Leadoff: Livestreaming Goes Hard (Ticket) As Some Join Forces With The Live Biz
– Helping Hand:
Japanese Breakfast performs May 14 during her debut ticketed livestream performance, which benefited her crew and more than 30 independent venues.
Ten Atoms president Ryan Matteson was chatting on the phone with Pabst Theater Group Chief Operating Officer Matt Beringer about their respective livestreaming efforts when he had an epiphany: He wanted to partner his management client Japanese Breakfast’s ticketed livestream concert with PTG’s Milwaukee venues and other partners.
“The lightbulb kind of went off and I was like, ‘You know what, we played sold-out shows with them, we’ve played sold-out shows with First Avenue, we played sold-out shows at Thalia Hall, all over the U.S. What if we gave a unique link to each of the promoters and whatever you guys sold you’d be a benefactor of those sales,’” Matteson said.
In the last few months countless artists have been sharing livestreaming performances (largely for free) as a way to cheer up fans stuck at home in quarantine while lifting their own spirits.
While the quality of some of the streams has been questionable – as described in this week’s guest post by Dave Grohl as “reducing today’s live music to unflattering little windows that look like doorbell security footage and sound like Neil Armstrong’s distorted transmissions from the moon” – artists and their teams have begun upping their games as livestreams evolve with better production, more interesting locations and new ways to monetize while now helping out venues, crews and others.
In-person events are beginning to return, including last week’s cover artist Travis McCready headlining TempleLive in Fort Smith, Ark., as the first socially distanced concert, along with drive-in concerts like Disco Donnie Presents’ “No Parking On The Dance Floor” series and Marc Rebillet’s drive-in concert tour. But most states (and countries) haven’t given the go-ahead for venues to reopen and it’s apparent that hard ticketed livestreaming will be necessary for many artists to make up for lost income.
But, of course, musicians aren’t the only ones hurting in the business as the COVID-19 shutdown has affected folks throughout the industry from touring crews to agencies to venue staff and beyond. With the endgame of getting back to live performances, some sectors of the business are using these livestreams to support the live ecosystem, partners they have always relied on.
Matteson and Beringer, for example, who previously worked together when Milwaukee native Matteson was the public relations director at the Pabst Theater, immediately started brainstorming about how to properly execute the Japanese Breakfast idea. They started calling other promoters they were close with, including First Avenue’s Sonia Grover in Minneapolis and Brent Heyl at Chicago’s Thalia Hall, with Matteson noting it was “important we reached out to people who had been there for us in the past.” After connecting with a handful of promoters, Ten Atoms brought in boutique booking agency Ground Control Touring to engage other venues.
Michelle Zauner, who records as Japanese Breakfast, previously announced her debut ticketed livestream concert on May 14 would benefit her band and crew to make up for the months of touring they had to cancel. Teaming with independent venues was a win-win as increased ticket sales further helped out her band and crew, while also “supporting venues that she wants to make sure succeed and thrive after this pandemic is over,” Matteson explained.
The COVID-19 shutdown has given the industry one of its biggest challenges yet: to keep putting on ticketed events while fans are prohibited from gathering arm in arm – but the live business has always been one of innovation, lifting up artists’ careers with creative strategies. New ideas continue to pop up and evolve as the industry navigates how to survive in the new normal while taking care of one another. After all, this is a relationship business.
“Managers, promoters, artists, all of us are learning about this in real time. … We’re all learning together and we’re all going to get through this together,” Matteson says.
With fans yearning for the connection of live shows, artists are making livestreams stand out as something special, rather than just another video to scroll past. Like Japanese Breakfast’s livestream, which was filmed at home and featured songs from her upcoming album, special covers and “some stripped down deep cuts.”
Tickets were priced at $20, with early bird tickets available for $12. The revenue share is key to this venue-artist partnership: 100% of proceeds from tickets purchased via Japanese Breakfast’s website went to her band and crew, while tickets by the venues were a 50/50 profit split, with half going to the venue.
