Coronavirus poses an existential threat to the established economic model of the live entertainment industry
The economic and cultural carnage of the Coronavirus pandemic with concert and festival cancellations, venue shutdowns, furloughs at Artist agencies, Promoters / Producers, and event postponements until who-knows-when, marks a period of fundamental retrenchment for the live entertainment industry as currently configured.
The suspension of events and entertainments in the presence of an audience is not due to a change in the fundamental desire for a communal shared experience of cultural performance, rather it is because of the global health security and social welfare restrictions over safe public assembly and travel.
However, the lockdown has starkly revealed the fragile fiscal underpinning of the current economic model of the live entertainment industry (Artist > Promoter > Venue > Sponsor > Ticketing > Consumer) with its fundamental reliance upon the end-consumer to advance-fund the sector’s operations.
As previously noted (https://tjchambers.com/2020/04/03/refunds-cashflow-live-entertainment-ma/) the live industry has responded to the enforced shutdown and the cessation of its consumer-fuelled cashflow with the wholesale suspension of operations and layoffs to save on expenses, and for those larger scale corporations able to borrow, the taking on of new debt-financing:
Live Nation Announces Credit Agreement Amendment, Additional Revolving Credit Facility And Cost Reduction Program: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/live-nation-announces-credit-agreement-amendment-additional-revolving-credit-facility-and-cost-reduction-program-301039214.html
Endeavor Sets $260 Million Loan Amid Coronavirus Revenue Crisis: https://variety.com/2020/biz/news/endeavor-260-million-loan-ufc-wme-coronavirus-1234603358/
Eventbrite Announces Financing with Francisco Partners: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200511005832/en/
Live Nation Entertainment Announces Pricing And Upsize Of Private Senior Secured Notes Offering: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/live-nation-entertainment-announces-pricing-and-upsize-of-private-senior-secured-notes-offering-301058991.html
The key disadvantage of this form of financing i.e. borrowing against future earnings is that businesses are obligated to pay back, on a regular schedule, the principal borrowed with interest – in the case of the Live Nation 13th May offering which closed 20th May, $1.2Bn at 6.5% annual interest.
Normally companies would consider this type of financing when targeting growth or expansion opportunities (utilising the increased revenues, cost-savings and synergies of the acquisition to pay back the debt), so organisations already suffering from cash flow problems may have a more difficult time repaying the interest let alone the principal.
A company typically raises capital via the sale of equity (with dividend payments to the shareholders) and/or via the acquisition of debt (with interest payments to the creditors), with the sum of equity and debt financing referred to as the cost of capital.
In normal times a company would decide upon which new projects and operations where the return on investment generated a greater amount than the cost of capital deployed. If returns on its capital expenditure are below its cost of capital, then the firm is not generating positive earnings for its investors. In this case, the company may need to re-evaluate and re-balance its capital structure.
In the current circumstances with the urgent short-term need for increased financing – to assist in the refunding of cancelled events, maintenance of a reduced level of corporate management and operations, and the effective rescheduling of postponed events – has led to some negative market sentiment with several live entertainment stocks now being downgraded:
Disney downgraded in a grim appraisal of its coronavirus pain and future prospects: https://www.fastcompany.com/90500601/disney-downgraded-in-a-grim-appraisal-of-its-coronavirus-pain-and-future-prospects
Creative Artists Agency’s Debt Gets Downgraded: https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2020/05/04/creative-artists-agency-debt-gets-downgraded/
Endeavor’s Credit Rating Gets Downgraded on Live Events Exposure: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/endeavors-credit-rating-gets-downgraded-live-events-exposure-1290092
Live Nation Gets Credit Rating Downgrade at S&P Global: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/live-nation-gets-credit-rating-downgrade-at-s-p-global-1294438
Nothing published within this post constitutes a professional investment recommendation in any way whatsoever, nor should any content presented, or opinion expressed be relied upon for any investment activities. Readers are strongly urged to seek their own independent investment advice and/or speak with a qualified investment professional before taking any investment decision.
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into an extended period of no new events, with a massively restricted level of new entertainment media or associated leisure service revenues, e.g. advertising, sponsorship or ticketing, the pressure on highly leveraged event promotion companies, some now carrying billions in debt, will increase.
