Report: £5 is ‘optimum’ price point for virtual shows
A ticket that costs £5 (€5.55) for individual adults, or £10 (€11.10) for families with children, is the optimum average price point for virtual events, new analysis reveals.
For Vivid Interface’s Meeting the Online Opportunity, the UK market research firm asked 1,019 people who had visited at least two visitor attractions in the 18 months prior to lockdown in March 2020 how much they would pay to “watch a [virtual] play, opera, ballet performance or live band gig, or do a class, and so on”.
For “independent adults”, the price point where both revenue and viewership are at their highest is, on average, £5, according to the report. For families with children under 16, revenue is highest at £10, while the biggest viewership is achieved at £5.
The survey also reveals differences in willingness to spend based on age group – for 18–25s and 36–54s the optimum price point is £10, while for 26–35s and over-55s it’s £5 – and gender, with men prepared to pay more for their online experiences than women.
“The right online offer can provide a rapid revenue recovery”
Vivid Interface’s MD, Geoff Dixon, comments: “Nothing beats the live events arena. It’s where we work – and my social life – but organisers have to at least explore the possibility of online augmentation of their offer in pandemic times.
“I believe that the right online offer can provide a rapid revenue recovery without harming the long-term viability of ‘live’. In fact, an online presence can reach new geographies and bring new customers to a brand, attracting people who may in time walk through a physical door rather than a paywall.”
According to Vivid’s research, the Royal Opera House, by charging £4.99 for its first post-lockdown virtual shows, “may not be optimising revenue”; however, Laura Marling’s groundbreaking Union Chapel concert, which attracted an online audience of 6,500 with a ticket price of £12.50 (€13.90), “may be optimising revenue at this price point”.
“Research will help to set out a plan and an understanding of the price-to-demand relationships that are key to successful brand building,” adds Dixon.
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Driift celebrates success with livestream concerts
UK-based virtual producer and promoter Driift is announcing a slate of ticketed livestream concerts after successful online events with Laura Marling, Lianne La Havas and Dermot Kennedy.
The company, founded by ATC Management’s Ric Salmon and Brian Message, trialled the pay-per-view livestream concerts with a performance from Laura Marling at the Union Chapel in London in June.
“Ticketed live streaming is currently a space that no one controls, and we believe there is a long-term and commercially viable business here. It’s incredibly exciting” says Salmon.
Capitalising on the success of Marling’s show, Driift has since produced livestream shows for Lianne La Havas at the Roundhouse and Dermot Kennedy at the Natural History Museum.
Kennedy’s livestream show, which took place last Thursday (30 June) and featured Normal People’s Paul Mescal, sold over 30,000 tickets worldwide and was broadcast live over four different time zones.
“It strikes me that this is just the beginning of an exciting opportunity for artists and their teams to create new art that many will choose to pay for,” says Message. “If we get this right, ticketed livestream productions, whether live shows or something not yet dreamt of, can comfortably sit alongside promotional videos, traditional live shows and other ways fans and artists relate.”
This is not a replacement for live, this is a coming of age for livestreaming
Now, with investment from shareholders Beggars Group, Driift is producing more high profile livestream shows including a one-off worldwide performance from Biffy Clyro on 15 August from an iconic Glasgow venue and a performance from Sleaford Mods at the 100 club on 12 September.
“We’ve felt for a long time that livestreaming has been undervalued,” says Ruth Barlow, director of live at Beggars Group.
“We’re excited about the creative and commercial opportunities for the business, the artists and their fans; who no longer have to be in a particular city at a particular time to experience unique live music events.
“This is not a replacement for live, this is a coming of age for livestreaming.”
Driift will oversee ticketing, production, licensing, rights management and digital marketing for the livestream concerts – allowing artists to rebuild live music into their release campaigns and overall strategies.
Having collaborated with live industry giants such as CAA, Dice, Universe/Ticketmaster, YouTube, Pulse Films and Jackshoot, Driift is expanding its offering outside of the UK, with a number of shows being set up in North America.
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 teams up with Wide Days for Focus special
IQ is joining forces with Scottish music convention Wide Days for this week’s virtual IQ Focus session, which will shine a light on the team behind Laura Marling’s pioneering live stream shows in London earlier this year.
