

So what are the changes that will make the greatest impact on the relationship between brands and live music in 2018? We could spend an hour or two positing the inevitable disruption of the sector as changing expectations and the proliferation of new tech adapts the way fans engage with the live experience. However, this article isn’t an exercise in navel-gazing about what will happen in the next five years; there’s no mention of Pokémon Go and the gamification of the live experience. Let’s talk about what’s happening right now.

There are three significant shifts in thinking that could have a transformative impact on the industry this year.

“2018 will see sport and entertainment properties further extend their reach into live to retain and engage their fans”

1. Sport and entertainment crossover
According to industry expert Jeremy Paterson, MD of IF Media: “Real opportunities won’t come from a simple appendage of sport or tech onto music and vice versa. The real magic happens when powerful cultures collide: two add two suddenly equals seven, and a whole new ritual like the Super Bowl halftime show moment is created.

“The opportunities are there, now it’s about having the bravery to take them.”

With live more crowded and competitive than ever, it will be little comfort that the sector may face increasing competition from properties in sport and entertainment. For example, although music has been an integral part of fan culture, in sport it’s only very recently that rights holders have woken up to the opportunity of using music to supercharge the fan experience.

Top-tier clubs and rights holders in football are repositioning themselves less as sports brands but rather as “premium entertainment” properties, with big spenders like Chelsea, Juventus and PSG at the forefront of adding music to their fan offer. Paul Pogba and Stormzy teamed up to announce the French player’s arrival at Manchester United in a way that had never been done before.

At a more grassroots level, football’s inherent connection with grime culture was brought thrillingly to life by Tottenham when rising artist AJ Tracey put on a live gig with several performers to launch the club’s new kit, coinciding with a release of his single ‘False 9’.

But what about the reverse? What about music or live properties using sport to enhance their offer?So far, the sector has been slow to latch on to the huge potential of sport to entice and engage music fans. We’ve seen streaming behemoths like Deezer and Apple Music partner with football clubs to reach global audiences but in live it’s a rarity to see venues and festivals use sport as a point of difference. Ministry of Sound made waves last year by launching its first fitness club in London, but it would be good to see a live music property really take the opportunity to combine music with sport and fitness to attract new audiences.

Twenty-eighteen will see sport and entertainment properties further extend their reach into live to retain and engage their fans. However, there remains an opportunity for the live music sector to successfully partner with sport and entertainment properties to create a musical identity that extends beyond large-scale, glitzy events.

“The lines between music product and live performance have blurred considerably”

2. New tech, new rules
New technology-based ways for fans to enjoy music mean the reach and impact of live is being felt far beyond the events themselves. But let’s be blunt: some advances in live tech are having more immediate impact than others. VR has huge ramifications for the live industry, and while there have been some interesting experiments at festivals and large-scale sporting events, until it gains mainstream acceptance and penetration among music fans, its presence is a curiosity rather than an immediate opportunity.

Live streaming is an altogether different proposition that is already having an immediate impact. The opportunities for fan engagement using livestreaming platforms are certainly striking; specialist live broadcasting platform YouNow says 80% of music consumers are likely to take commercial action after watching a live broadcast from one of their favourite musicians, while 86% of fans are likely to seek out more of an artist’s songs.

But, so far, it feels like live streaming hasn’t been used effectively to augment the concert experience. There have, however, been exceptions that have used the platform to brilliant effect. Afropunk Festival had huge success by livestreaming sets, behind-the-scenes access and interviews with artists and influencers. With a passionate Facebook audience of one million, it was a no-brainer to digitise the festival experience, with one fashion-centric recap of day one of the festival gaining 200,000 views.

Another exciting use of live-streaming was Gorillaz and Goldenvoice’s Demon Dayz Festival in Margate, UK, a partnership with Red Bull to help launch their latest release, Humanz. More than a straightforward streamed performance of the band, fans were able to see live streams of standalone gigs from Damon Albarn’s many collaborators, including Vince Staples, De La Soul, Little Simz, and Danny Brown, across multiple channels on Red Bull TV. It was an execution befitting the world’s pre-eminent amorphous alt-pop project, in that it allowed fans both at home and at the event itself to pick and choose from the sonic and visual worlds of the band, and curate their own experiences of the festival.