Aside from the freezing of executive pay, expenses and bonuses, ever-larger furloughs and layoffs, or the acquisition of yet more expensive debt, the immediate response of the live entertainment sector and their associated ticketing service platforms has been to utilise ‘Postponement-As-A-Strategy’.
Because the advance ticket revenues collected by the retail agencies and box offices have typically been transferred (as per their contractual commitments) to the inventory suppliers – many of whom have already spent the money on Artist deposits, production service retainers, venue hire, event marketing & advertising, and day-to-day business operational expenses – there may be little cash to refund to consumers.
Some organisations and their finance departments had calculated risk and exposure from advancing funds on a regular basis within the structure of an overall ticketing services agreement with associated promissory notes, formal Reps & Warranties, or inclusion within Event Cancellation Insurance policies, all formulated on a basic understanding of ‘containment’ as part of a fiscal ‘Domino Theory’.
But no-one had modelled for the immediate and complete cessation of all events, full stop.
Which is why many consumers now cannot get a refund for tickets purchased months ago for an event originally scheduled for this summer, but now postponed until 2021.
Or are requested to donate part, or all, of their ticket refund to the apparently deserving but struggling arts organisation or venue neatly ignoring the disappointed and cash-restricted consumers, a growing number of whom are unemployed (22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the last four weeks – https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/16/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus/index.html), and many of whom want their money back. Please.
In the last few days the growing consumer frustration over refunds for postponed events spilled out in two letters published by Billboard magazine – Reps. Pascrell and Porter: Ticketmaster Needs to Do More to Refund Fans – https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/9376746/pascrell-porter-letter-ticketmaster-refunds – with the immediate counterpoint industry response – Ticketmaster President: Reps. Pascrell & Porter Are Wrong, Company Has Processed More Than $600M in Refunds – https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/touring/9377374/ticketmaster-response-reps-pascrell-porter-refunds-letter.
Ticketmaster also posted the following graphic which claims to show that they were already providing the best customer service when compared to other U.S. sites, and stressed that more tickets would be refunded as soon as the clients returned their previously advanced monies.
In the UK the Competition and Markets Authority has launched a Taskforce (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-cma-taskforce) to scrutinise market developments, identify harmful sales and pricing practices as they emerge and take enforcement action if there is evidence firms may have breached competition or consumer protection law. The TicketingBusiness news site noted that 4-out-of-5 COVID-19 complaints related to cancellation and refund issues, albeit not just within live entertainment: UK watchdog sees 4 out 5 COVID-19-related complaints from cancellation and refund issues – https://www.theticketingbusiness.com/2020/04/30/uk-watchdog-sees-4-5-covid-19-related-complaints-cancellation-refund-issues/.
Additionally, there has also been a growing number of media reports relating to the practise by some retail ticket agencies, in particular Eventim, SeeTickets and ATGTickets, that where refunds are offered companies retain part or all of the ticket processing fees with the argument that those services have previously been provided and as an agent for the event Promoter / Producer they are entitled to claim back those expenses. (World’s second largest ticket seller Eventim holding back millions in refunds from canceled events during coronavirus crisis – https://www.marketwatch.com/story/worlds-second-largest-ticket-seller-eventim-holding-back-millions-in-refunds-from-canceled-events-during-coronavirus-crisis-2020-05-08 + See Tickets – event cancelled but not entitled to full refund – https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/discussion/2567989/see-tickets-event-cancelled-but-not-entitled-to-full-refund + Refund scandal could tarnish the reputation of the theatre industry – https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/refund-scandal-could-tarnish-reputation-theatre-industry).
Again, this partial-refund is a customer service not universally endorsed by ticket buyers.
Ctrl + Alt + Del: ‘Live’ is dead, long live ‘Live’
As previously discussed (https://tjchambers.com/2020/05/01/what-future-is-there-for-concerts-festivals-and-events/), for live entertainment to return, subject to local and national government regulations and timetable guidance, the live entertainment industry has to calculate operationally and logistically how it will reopen, assuming no vaccine is readily available: with the potential maintenance of some form of social-distancing; identity verification and personal temperature checks at event entrance; proof of immunity and/or on-site antibody testing; contactless-everything once admitted; and with organised queues to fill (at the bar) and then to empty (at the toilets).