The panel, Laura Marling – A Streaming Success is taking place as part of this year’s virtual Wide Days conference (23 to 25 July), and will be aired on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 23 July at 4 p.m. BST/ 5 p.m. CET.
To access the rest of the Wide Days programme, purchase a ticket here.
In June, Laura Marling made history with two, back-to-back shows at London’s Union Chapel, with the first performance livestreamed to Europe and the second exclusively for North America.
Selling over 6,000 tickets, the gigs proved that it’s not just stadium acts that can generate revenue from broadcasting to an online audience.
IQ is joining forces with Scottish music convention Wide Days for this week’s virtual IQ Focus session
Key figures who helped make Marling’s vision a reality will come together on the panel to discuss how the shows can serve as a template for other acts.
Chaired by music industry consultant Tina Hart, panellists include ATC Management’s Ric Salmon, who was a driving force behind the Union Chapel shows and has since set up ticketed livestreaming business, Drift; Amy Oldham of Dice, who provided the ticketing and one of the livestreaming platforms for Marling’s concerts; and award-winning director Giorgio Testi of Pulse Films, who was in charge of filming the shows.
Additional members of the panel are yet to be announced.
Read IQ Magazine’s feature on Laura Marling and the rise of the paid live stream here.
Laura Marling and the rise of the paid live stream
“When the first song was over and, of course, no applause followed… I found the awkwardness of it somewhat thrilling,” says Laura Marling of her groundbreaking 6 June livestreamed gigs – the first for fans in UK and Europe, followed hours later by a second show tailored for fans in North America.
“It felt similar to a sound check in that people around you are getting on with their jobs and, in my case as a solo performer, you’re left there to get on with it, to do my job – there’s something I really enjoy about that. To sing in an empty church is a pleasure at any time. Also, my shows certainly aren’t famous for my mid-set one liners… so a lack of audience interaction didn’t factor too much.”
While the thousands of fans who bought a ticket for the Union Chapel concerts were probably unaware of the historic significance of the shows, the reaction to the format was almost unanimously positive, with Marling’s haunting lyrics, song choices and mesmeric performance complemented by the setting of the empty and silent venue. Indeed, the artist herself was one of the biggest fans of the format and she is already working with her management team – ATC Management’s Brian Message and Ric Salmon – on another bigger livestreaming concept. To that end, Message and Salmon have established a new company called Driift to capitalise on the potential of the new ticketed livestreaming model.
In terms of performance, thousands of acts around the world have found themselves redundant since politicians started banning mass gatherings and confined live music to all but a memory of better times. Using a variety of platforms, however, numerous acts have been video livestreaming from their own homes, albeit with little quality control on either audio or visual aspects. And using the technology at hand, only those with huge followings have been able to generate revenues through the likes of advertising that, again, they rarely have any say about.
“Without an audience, there’s tremendous possibility with what could be done in a space”
Where Marling’s activity differed was in charging fans for a ticket to access the live broadcast of her show, which transported her out of the ubiquitous corona confines of the living room/bedroom/bathroom/home studio setting, to a proper, recognisable venue. There she could call upon state-of-the-art sound, lighting and camera equipment, and even an award-winning director, Giorgio Testi, and Pulse Films, to deliver something meaningful and give ‘attendees’ something lasting.
“Without an audience, there’s tremendous possibility with what could be done in a space,” enthuses Marling. “An unforeseen bonus to an audience-free show, which of course means no front-of-house sound, is that you can get incredible sound – close to studio quality… With this set-up, we could use mics on everything without fear of feedback.”
Manager Ric Salmon tells IQ, “The genesis of the idea was born out of frustration. Laura had sold out her solo, acoustic tour around Australia, North America, the UK and Europe. But then Covid hit.”
When it became clear that not just the North American leg was doomed, but the remainder of the entire tour, the Marling team, like so many others, announced the cancellation: 41 dates in total. Ever proactive, ATC management convinced Marling to fast track the release of new album, Song for Our Daughter, and started revising plans for promo. “Laura is social media averse, but she was comfortable doing guitar tutorials for fans, so we sent her HD cameras to use in her house and she quite enjoyed performing remotely – culminating in a home performance for Later with Jools on the BBC.
“For the tour, we’d refunded about 25,000 people who missed out on seeing her, so we came up with the idea of broadcasting a show from a proper venue, to tap into that demand. But then the discussion was about who would pay for it, as nobody had sold tickets for any livestreamed shows at that point.”
