Live From Out There Keeps Chugging With $250,000 Raised, Bill Withers Tribute
Courtesy of Live From Out There – Couch Tour Continues
Live From Out There has brought together artists for multiple weeks of appointment viewing on nugs.tv.
For the concert industry, March and April are synonymous with the start of festival season. Musicians, media and fans thaw out at South By Southwest in mid-March, and then properly begin the outdoor season at Coachella a month later.
The coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in the familiar calendar – but festivals haven’t totally disappeared.
Live From Out There, a six-weekend series broadcast on nugs.tv, has brought fresh jam and jam-adjacent music to the masses, along with an eclectic mix of other programming, while bringing in more than $250,000 for artists impacted by the loss of touring. The product is somewhere between serialized television variety show and the multifaceted festivals that until recently were spring fixtures.
11E1even Group owner Ben Baruch initially launched the series to benefit clients on his company’s roster, including Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Twiddle and Goose, who have all had multiple performances featured since Live From Out There launched March 20.
“Within hours of seeing and hearing that our tours were going to be canceled, it wasn’t 24 hours before I started thinking of new ways to make the artists revenue and started thinking of who we partner with and how do we get creative with this,” Baruch says. “To not only keep revenue coming in, but keep morale up and get music out there to the fans.”
The concept quickly blossomed, buoyed by a strong showing in its first weekend that topped $100,000. More than 2,000 fans bought six-week subscriptions for $50 a pop that first weekend, and a similar number shelled out for pay-per-view streams of specific sets.
“We wanted to test it with our own artists, and make sure the model would work,” Baruch says. “It made sense to test the waters with some of our acts that already do well on these platforms.”
Spurred by the encouraging results, Baruch then began to diversify, looking beyond 11E1even and bringing in outside artists like newgrass extraordinaire Billy Strings and jammy indie-rock outfit Real Estate.
“By no means is this a jam band festival,” he says. “I wanted to create a festival format for this and just keep building it.”
The vision, Baruch says, was to create something akin to “a television series that could last for six weeks, and program it with unique content.”
That unique content goes beyond new and archival performances by the billed musicians. 11E1even Group clients including Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Company) and Eric Krasno (Soulive, Lettuce) have offered masterclasses about their craft, and chef Matty Matheson was booked to teach viewers how to cook ribs. The varied offerings approximate the freewheeling spirit of a festival catering to fans with varied interests.
And importantly, like a physical festival, Live From Out There gives a platform to “smaller acts that might not be able to generate a ton of subscriptions or even one-time payments, just having them involved and getting the exposure,” says Baruch, explaining that a less prominent act might precede or follow a bigger one, in turn earning new fans.
Similarly, Live From Out There’s subscription model is a rising tide that lifts all boats. Once basic production costs are accounted for, proceeds are then funneled to the COVID-19 Fund established by the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, and the bands involved can determine what cut they wish to take and how to use it to pay their crews and cover other expenses. Many are leaving their cuts with Sweet Relief or directing it to other artists in more financial need.
“Even if one [artist] draws 1,000 streams and one draws 500, it’s all going to the same pot to help each other out,” Baruch says.
Even the more popular artists on Live From Out There’s bill are seeing massive bumps in streaming viewership, which Baruch says “is only going to help these bands when they get back into the space” of physical touring.
“Once we get back into being able to play live concerts again, they’ll be doing this more, because they’re seeing the benefits from it,” he says.
“Billy Strings, we had 7,500 people watching, which is insane,” says nugs.net founder Brad Serling, who oversees nugs.tv. “That’s a stellar number for any artist doing a pay-per-view, whether you’re Phish, Metallica, Dead or Billy Strings.It shows on one hand the demand, also the tentpole rallying effect that eventizing these things is having.”
This weekend, Live From Out There has its biggest event yet: a celebration of Bill Withers, who died April 3, featuring performances by Finneas, Nicki Bluhm, Marcus King, Son Little, Burbridge, Krasno and more.
“It’s already feeling like the new norm,” says Baruch of livestreaming. “Now, it’s just creating a buzz. And people are seeing, OK, this is really working.”