Given that the initial return to live is likely to be piecemeal, downsized or small-scale, Artists may have to be convinced that they are ready and able to travel to the event, utilise whatever back stage facilities, dressing room, House PA, Lights and Backline is available, and then perform on whatever stage is accessible, all whilst maintaining a social-distance.
While this will not be too much of a culture shock for some, there is also considerable industry chatter (Producers overhaul contracts to minimise future lockdown losses – https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/news/coronavirus-producers-overhaul-contracts-to-minimise-future-lockdown-losses + Artist contracts renegotiated as Covid-19 reality bites – https://www.iq-mag.net/2020/05/offers-revised-down-post-covid-19-negotations-begin/) that some Promoter / Producers are already re-negotiating Artist fees with an expectation of shared risk, no guarantees and downward pressure on show settlements to reflect smaller (initial) audiences and increased risk and costs.
So, Artists willing and able to tour should expect smaller venues and reduced fees, with shorter Onsale periods for ticket sales, albeit with potentially increased focus on upgrade bundling (in an effort to maximise event ROI) and lots of communication in advance and onsite about health, hygiene and safety.
Assuming regulatory approval, the technical means to re-open, and a successful (re)negotiation with the talent, then the live industries have to convince its audiences that it is safe to re-engage with some form of mass marketing campaign (ATG announces “The Shows Will Go On” campaign across the UK – https://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/atg-stage-close-advertising-show-go-on_51204.html) aside from event specific messaging and onsite signage, to reinforce the safety-first aspects of the live experience.
Additionally, it also will also have to convince consumers to purchase tickets once-again in advance for events scheduled (not guaranteed) for the near-future, thus providing the live industry with the return of some form of positive cashflow.
The industry will also collectively have to consider what constitutes the live experience going forward. Does this period of shutdown enable new formats (and thus new stakeholders) incorporating live streaming and/or video-on-demand to develop a meaningful and monetizable audience?
Or as a temporary workaround will audiences relocate to the nearest drive-in: Is the future of live music a drive-in concert? – https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2020-05-01/drive-in-concerts-denmark-coronavirus + Drive-in concerts: A new normal for live? – https://www.iq-mag.net/2020/05/drive-in-concerts-a-new-normal-for-live/ + The world’s first drive-in raves are being held in Germany – https://mixmag.net/read/worlds-first-drive-in-rave-germany-news + ‘Save the summer’: event organisers working on drive-in summer festivals – https://www.brusselstimes.com/all-news/business/109739/save-the-summer-event-organisers-working-on-drive-in-summer-festivals/.
Alternatively, will the long-trumpeted arrival of AR / VR finally deliver a viable means to enable international artists (both the living and the glorious but previously departed) to ‘appear’ at local nightclubs and stages, or will the technical requirements for sophisticated A-V projected holograms and/or personal headsets reduce market penetration to domestic environments?
Arguably, it is with the livestreaming of events that offers the greatest potential disruptive fracture of the live industry as currently organised and how it might operate going forward.
You just can’t disrupt the live experience… or can you?
Attending live performances has never just been about seeing the artist play some songs, the actor recite some lines, or the sports star excel in their athleticism, but for the audience, fans and supporters, it’s also all the other value-add experiences that surround and encompass the event: the anticipation during the ticket purchase and then the journey to the venue; who you’re with; how close you are to the spectacle; the sweat-on-the-brow of the artist; the emotion of the audience; the stumble on stage, or pitch, and their recovery; the noise and the hush; the feeling that the single moment will last forever; and the sense of being part of something more. A collective, a tribe, inclusive and important, joyful, serious and life affirming.
But the technical ‘remoteness’ from the spectacle of the performance hasn’t hurt for example the adoption of eSports and gaming whom attract mass audiences both online and in-person for (virtual) events.
Arguably, just as streaming has replaced physical product as the main music revenue source (with 56% of recorded music revenues in 2019), the opportunity for live streaming to replace (in part) the live event will be powered by new operators, emerging technologies and alternate sources of capital for whom the ‘live experience’ may be only part of their audience-acquisition/audience-retention business development strategies.
Given the economic frailty of many of the leading live entertainment organisations, both large and small, saddled with debt and no recurring revenues, the sector may itself be ripe for reimagination and/or disruption from those with access to capital and for whom content merely aids market differentiation for their product range, with less concern over the marginal revenues related to event promotion.