“Just like a normal ticketed gig, people were nervous about missing out so they decided to buy early”
Taking that situation as a challenge, the ATC partners set about pulling the necessary team together. “Laura suggested the Union Chapel because that venue means so much to her and, because we’re not technologists, we reckoned the best idea would be to aggregate the best companies in their class,” explains Salmon.
Pulse Films and director Testi topped ATC’s wish list and having worked extensively with DICE in the past, the company’s new DICE TV platform also made them a clear choice. Finally, YouTube was added, given its global footprint, but that plan, Salmon admits, had one major flaw: “Being ad-funded, they don’t do paywalls, but Dan Chalmers at YouTube really championed the idea and before we knew it there was terrific forward momentum.
“The primary function was not to make money, hence the ticket price of just £12 (€13). But Laura was mortified about cancelling the tour, so this was more about offering her the chance to perform to fans. And it worked brilliantly, as she is in her element when it’s just her and her guitar. So it was some sort of replacement for the tour.”
As often happens with any new concept, when word started to spread about the Laura Marling pay-per-views, sceptics rattled out cautionary ‘you can’t replicate live’ adages. But with locked-down fans desperate for any kind of shared experience, demand for tickets uncannily replicated ‘normal’ sales patterns.
“The level of interest around the announcement was incredible,” reports DICE chief revenue officer, Russ Tannen. “Just like a normal ticketed gig, people were nervous about missing out so they decided to buy early.” Another familiar aspect was a sales spike on the day of the event – a whopping 16% of total sales for the UK show.
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 90, or subscribe to the magazine here
Venues open up, but doors remain closed to public
Venues the world over are beginning to experiment with behind-closed-doors gigs, with talent including Laura Marling, Jorge Drexler, Katherine Jenkins, Keith Urban and Pipo Rodríguez among those to perform to empty concert halls.
The coronavirus crisis has seen no end of creative alternatives to traditional live shows, with concerts performed via videocalls, in-game live performances and the rising phenomenon of drive-in concerts.
Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino has said the company is “going to dabble in” some such alternative concert formats, such as fan-less concerts, reduced-capacity shows and drive-in concerts.
Indeed, a handful of venues have already started to bring live events back home, broadcasting performances live from their empty concert halls.
An early pioneer of the fan-less concert format is Uruguayan musician Jorge Drexler, who performed to an empty Teatro Melico Salazar in San José, Costa Rica, on 10 March, after his shows at the venue were cancelled due to the onset of the coronvairus crisis.
A few days later, French ska band Tyro played to a desolate AccorsHotel Arena (20,300-cap.) in Paris, on the very day that prime minster Édouard Philippe outlawed events of more than 100 people in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.
The AccorsHotel Arena is set to stage another, larger-scale fan-less event on 19 June. All Together for Music (Tous ensemble pour la musique) will see dozens of artists perform from the arena in support of venues that have been shuttered and festivals called off due to the current crisis. The show will be broadcast on TV channel France 2.
“It’s still magic, still sounds good, feels rich and feels special. That just shows how special this place is”
In the US, country stars Keith Urban and Kelsea Ballerini performed at the 2,362-capacity Grand Ole Opry in Nashville last week. Ballerini, who said she was “interested” to see what it would be like to perform “without full pews”, comments on the night that: “It’s still magic, still sounds good, feels rich and feels special. That just shows how special this place is.”
Other upcoming fan-less shows in the US include Dropkick Murphys’ performance at an empty Fenway Park (37,731-cap.), the home of baseball team the Boston Red Sox, on 29 May. Bruce Sprinsteen will join the band as a “virtual” special guest.
The show will be livestreamed for free at 6 p.m. (EDT), hosted by Boston tech company Pega.
In the UK, where the government recently announced that live events would likely be able to take place behind closed doors from 1 June, venues are taking the opportunity to return to some sort of business.
The 900-capacity Union Chapel in London is putting on a ticketed livestreamed show by singer Laura Marling on 6 June.
“The announcement also offers a tentative step in helping to aid the flagging live sector, and sets a potentially positive new precedent for other artists suffering from the loss of live earnings,” reads a statement from organisers.
