Building The Bridge Back To Live Events In Music
While the pandemic remains in full effect, entertainers and organizations are continuing to ramp up their efforts at safely bringing live events back to an eager populace thanks to a variety of new innovations.
Guest post by David Benjamin De Cristofaro
With the announcements of socially distanced music festivals and venues in the UK where a five stage road map is being rolled out to bring performing arts back safely. The global events industry has found itself in the early stages of a return following a timeframe in which fans have widely been engaging remotely from home. Cancellations and postponements of marquee experiences led many to wonder when it would be safe again to gather for their favorite event experiences while Major Festivals have primarily gone digital for the year while looking ahead to 2021.
In pivoting to live streaming and hybrid opportunities, organizers virtual editions have yielded continued fan engagement and even high revenues. Speakers, topics, and lineups have gone the way of online platforms. Artists like Muse are adapting via a mixed-reality virtual stadium experience coming this Fall the Stageverse app, a step further from the award-winning VR collaboration with Microsoft included as part of the enhanced fan experience on their Simulation Theory World Tour.
Event brands have also pivoted to virtual live stream, such as Porter Robinson’s Secret Sky which included Madeon and Anamanaguchi and was held on the back of last year’s successful Second Sky Bay area outing with Goldenvoice and Kyle Casey’s Gravity Productions. With these adjustments underway and changes ahead, what could a return to in-person live experiences look like?
Kevin Lyman, an original Stage Manager of Lollapalooza and founder of the Vans Warped Tour who has produced shows for more than thirty-seven years, recently brought his 360 Conversations event scheduled to take place at USC online as well for safety purposes. “It will be a slow process to bring live events back to the mass public” Lyman shares, “the possibility that many will never return will leave the door open for well-curated online events.”
Solutions for the return of live events include localized staffing, talent booking, and verified regional fan-residency within safe geographic radius’s as well as Biometric ID measures. AI in Crowd Monitoring, cashless transactions, bundled concessions, and tech solutions for reducing lines and crowd congestion can be instrumental in guiding and driving engagement across event spaces moving forward.
Themed entertainment parks re-opening with limited attendance, staggered parking, mobile food ordering, gate safety, temperature checks, face-masks, and social distance model relative and adaptable practices for live events. The focus is on progress without going “too far, too fast” according to Disney executive Bob Chapek.
These steps forward come at an important time in which an industry pivot has begun, seeing Drive-In venues experiencing a resurgence thanks to built-in spacing that facilitates safe social distancing. Just as streaming generated lineup Apps and protective wearables arrive, early adaptations have included a Rave in Germany, Hyundai sponsorship in South Korea, concert announcements by Live Nation in Denmark and the US as well as shows by Jim Gaffigan and even a surprise performance for medical workers by Keith Urban.
On the back of the success of these shows, other venues have popped up around the country such as Drive-In OC by Nederlander Concerts, as well as East Coast additions like the Basie Drive-in in New Jersey and Yarmouth Drive-In in New England. Even major facilities such as Yankee Stadium in New York City and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami are getting in on the action by converting to Drive-In spaces, as are event grounds like the New York State Fair.
As Artists and promoters aim to find creative ways to make their virtual and destination events immersive and experiential, the next step will be incorporating revenue opportunities like exclusive amenities, merch, and concession bundles thematically tailored to their uniqueness.
With a recession taking shape in which businesses are returning employing safety, capacity, and social distancing practices may be unfolding, some industries continued to operate throughout the year while others now return from a hiatus. For those in the live events industry, the recovery period will look very different than that of other business sectors.
Consumer culture has adapted crowd capacity-management practices during this period common to Live Events, such as those being employed by grocery and wholesale retailers. Solutions inside venues have long existed via box seats as well as in standard floor and seating layouts built-in for special events which organically facilitate safe distancing.
Similarly, virtual and hybrid events such as the popular TED series have been widespread in use among professional communities before COVID, and digital platforms offer established revenue models to lend towards our digital interim. With these usable tools at our disposal, what might help build the bridge back to live events?
With mergers and acquisitions of promoter and event brands appearing likely, as well as standardized “force majeure” contract provisions and insurance policy coverage for communicable diseases, this strategic timeframe will be crucial for companies looking to bounce back instead of simply surviving. Reduced attendance, more economically optimized lineups in the style of events like Desert Trip, changes for Artists in advance agreement guarantees and ticketing strategies that leverage exclusivity and increase in demand for live experiences in their absence, all point towards potential seismic shifts in Music’s live ecosystem.
With ample time for research and analysis at hand, strategies for reinvention and rebound will yield greater advantages in the short and long term than adaptation alone. Relying on data has created opportunities for new optimization and growth as municipalities and promoters have learned more about and from one another, identifying solutions and outlooks for venues and capacities.
Analysis of supply chains, geographic characteristics and social behaviors, low-liability genre demographics, and lower-risk areas can lend unique and strategic insights towards guiding improvements as well as a safe return. A preparatory approach such as this is being deployed in the UK and countries like Australia and Germany where simulations are being used via the Restart-19 program to return to events. Meanwhile in the US, tourism supported Las Vegas re-opened not long after shut down, aiming to address safety concerns while in operation.
The level of digital engagement and online activity during the pandemic has created a robust data source for fan behavior insights as well that could allow future events to be better optimized across the board. With experiences as Marketing forms and sales becoming more diversified in recent years, information, asset sets as well as value propositions have been redefined for more tailored partners and sponsorship.
As events have become platforms for content generation, immersive video distributed using media rights and licensing structure models could leverage competition between streaming services for new market and revenue opportunities. With a year to iron out any wrinkles, 2021 offers promising opportunities that utilize technology in a way that doesn’t undermine or de-prioritize live experience or commerce.
During a challenging year that could use the healing power of music and live experiences, performers and promoters are safely finding a way back to their audiences. As live events are returning, a pandemic storm is beginning to break, revealing hope on the horizon.