‘Silicon Valley’ tech-giants and their Venture Capital / Private Equity funders prefer to move in on pre-existing sectors that support a hierarchical employment structure, with ‘archaic’ or restrictive practises and antiquated technologies, and offer an alternative, an ‘MVP’ initially seemingly inferior to the established product, but one that makes the consumer believe that the ‘service’ can be provided cheaper and in seemingly a more personally-bespoke manner (at a time, price and distribution channel apparently designed to first suit the consumer), and typically moving towards a ‘free’ price-point modifying historical patterns of supplier-user behaviour, in exchange for consumer data, and future revenue realignment.
No-one within the VC community will need convincing that the current live industry model is broken – no cashflow, huge debts, no suitable technology, endless unusable real estate requiring uneconomic social-distancing and hygienic retrofitting, and crucially doesn’t own any I.P. – and so for the next six-to-twelve months or more livestreaming, linear TV and webcasts offer a unique disruptive opportunity to re-invent the production of events and connection to an audience.
Until the lockdown the generally accepted economic reality was that the primary source of income for artists was via touring. But for the organisations centred around the promotion of concerts, theatrical shows or sports their business model had almost nothing to do with making money from the promotion of the event – as the artist / attraction / star typically retained the overwhelming majority of event-related ticketing receipts. Rather event promoters are more focussed on the incremental revenue opportunities derived from advertising, sponsorships, and various commissions related to F&B sales, car parking, merchandise, bundles & packages, and retrospective period-based discounts on production services and hall-rental etc.
Historically event promoters had overcome their capital-poor inadequacies or operational inefficiencies, by taking advantage of the advance ticket retail model of the consumer funding the sector, aided and abetted by the willingness of ticket agencies and box offices to forward revenues that should have been held in escrow on behalf of the consumer until event maturity.
The COVID-19 global shock to the live industry has fundamentally blown apart this business model and it now finds itself with ongoing infrastructure and real estate costs (venues, offices, equipment, and staff – not just the mega-million compensation packages of CEO’s but also the army of self-employed, freelancers, and zero-hours support workers). It is also unable to claim back costs via insurance (an industry represented by bigger & uglier lawyers than even the live industry can afford), or to recoup advances previously made to the talent, it also has to renegotiate contracts with various landlords and suppliers whilst scoping out new health and hygiene services. And all the while has massive consumer-side refund liabilities (morally if not legally).
All of which opens the live industry to potential disruption.
Is It Live, Or Is it Memorex? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorex)
With thousands of concerts, festivals and tours cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the various social networks and streaming platforms have become the go-to resource and distribution networks for Artists and Rights Owners to continue to perform for their fans, patrons and supporters.
When Michael Rapino announced in the Live Nation Q1 Results statement (7th May) (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/live-nation-entertainment-reports-first-quarter-2020-results-301055191.html) that the company was ‘well positioned to lead (the) live industry’, he also noted that ‘almost a million fans have come to our ‘Live From Home’ site to find virtual tours and acoustic performances from home.’
Without forensically analysing each and every stream (so apologies for the following generalisation) but other than providing an initial discovery and aggregation service for the various livestreams, the virtual destinations for these online performances were typically not venues owned or contracted to the promoter or the ticketing arm, nor was the live streaming technology an in-house solution, and many of the performers appealed directly to the viewer to donate to them, or fundraise for other worthy causes.
So, there was little direct gain for Live Nation, other than generating goodwill with its ongoing support for the Artists.
However, others were already busy.
Facebook announced plans (24th April) (Introducing Messenger Rooms – https://about.fb.com/news/2020/04/introducing-messenger-rooms/) to allow users (creators and small businesses) to charge for livestreams, recognising the growing ‘demand for real-time video’.
Facebook further stated that it would enable ‘more ways to connect when you’re apart’ whilst providing a way for musicians and other creators to monetize their events on the platform ‘anything from online performances to classes to professional conferences’ (Facebook announces paid-for livestreams, more tips – https://www.iq-mag.net/2020/04/facebook-announces-paidfor-livestreamed-shows/.
Spotify had also announced its own virtual tipping facility (Artist Fundraising Pick – https://artists.spotify.com/blog/introducing-artist-fundraising-pick), which enabled streaming listeners to donate via the Spotify artist’ profiles using PayPal, GoFundMe or Cash App (incurring a backlash from some for serial underpayment to Artists by the platform): ‘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.’