Those are two exciting and innovative examples, but there’s still plenty of room for smaller venues and event properties to take advantage of fans consuming live content online. With entry-level costs to streaming relatively inexpensive, 2018 will see pioneering events and venues utilising the technology to engage fans beyond the live experience itself.

“The opportunities are there, now it’s about having the bravery to take them”

3. Blurring boundaries
The lines between music product and live performance have blurred considerably over the last five years. Live curation is being increasingly led by data-driven decision-making, allowing curators and promoters to make smarter decisions when using live music to connect with fans.

While tech/streaming giants have made previous forays into live (RIP iTunes Festival), 2017 was the year that we truly saw the power of the playlist not just in breaking artists and bands, but as a real force in the sector. Playlists on streaming services have morphed from a user-generated curiosity to major properties with huge curatorial teams that have the power to make or break a track.

This year, Spotify UK turned a hugely popular playlist, the grime/UK hip hop-led Who We Be (250,000 subscribers) into a live event showcasing artists that had particularly strong engagement with fans on the streaming platform. The event, which took place at Alexandra Palace in London, proved to be a huge commercial and critical success. With a line-up that included Cardi B, Dizzee Rascal, Giggs and J Hus, it was the crowning moment of an incredible year for UK urban music.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the live iteration of Who We Be was so successful – with a ready-made passionate audience, taking it into the physical realm was a simple way of broadening the appeal of the playlist’s brand across another touchpoint.

What was really clever was that Spotify used detailed fan-usage data to choose the acts, offer pre-sale tickets to playlist subscribers and specifically target the most engaged fans of artists who frequently appeared on it with promotional marketing. The result was a passionate festival crowd who even cheered the tracks (featuring up-and-coming UK artists Not3s and Lotto Boyzz) in the intervals between performances.

The lesson? Investing in media/audio properties to build audiences that can then cross over into live is very worthwhile. Rather than starting from scratch trying to build a live property, you already have an engaged audience, a long list of artists to curate, and a means by which to immediately monetise and incentivise a fan base. Owning or allying with an online music media property gives you access to a huge amount of audience data that you can then translate into creating fan-led live experiences.

Live remains a challenging and competitive environment, but with a little bit of lateral thinking there are huge opportunities. Whether crossing over with entertainment, using streaming to broaden your existing audiences or investing in building media brands that can drive audiences to venues and events, it’s an exciting time to be a part of the live music business.

The promoters, venues and artists who are brave enough to seize the big opportunities to engage with fans in new ways will reap the rewards.


Ear to the Ground delivers industry leading sport and music campaigns driven by Fan Intelligence™. 

Festival trends for 2018

The festival experience is evolving, and 2018 looks set to be a time in which current trends gain significant traction. As the core demographic, millennials are the driving force behind the changing face of the modern festival.

The experience economy
As our recent research paper confirmed, millennials prioritise experiences over material goods. This will continue to have a significant and varied impact on the festival world this year. We’re already seeing innovation throughout the sector, for example, Camp Wildfire’s outdoor activities or mediaeval weapons training at Swordpunk. The desire to seek unique experiences is also inspiring the growth of experiential activation at festivals. At Festival №6, Old Mout (cider) solved two issues at once with a simple method: 1) Old Mout wanted to build awareness for the adventurous aspect of their brand, and 2) People don’t enjoy queuing at bars. The solution: They built an Old Mout slide that people could use to bypass the bar queue.

On a grander scale, interactive art installations are already common, and VR, AR and AI will eventually make such ideas bigger and more fantastical. As such, tech will become more common, and we’ll see more technology companies collaborate with both festival organisers and brands.

The desire to seek out new experiences also ties into the current wellness trend. In our recent research, we’ve seen that old-school festival hedonism is changing. Young people are drinking less, eating better and aspire to achieve physical and mental wellbeing. Many wellness pursuits are experiences in their own right. Wilderness Festival hosted hip-hop yoga, qoya dancing and ommersion, which mixes Mongolian overtone chanting with a gong bath and aromatherapy, and is an experience to remember.

