A panel of industry experts debated what the future holds for livestreaming following the return of touring.
The ILMC session: Livestreaming: On trial was presented by Eleven Management’s Estelle Wilkinson, with speakers Ric Salmon of Driift, Grazia Tribulato of LiveNow, Max Wentzler of Zart Agency and agent Steve Zapp of ITB on hand to pass judgement.
While the format flourished during the pandemic, concerns have been raised that it has fallen down the list of priorities amid the return of IRL concerts.
But Driift CEO and co-founder Salmon, whose company has sold hundreds of thousands of tickets for livestreamed gigs with acts including Nick Cave, Niall Horan, Kylie Minogue, Biffy Clyro, Andrea Bocelli and Laura Marling, said he is convinced it is here to stay.
“I’D BE SHOCKED IF IT DOESN’T BECOME JUST PART OF THE STANDARD LEXICON OF WHAT WE DO”
“I think we need a couple of years for us all to work out where this is going and hopefully, businesses won’t lose too much money through that process,” he said. “Unfortunately, development in [the digital] sector tends to be slowed down and stymied by arguments and disagreement, and it would be nice if we can find a way of that not happening this time.
“But in long term… I’d be shocked if it doesn’t become just part of the standard lexicon of what we do.”
Germany-based Zart Agency launched Zart.tv in 2020, with the first hybrid livestreaming concert with AR content in the country. Wentzler said he had been left scratching his head at the reluctance of certain parties to embrace the fresh opportunities created.
“THERE’S A POTENTIAL REVENUE STREAM… AND PEOPLE ARE SHUTTING THEIR DOORS TO IT”
“What I think is a bit mind boggling about this whole conversation is there’s a potential new revenue stream… And people are shutting their doors to it,” he said.
“In five years, I would love to see labels really understanding the potential, especially with younger artists and up and coming hot artists.
“What I’m seeing right now in Germany – because of state funding – is that a lot of venues now have five, six cameras, all remote controlled. The house technicians are actually learning to do sound and do video at the same time. We’ve seen this a lot in jazz clubs in Germany, and they’re doing a lot of revenue – some that I’ve talked to have been doing six figures. I would love to see that business model being extrapolated on to bigger areas.”
Zapp’s artist roster includes Biffy Clyro, who played a behind-closed-doors global livestream show from Glasgow Barrowlands in 2020 to launch their A Celebration of Endings album. He spoke of the advantages offered by the format, particularly geographically.
“[There are] certain countries that you can’t tour because it’s too expensive to get to,” he said. “The streaming scenario is an opportunity to get the artist to be seen in those countries. You could put a bit of a spend behind it and maybe try and build it to then be able to afford to tour in the future.”
“IF IT’S A STANDALONE LIVESTREAM, COMPLETELY OUTSIDE OF ANY CAMPAIGN THAT’S GOING ON, IT’S REALLY DIFFICULT TO MARKET”
LiveNow’s most successful livestream to date was Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054 livestream, which saw more than five million people tuning in live, according to organisers. However, more generally, Tribulato advised a certain amount of education on livestream events was still required for consumers.
“I think everybody is still quite confused on what are they going to get when they buy a ticket for a livestream,” she said. “When they get a ticket, what do they get? Are they watching the show live? Are they watching a pre-recorded show? Can they watch it after 24 hours? Can they watch it forever? There’s still a lot of confusion. and a lot of marketing is spent on actually explaining what it is.”
Tribulato suggested it makes more sense to position livestreams as part of an artist’s wider promotional campaign, rather than a one-off concert.
“If it’s a standalone, completely outside of any campaign that’s going on, it’s really difficult to market,” she said. “So what we tend to do is ‘tentpole events’, as we call them: big events… in the campaign of the artist. So I think the main task is to find a way to incorporate the livestream in the cycle.”
Salmon countered that Driift had seen considerable success with The Smile’s groundbreaking trio of gigs in London in January, where each performance by the Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood side project was held in front of a seated audience of 1,200 and livestreamed in real time for a different timezone.
“I don’t think you can make a blanket rule that they don’t work in isolation,” he said. “Admittedly, it was with a couple of famous people from a very famous band, but it was the definition of ‘in isolation’, because it was a launch event, and the first time they’d ever done anything, and the first time anyone had ever heard any of the music.
“Now it’s slightly different, of course, because it’s an offshoot from Radiohead so you’ve got a ready made fan base. But it was phenomenally successful and vastly outperformed our expectations.”
“THE PANDEMIC ACCELERATED THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE SECTOR SO RAPIDLY”
Driift sold more than 85,000 tickets for Little Mix’s livestream from The O2 in London last month, which marked the final date on the group’s Confetti Tour.
“There’s loads of evidence that consumers want this stuff,” said Salmon. “There’s a convenience to it and there’s a geographical reach that you can achieve with with livestreams that you can never reach with physical shows, so there’s a demand for it.
“We were very fortunate that we were working in this vacuum of the pandemic, so we had this captive audience. But it accelerated the understanding of the sector so rapidly. It’s now a case of us as an industry catching up with that and working out how best to use it. Because, frankly, we’d be fucking mad not to find a solution for it going forward.”
Salmon also addressed discussions with performance rights organisations (PROs) over the livestream tariff, including the well-documented dispute with PRS for Music.
“One of the biggest realisations we had at the beginning of all of this was there was there was no precedent,” he said. “There was no licensing structure for this stuff, which was kind of remarkable in the fairly advanced industry we think we are, and so it’s been a challenge.
“The labels have a very vocal view. The publishers have a very vocal view. Artists, managers, songwriters and everybody in between have a very vocal view. Some PROs have been very robust in their negotiations, others have been a lot more understanding and open-minded. But generally speaking, we’ve got it to a fairly good place and I think we’re getting to a point now where [Driift] will be signing some licensing agreements with the PROs that don’t set a terrible precedent.”
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