Then on 19th May Facebook announced the development of ‘Facebook Shops’ (Mark Zuckerberg announces Facebook Shops, making it easier for businesses to list products for sale – https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/19/zuckerberg-announces-facebook-shops-e-commerce-for-businesses.html ) a free service to enable businesses set up product listings on their Facebook page and Instagram profile. In the future, it would also allow businesses to sell products to customers through the chat features of WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct.
Amazon-owned Twitch has also reported huge upturns in interest in livestreaming over recent weeks, with MD Mike Olson stating ‘Twitch is helping thousands of independent artists get paid in a time when they are unable to perform live’, adding ‘we have a number of scaled monetisation tools for artists, including paid subscriptions’ (How livestreaming is taking its chance to shine – https://www.musicweek.com/digital/read/how-livestreaming-is-taking-its-chance-to-shine/079549).
Dan Chalmers MD YouTube Music EMEA, stated that ‘these types of virtual events and the responses we’ve seen will be here to stay. The numbers of some of the livestreams have been significant. It far outweighs any of the physical audiences in the clubs, plus you’re playing immediately to a global audience. It’s really exciting, for the talent and ourselves.’ (YouTube Music Europe director Dan Chalmers on the rise of livestreams – https://www.musicweek.com/digital/read/youtube-music-europe-director-dan-chalmers-on-the-rise-of-livestreams/079840).
Collaboration between Artists, technology platforms and media organizations has exploded since the pandemic, and it has quickly became apparent that livestreaming ‘virtually’ enables audience contact, engagement and retention whilst also providing the opportunity to fiscally support Artists, or Venue(s), for example MVT launched a #SaveOurVenues campaign (http://musicvenuetrust.com/2020/04/music-venue-trust-launches-saveourvenues-campaign/) which featured ‘at home’ performances by artists livestreamed in support of particular venues important to their careers.
Livestreaming has also supported those impacted by the Coronavirus, connect those feeling isolated and raise profile and funds for deserving charities, for example: ‘A Night Of Covenant House’ which featured Jon Bon Jovi, Dolly Parton, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman & Stephen Colbert in aid of the homelessness charity Covenant House – via Amazon Prime Video, Facebook, Twitch & YouTube.
Initially some of the livestreams were quaintly amateurish, with musicians prone to mistakes in presenting style and content (Lockdown launches a stream of live concerts – https://www.ft.com/content/c26e8bae-7e43-11ea-82f6-150830b3b99a) and many major artists quickly became co-opted within more homogenous (and mawkish) TV standard web-casts (One World: Together at Home — Stones steal the show while Gaga keeps it low-key – https://www.ft.com/content/2ae3415c-82fe-11ea-b872-8db45d5f6714) which simultaneously aired on ABC, CBS, and NBC with an edited version then available via the BBC.
It should however be noted that OneWorld raised approx. $127M for Coronavirus relief – so let’s not be too sniffy (One World: Together at Home concert raises $127m for coronavirus relief – https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/apr/20/one-world-together-at-home-concert-lady-gaga-raises-127m-coronavirus-relief).
Amongst the many, many other livestreamed offerings, the Royal Opera House announced #OurHousetoYourHouse (https://www.roh.org.uk/streaming) a free programme of curated online broadcasts via Facebook and YouTube.
The National Theatre announced a weekly series of free past-performances (https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/nt-at-home) via YouTube.
Radiohead announced their intention to stream concert films during the quarantine (https://consequenceofsound.net/2020/04/radiohead-concert-films-youtube/) again via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/radiohead.
Also as part of YouTube’s #StayHome #WithMe campaign, a two-part online series featuring all 41 songs from Eurovision 2020 artists, premiered exclusively on the Eurovision Song Contest’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/eurovision.
And Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark released ‘Live From Your Sofa’ an ‘online visual performance featuring never before seen footage of the whole of the band’s 2019’s Hammersmith Apollo London show’, again via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or02GYRDmCE.
