Futurist, author, and film-maker Gerd Leonhard has shared his vision for the next decade and what it means for the live music business.
Now CEO of Zürich-based The Futures Agency, Leonhard was a stagehand on several German tours in the early ’80s and is also a professional musician.
In a twist to ILMC’s traditional Hot Seat session, he offered his observations and foresights on the future of the touring and festival worlds in a unique keynote.
“First, it doesn’t pay for us to look at the future with fear – no matter what country you live in, or how old you are – because when you look at the future with pessimism, you create pessimism,” Leonhard told delegates at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel. “It’s very important not to always look at the bad things, because the reality is actually that a lot of things have been getting better and are getting better.”
Leonhard, who has authored five books including The Future of Music and Technology vs Humanity, mulled over the use of augmented reality (AR) by festivals such as Coachella, which launched an AR-enabled stage in 2019 and has added real-time 3D visuals to performances for those watching on its YouTube livestream.
“I CAN GUARANTEE YOU A COMPANY THAT’S NOT ON THE CIRCULAR ROUTE BY 2030 WILL NOT EXIST OR WILL BE UTTERLY DISCARDED BY CONSUMERS”
“[Coachella innovation lead] Sam Schoonover says that, basically, it doesn’t make sense to just recreate the live music experience,” said Leonhard. “Instead, we should give people something goes beyond the live experience. That could be really powerful. Personally, I would still love to go [IRL] beyond all of those things, but there is a really interesting angle in here.”
Leonhard went on to discuss the limitations of attempting to replicate the wildly successful ABBA Voyage virtual concert residency, which debuted at the 3,000-cap ‘ABBA Arena’ at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in May 2022.
“That only works if you’re ABBA,” he said, “otherwise, who would be interested? But it’s still pretty cool that we can do this now using technology. But, of course, if you have a lesser known band, good luck trying to do something like this.”
Leonhard said “sustainability and purpose” will be increasingly crucial to attracting millennials and zillennials to events in the 2020s.
“I can guarantee you a company that’s not on the circular route by 2030 will not exist or will be utterly discarded by consumers,” he said. “It’s already got to the point where all people are saying if you have any connection to oil and gas, you’re almost like a criminal.”
“YOU SHOULD EXPECT THE BIGGEST REVOLUTION IN THE LIVE MUSIC BUSINESS FROM SOMEBODY WHO’S NOT CURRENTLY A PLAYER IN THE LIVE MUSIC BUSINESS”
He continued: “You should expect the biggest revolution in the live music business from somebody who’s not currently a player in the live music business, because this is what happens. The pharma industry will be redone by Apple and Google and Amazon, the car industry has been redone by Elon Musk, not BMW. And the airline industry will be done by somebody who’s working on a hydrogen plane.”
Responding to a question from the audience regarding the viability of a sustainable festival model, Leonhard suggested small steps were the way forward.
“The best hotels around the world are starting to outlaw plastic, for example,” he said. “That’s a tiny step, right. But they do 100 of those steps. And I think there are many things they can do. For example, build in a carbon offsetting programme into the travel and the ticket.
“Think about this for a second: the top 10% of people who have money… are actually causing 80% of the CO2. It’s not the poor people who cause the CO2, it’s us. So we should have a mechanism of putting something on the ticket saying, ‘You can tick this box that will give you options to make another payment for carbon offsetting.’ Or you can say, when you come to the festival, afterwards, you will do something to make up for what you’ve done there, like some volunteering work or whatever it could be. I think that’s going to be vastly important.”
“THE OTHER THING THAT HAS ME WORRIED IS HAVING SO MUCH TECHNOLOGY AROUND US THAT WE FORGET WHO WE ARE”
He continued: “I think you would get actually more people to buy tickets if you offer these solutions and actually go in the right direction. It’s hard to say how long that will take until it’s financially beneficial, I don’t know. But let’s make no mistake, this is the number one topic. Right after the war ends, this topic will explode. So you’ve got to go along with it.”
Wrapping up, Leonhard outlined his two main concerns for the future.
“The biggest wildcard we have today is Russia,” he said. “That is the only thing I’m really worried about. Because everybody else, I can get a bit of a read on what’s happening. But with Russia, I’ve been there 30 times and I still don’t get it, so that has me worried.
“The other thing that has me worried is having so much technology around us that we forget who we are. For example, using Chat GPT to get an answer on complicated things like, ‘Should I marry this woman or that woman?’ Or, ‘What’s my career choice?’ People do those kinds of things and they think the machine is right. We trust technology too much.”
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