Fans in the UK and Europe can purchase tickets for the show, priced at £12 with the option of making an additional charitable donation, here. A separate livestream is available for fans in the United States for US$12.
“This offers a tentative step in helping to aid the flagging live sector, and sets a potentially positive new precedent for those suffering the loss of live earnings”
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins performed a one-off live show at the 5,272-capacity Royal Albert Hall – the first UK arena to completely shut its doors as a result of the coronavirus outbreak – to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
The sold-out performance, available to watch back here, also featured a virtual duet with Dame Vera Lynn, who sang to British troops during the Second World War.
Elsewhere, London’s 545-capacity Wigmore Hall last week announced a twenty-show concert series, featuring classical musicians including singers Iestyn Davies and Roderick Williams, as well as pianists Benjamin Grosvenor, Angela Hewitt and Paul Lewis.
All concerts will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and will be available for 30 days after the live show.
“When we shut the hall on 16 March we made sure to leave the piano on the stage, and the camera and audio equipment – all of which can be operated remotely – in place,” says the venue’s artistic director, John Gilhooly, tells the Guardian. “With only one or two performers on stage it’s very possible to make this work within government guidelines observing social distancing.”
Fan-less concerts are also taking off in Mexico, with venues in Mexico City and Guadalajara opening up behind closed doors as part of the Reactivation of entertainment and music in Mexico (REMM) programme.
The scheme, which has been initiated by operators of Mexico City’s Pepsi Center WTC (7,500-cap.) and the Conjunto Santander de Artes Escénicas (1,700-cap.) in Guadalajara, along with local booking agencies and promoters, aims to create over 1,000 jobs in the two cities.
“With only one or two performers on stage it’s very possible to make this work within government guidelines observing social distancing”
Artists billed to play at the venues include cumbia singer Pipo Rodríguez, who will perform along with a 20-piece orchestra, rock group El Haragán y Compañía and Afro-Argentinian reggae musician Fidel Nadal.
The performances will be broadcast live via streaming platforms. Those wishing to watch in Mexico can purchase virtual tickets, priced between 60 (€2.35) and 100 pesos (€3.91) on the Acceso ShoWare website.
All revenue generated by the concerts will be distributed to the musicians and live event professionals involved.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the game for the entertainment world,” Norma Gasca, CEO of REMM co-founder Rock Show Entertainment. “This is a small step forward – once we see the outcome [of these concerts] – to continue proposing different formats until we are able to return to live shows again.”
Rock Show Entertainment is also among companies taking part in the Auto-Conciertos #DesdeTu Auto (Drive-in concerts #FromYourCar) initiative, along with MH Music Live, Switch it, Meximm Mexico Internacional Music Market, Blu2 Entretenimiento, Wild Side Press, Capital Nation and HM Entretenimiento.
The concerts are expected to take place in Mexico City from the end of June.
Read more about the drive-in concert boom here.
London’s Union Chapel appoints new CEO
Union Chapel Project (UCP), the charity that operates London’s Union Chapel, has appointed Michael Chandler as CEO, effectively 18 September.
Chandler joins the 900-capacity Islington venue – which is also still a working church, as well as drop-in centre for the homeless – from Cardboard Citizens, a theatre company for homeless people. He has also worked as a journalist and broadcaster, and in 2007 founded Worldwide Arts for Youth (WAYout), a charity working with street youth in west Africa.
“I am thrilled to be joining Union Chapel at this important time for the organisation, and for society more generally,” he comments. “It’s a time when many in the culture sector are asking, ‘what more can we do?’. Union Chapel is already doing amazing work, as one of London’s most iconic venues and providing homelessness services that change the lives of the most vulnerable in our city.
“Union Chapel is already doing amazing work, as one of London’s most iconic venues and providing homelessness services”
“With the development of a new space in the Sunday School Hall and a growing awareness of the activist leaders that founded Union Chapel, it is an exciting time to join the team. I am looking forward to helping build on this great work, reputation and potential as a venue for the whole community, for great art and culture, and for positive social change.”
Philip Walker, chairman of UCP, adds: “Music, the arts and social purpose has been at the core of Michael’s career, which we think fits in well with the ethos and aspirations of UCP, the church and Margins, our homelessness project.”
Upcoming shows at the Union Chapel include Justin Hayward, Múm, Al Stewart, Lamb and Robyn Hitchcock.