MusicWeek reviewed the latter detailing various KPI’s revealing impressive viewership, engagement, charity donations, and virtual merchandise sales:
Last weekend saw over 30,000 OMD fans tune into YouTube to catch the airing of OMD: Live From Your Sofa, featuring an hour and a half of footage recorded from the band’s headline show at Eventim Hammersmith Apollo, in November 2019.
The band also offered a pre-show meet and greet where 800 fans queued for a live chat with Andy McCluskey, a virtual merchandise desk that took in 2,000 orders, and a charity raffle which auctioned off rare signed items and test pressings, raising a total of £6,000.
OMD, together with their manager and label chose charities to donate to, with Marie Curie, Reach (Newark) and Hotels Joining Hands (Cambodia) all set to benefit from the funds raised.
The show has now been viewed over 115,000 times
A trigger for this overall post was also the (always) excellent Tim Ingham, Founder of Music Business Worldwide (https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/) who wrote in Rolling Stone: Why the Music Business Should Be Looking Closely at Fortnite and Epic Games – https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/features/music-business-epic-games-fortnite-991211/ .
The article highlights the huge audience for video games / music crossover with the Fortnite in-game appearance of Travis Scott, whose ‘Astronomical’ virtual concert attracted over 27.7 million attendees.
The related post by Murray Staasen (Sony is building a team ‘dedicated to reimagining music through immersive media’ – using Fortnite maker Epic Games’ Unreal Engine – https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/sony-is-building-a-team-dedicated-to-reimagining-music-through-immersive-media-using-fortnite-maker-epic-games-unreal-engine/) with some specific job details outlined that some people at Sony were also thinking about what comes next.
Back to the livestreams …
Virgin EMI has also staged one of the biggest label livestream events since the lockdown:
The event was in support of Global Citizen and the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and lasted three days (April 3-5) featuring artists performing from across the roster.
Whilst Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli performed a solo Easter concert from an empty Duomo di Milano streamed live to millions of people around the world in coronavirus lockdown. (Update: “The Music for Hope” performance streamed via YouTube has now been watched more than 39 million times.)
Other ‘Disruption’ from within
The Coronavirus crisis has also led to a number of independent live industry start-ups and emerging operators develop new solutions or even pivoting their pre-existing business to support artists, labels and live music campaign groups, with D-I-Y bedroom-streams, multi-screen orchestras, and slick TV-style webcasts & VOD (Video-On-Demand).
Bandsintown, the ‘platform where artists and fans connect’ has partnered with MusiCares to help collect donations for their COVID-19 fund for Artists, whilst also launching ‘Bandsintown Live’, their own live music channel on Twitch, showcasing live stream sets from Artists across all genres to connect with their fans.
Dice the event discovery and ticketing platform announced (17th April) the launch of a new TV function aimed at personalising livestreaming for users. The aim is that ‘Dice TV’ will encompass concerts, festival appearances and DJ sets, ‘with fans able to buy tickets, make donations, invite and share events with other users’.
‘This is a crucial moment for the live industry to develop a sustainable ecosystem that helps creators and artists thrive’, said Co-Founder Phil Hutcheon. ‘This is just the start, we have a dedicated team on Dice TV and this will grow to be a long term solution for the industry.’ (Dice launches new TV function as focus shifts to livestreaming – https://www.musicweek.com/live/read/dice-launches-new-tv-function-as-focus-shifts-to-livestreaming/079504).
Festicket, the travel packages and ticketing solution, announced (19th May) a new platform – in partnership with YouTube and Vimeo – to enable music fans to watch and engage with artists direct from their home.
Festicket Live will host free and also ticketed live streams, with Marketing Director Luis Sousa stating ‘The past weeks and months have seen a dramatic shift to online streaming, with over 60% of our customers saying they had watched a live stream since the lockdown began. We see this trend continuing, and possibly even remaining once physical festivals and events begin to return.’
In conclusion, Artists, Agents, Promoters, Venues and Ticketing Companies will all face several lean years, assuming COVID-19 survival, following the effective shutdown of the $27Bn global live music industry.
In the absence of anything else, the recent livestreaming explosion has been a boon for music discovery and promotion, but until the Coronavirus pandemic the real money remained in the live (physical) performance.
Going forward Artists and other Rights Owners may see within livestreaming a potential to replace part of that dependency.
