Red Light Management’s Bryan Frasher hosted The Digital Frontier: The New Live Experience during the 2021 International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA) three-day conference at Nashville’s Omni Hotel yesterday (Oct. 4).
Among the panelists present were Mary Kay Huse (Mandolin), Leigh Andrzejewski (UTA), Victoria Mason (Warner Music Nashville), and Matt Smolin (Hang). Together, the five discussed the importance, impact, and evolution of livestreaming as it pertains to the music industry.
Of the topics that were covered, some of the highlights include maximizing viewers and engagement, user experience necessities, monetization, and the future of livestreaming in terms of an artist’s career.
Andrzejewski noted that one of the best ways she’s found to increase engagement with her artist’s livestreams is to incorporate a virtual meet-and-greet feature. “We started to notice that all of the shows that had a meet-and-greet component would sell out. Instead of doing the meet-and-greet component after the show or on the same day as the show, we would do it multiple days before the show. That way people take the screenshots with the artists and post it on social media so that it starts getting virality prior to the show even happening. It’s free marketing for the artist on all social media platforms,” she explains.
Smolin added: “In general, for a free event you want it to be going out to as many platforms as possible, whether that’s a YouTube simulcast, Twitch, and whatever else… [Which platform does best with engagement] depends on the audience and how many subscribers they have, but I don’t see a world where you wouldn’t just want to push it to all of them because that’s more views.”
“Quality over quantity,” Huse summed. “We can get hundreds of thousands of views and impressions, but when you get down to it you need views and how long they’re staying on the platform… Our average watch time is 58 minutes, so we’re really focused on our quality as well as the quantity.”
“Find a hook. Find what makes it unique and special and market that aspect of it,” said Mason. “[You need to get] buy-in from the artist themselves. We can dump as much money as we want from a label perspective, but at the end of the day, an artist coming on to their social platforms and talking about why they’re jazzed about that stream is what really matters and that’s what moves the needle.”
User Experience Must-Haves:
“Music is such a specific industry, so when vetting and talking to [livestreaming] platforms, it’s crucial that some of the people who work on the platform’s team come from the music industry,” commented Andrzejewski. “[Also,] customer service is so key… With technology, we think it’s so simple, but it’s not simple when it’s a new product or when you’re in a pandemic and nobody’s done this before. Mandolin has a great customer service team that’s there around the clock for when any show happens so that the artist’s team doesn’t have to do it.”
Mason offered: “The platform’s who have come to the forefront have that level of customer service and do understand that it’s no longer this mad-dash to fill some void in the market. Instead, it’s become this holistic piece of the puzzle, piece of the artist development story, and this amazingly valuable tool that we can have in our arsenal to include in our marketing plan. It’s not a replacement or something that’s filling the gap in the artist development story. The user experience and making sure the fans are happy is so important to that.”
“What we found during the pandemic is that a lot of these venues aren’t hardwired to support livestreams. When an artist wants to bring a livestream on the road and add a virtual balcony to it, the venue then has to put buying or renting the cameras on the artist themselves.” Andrzejewski continued, “There’s a really easy fix for this venue-wise. You can either get OPS and run the cameras yourself or get a couple GoPros that you can move around the venue that take no lift or extra staff to do. Then you can hardwire your venue to support a livestreaming platform.
“That way your biggest sell as a venue is the production that’s in-house. Once you own that hardwire equipment, you can start wrapping in livestreaming into any show that comes to your venue,” she added. “Also, if you own the licensing for the content, you can start creating a video-on-demand database that can act like a vault for people to pay a subscription or a one-off ticket to re-watch the show.”
“A ticket range for livestreams can be anywhere from $5-$25, but when you add a meet-and-greet it’s a much wider range. We’ve seen someone sell out $300-$450 meet-and-greets in a matter of minutes, and we’ve also seen someone else not be able to sell $25 meet-and-greets,” Smolin offered. “Only about 10% of your fanbase is gonna buy a ticket, but there’s that 1% that loves your artist more than everybody else and is willing to pay a lot more to get that extra access. The meet-and-greet product is able to give them that.”
“To test markets, we took the ‘early-bird’ festival ticket pricing and started at a capped low ticket price. Once that sold out, you bump it up 10% and keep doing that until you start to see where the flatline for demand is. Then you start to understand that your ticket price should be between two points,” Andrzejewski explained. “It also drives demand. People see that there’s only 300 tickets at this price, so they need to buy right then.”
The Future Of Livestreaming:
Frasher said: “Nothing will take the place of the live experience… I feel like [livestreaming] will be an accessory to live events. It’ll be a piece of the revenue streams that an artist can try to tap into. It’s shown to be a viable business in addition to everything else, not in the place of.”
“Bands that have been livestreaming for years have used that as viable, consistent revenue. If you miss the live show, they put it behind a paywall and use that as archived content. That’s what UTA is now stepping into. We’re taking this extra content and putting it behind a Patreon or other paywall,” Andrzejewski shared. “[Livestream ticket buyers] are a different audience, but right now you aren’t servicing half of your audience. For someone who’s an avid concert-goer, they don’t want to miss a show. If they can pay for the video-on-demand, even if it’s days later, they’ll still watch it.
“I don’t think it’s going to go away. In fact, I think we’re going to start seeing more venues get hardwired, more live shows that have a virtual and live component, and more offering polling or features where if enough people virtually press a certain button it triggers an actual, in-venue reaction,” she added. “We’re going to start to see technology being developed that starts to service both crowds. The biggest leap that I’m most excited about is when the in-person and virtual audiences can start communicating with one another.”
“One of the number one values of livestreaming to me is the data collection,” Huse offered. “We have had managers come to us when thinking about a tour that are thinking about cities differently now that they see the data of where their livestream views are coming from. They have found markets that they didn’t know existed because of the data we’ve gotten from the livestreams.”
Mason added: “[Where a livestream fits into an album cycle] depends on the artist, but that is something we’ve started to talk about on the front end of setting up our marketing plans.” She continued, “One thought is making it connect to the final stop on a tour… The thought is can we have this tour-end extravaganza where we can hit every market that wasn’t touched by the tour?”
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