We’ll see wellness continue to grow throughout 2018, following the success of events like Morning Gloryville and Soul Circus. Wellness is a natural fit for a festival’s communal vibe. As Morning Gloryville’s Samantha Moyo said in our documentary A New Dawn: Meet the Future of UK Nightlife, “We really looked at all aspects of clubbing and partying and we were just like, how can we make the journey different for people who come so the experience is much more healthy, grounded and transformative?”

“The tried-and-tested festival format of bands supplemented by little more than a comedy or film tent is on its way out”

The combination of the above factors means that music festivals are becoming much more diverse, colourful and experiential. The tried-and-tested festival format of bands supplemented by little more than a comedy or film tent is on its way out. Independent festivals, which have the freedom and courage to experiment and innovate, will continue to be the main drivers behind this change, before it eventually permeates the entire industry.

Inconspicuous technology
Looking at event technology, we predict that the truly impactful innovation will continue to seem quite unspectacular – at least compared to headline-grabbing tech such as VR, AR and on-stage holograms.

One example of how technology will subtly help improve festivals is the next generation of RFID technology. Its benefits include rapid event entry, shorter queues and faster, cashless transactions. RFID can create a wealth of data that can help event creators better understand and optimise their festivals, making it much easier to convince potential sponsors to come on board.

An ever-evolving range and depth of distribution and integration partnerships between ticketing companies and platforms for entertainment (eg Eventbrite’s integrations with Spotify, Facebook, Bandsintown or Ents24) will also make it easier for consumers to find and buy tickets. In an era in which sales via mass email newsletters are in decline, independent organisers can now sell directly to consumers via this distributed form of sales, bypassing existing monopolies on customer data, and building their own base of fans for future campaigns.

All in all, festivals will change for the better in 2018. We can expect more diverse experiences, and new-and-improved technology will benefit both the industry and consumers, but for the most part it will be a subtle evolution, rather than a dramatic sea change.

Millennials will be the ones that demand this change, as they strive for new experiences and wellness. Flexible, innovative and independent festivals are best placed to deliver on this. We can’t wait to see what the year ahead will bring.


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4 live music biz predictions for 2018

2018 will see an increase in non-traditional gigs

Non-traditional gigs, such as pop-up spaces, restaurants and living rooms, will continue to grow throughout 2018. Airbnb even expressed interest in adding ‘Music Experiences’ to its services by bringing artists to rentals for informal gigs. According to a report by Eventbrite, in 2017, demand for nontraditional meeting and event facilities increased by 3.8%.

This rise in non-traditional gigs is also made evident through the success of Sofar Sounds, which has contributed to the increased demand for unique music experiences.


Festivals will continue to grow… which may not be a good thing

Today, festivals have grown so quickly that they’re no longer the grassroots experience they used to be for fans or artists. Festivals are now dominated by the same live music giants that control big venues, meaning that they have come to represent the overall consolidation and corporatisation that has occurred in live music.

A study by the economic research firm TXP Inc. showed that from 2010 to 2014, the tourist music sector in Austin, Texas increased its revenue by a $100 million, while the local music sector decreased in revenue by $33 million. The festival scene is growing rapidly, but this growth is happening at the expense of local music venues across the country.


New tech for independent artists is on its way

New technologies will play an increasingly important role in the antiquated gig-booking process, which will allow musicians to play more shows, grow their fanbases and manage their careers. The onset of new technologies will allow for the growth of DIY artists who are looking to book shows on their own terms, without the help of an agent or booking manager.

In recent decades, the music industry has seen incredible technological innovations, but the music-booking process has remained surprisingly behind. However, the marketplace model has the power to revamp the live music scene in the coming year.


More musicians will use data to identify their targets

Artists will become better at using data about their fanbases to find the right places to play and tour, as well as to help market their shows. This trend is further proven through Spotify’s recent release of an app that helps artists track real-time streaming data and audience demographics. Music fans today have access to a wider range of music than ever before, making it increasingly necessary for musicians to use data to their advantage and hone in on their target market.


David Baird is founder and CEO of Gigmor, a live music marketplace that connects artists and bands with bookers, promoters and venues.