However, to do so livestreaming is going to have to move beyond the traditional linear event performance to incorporate Q&A with the lyricist explaining the art of song-writing, band rehearsals & soundchecks, acoustic versions of works, guitar roadies explaining the various tech set-ups, backstage preparation and dressing room banter; fans surveys for favourite songs to be performed etc.
And livestreaming can’t always remain a free exposure marketing tool, it has to be linked to virtual and eventually live event ticketing, merchandise, news, and regular interactions with fans and supporters. Perhaps live streaming can then be aligned to a subscription model as part of a fan club or D-2-C service, extending the overall event experience into something more?
At a time of collective dislocation, the (recorded) music industry and others (the social networks, mobile platforms and web channels) have quickly encouraged consumers to ‘watch’ live, as opposed to ‘experience’ live – because that is the best available at this time.
However, this transference also reflects the power and authority of the Rights Owners (Artists, Recorded Music & Publishing etc.) to quickly agree new monetisable relationships with the various tech distribution channels and media networks.
These ‘emergency’ partnerships and new partnerships are not reliant upon the historical live entertainment business, and without assuming that live concerts and touring will never re-establish itself, the model will undoubtedly be changed going forward.
Lastly, for (much) more information about livestreaming ‘The legal underbelly of livestreaming concerts’ by Cherie Hu is an immense guide available via Water & Music / Patreon – subscribe here: https://mailchi.mp/9ab07d2b7dc4/waterandmusic and please support her work.
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6 replies on “Clear and Present Danger”
[…] De T.J. Chambers sur son blog (en anglais) : https://tjchambers.com/2020/05/21/clear-and-present-danger/ […]
yes indeed, excellent piece, and little that I’d argue with
to what extent live-streaming will grow at the expense of the post-epidemic concert & music event market is an open q of course
my view – today – is if artists can make it into a form in its own right then it has legs; as long as it remains pathetic or just another take on TV and cinema then I don’t see it as much a threat to an old school gig or event; words I may well end up eating…
and I note my bugbear of many a younger acts’ idea of a live show being a few bods standing motionless in front of a giant video screen – watching my cat is a lot more entertaining – at which point the step from live to virtual ain’t a big one
I’d like to think that promoters can creatively produce live-streamed events and gigs, and that way the artist-manager-agent-promoter-ticketer part of the chain (at least) can stay relevant in the virtual world as well as the trad one; but does it look like that from the artists’ point of view?
Nick, thank you for your interest in the post and comments. Undoubtedly the enforced lockdown has led to many Artists and Rights Owners begin to explore the medium of livestreaming and other forms of connecting with their audiences. As restrictions on public assembly and travel will potentially exist for an extended period inevitably there will be greater levels of experimentation in content (Q&A w/ the Artist, or Rehearsals, Soundchecks as well as main Performance) and presentation potentially involving AR, VR etc. But that’s not to say that they wont continue to be a role for the live event and the excitement of being there.
Good stuff Tim. I think the industry has forgotten who all the advance money belongs to and hence many are in a situation where lawful refunds cannot be fulfilled or are being avoided at all costs and at all levels of the industry. Advance ticket moneys belong to the punter (excuse the term) up until a successful show is delivered for them on the day of the event and I think the whole industry should remember that. Thankfully we at TZ were holding all our customers monies in Client Ac’s or Escrows and as such we were able to immediately refund our own direct customers and just as quickly refund the major agents who we supply through our trade desk functions allowing them to refund their customers in turn. It’s a boring old model I know but at least it’s based on proper and fair principals for all involved …”it’s not our money”!!
If tested, in the UK, I don’t think the Consumer Credit Act would support many of the actions currently being tried out to stop customers getting their money back. It’s bordering on embarrassing to see the cap in hand attitude of so many sections of our industry and i’m not sure we should run businesses on such flimsy fiscal structures. Hopefully there will be some proper learnings coming out of this appalling situation which will allow the live ents business to re-trench in a much more stable and professional manner… or perhaps sadly we won’t learn a thing.
Domingo, thank you for the interest in the post and your comments. Within the live entertainment sector whilst everyone claims exemplary customer service, the business is a supply-side sector with commissions, incentives, rebates and services provided to inventory suppliers including the cashflow derived from ticketing revenues. However, now the music has stopped and many operators find they are unable to refund customers for cancelled or postponed events. The longer the lockdown continues, the bigger this issue will potentially become.
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