The Pabst Theatre Group – which is a founding member of the National Independent Venues Association (NIVA) and includes The Pabst Theater, The Riverside Theater, Turner Hall Ballroom, The Back Room at Colectivo – promoted the Japanese Breakfast livestream concert as the first event in its new streaming series dubbed “#ReviveLiveMKE” to support artists and help keep the Milwaukee venues alive.
Pabst Theatre Group’s Beringer said the response from the public was “outstanding” so far.
“In addition to great engagement from local fans of Japanese Breakfast, we have seen a groundswell of support from those who view this as a way to provide a vote of confidence in both our future and that of the artists we host,” he said. “We are all searching for what the ‘curbside’ version of our business will be while our physical locations remain shuttered and while this is not the magic bullet, it’s comforting to see that we have such a strong community of fans who have our backs.”
During Japanese Breakfast’s livestream Zauner gave a shout out to the venues that partnered with her on the show.
“I really want to thank NIVA, the National Independent Venues Association,” she said. “There are over 30 independent venues that helped promote this show and supported this livestream event. We really appreciate them on the road. Indie venues are such a second home to us and we have been so generously supported by them. So many of the staff at independent venues have become like second families to us and they’re going through a really hard time as well.”
In a follow-up conversation after the show, Matteson said, “It was a huge success – just a few tickets shy of 1,600. Nearly 400 of those sales came via venue generated sales. Pabst Theater, First Avenue, White Eagle Hall, Thalia Hall, Cat’s Cradle, Paper Tiger and Audiotree with significant double digit sales each.”
Ten Atoms is continuing the model of teaming with venues to promote livestream concerts, with its next show booked with client (and Pollstar cover star) Whitney on June 4.
– Singing Out:
Booked by Fleming Artists, “Singing OUT” is billed as the first-ever virtual pride tour.
Fleming Artists is also working directly with venues to increase artists’ reach, booking performances focused on a particular market in partnership with Canadian marketing and ticketing company Side Door. “Singing OUT,” featuring Crys Matthews and Heather Mae is billed as the first-ever virtual pride tour with shows virtually booked in 15 cities including Club Passim in Cambridge, Mass.; Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill Music in Denver and Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Ga. Tickets are $20 per show.
“If you continue to play directly to [your own social media followers], you’ll wear them out,” Fleming Artists agent Lara Supan said during a recent Pollstar Live! digital session.
“We are finding ways to pair with venues to get their mailing lists available to the artists, and flip-flopping the responsibilities. The artists are putting on the show and the venues are promoting and getting people through the door.”
Colorado-based electronic jam band SunSquabi announced a livestream tour with 12 dates from June through late August with shows in different locations around the state including venues, recording studios and the members’ own homes as part of the “Live From Out There” series started by artist management company 11E1even Group’s Ben Baruch and Dave DiCianni. The concerts will feature an elevated experience, boasting full production with a multi-camera set-up. Ticketing is being handled by Tixr, with pricing set at $50 for access to each show, with separate tiers for added merch and other VIP packages.
“We’re basically looking to sell 1,000 tickets of this thing, then we can save our summer, which is really not that much,” SunSquabi manager Kyle Day says, noting that the band has previously sold 4,000 tickets in Colorado by co-headlining Red Rocks and selling out the Denver Fillmore on its own.
“We have a crew, sound people, light people, a tour manager, management, an agent … it’s a little family. It was cool to call them and say we’re doing this as a team and we’re going to deliver this,” he adds.
British folk artist Laura Marling just announced her own geo-blocked, multiple-camera, ticketed concert with a June 6 livestream show at London’s Union Chapel. Though the venue has a capacity of 850, Marling is selling far more tickets.
After putting 1,500 tickets on sale for North American fans only and selling out that allotment in days, Marling is selling another limited batch of tickets to only U.K. and European fans for a second performance the same day.
Even when more markets allow venues to reopen, selling livestreamed tickets to in-person events will continue to be valuable because some fans will still want the live experience but may not be willing to go out because of health concerns, and many buildings will not yet be permitted to operate at full capacity.
Case in point, Travis McCready’s May 18 concert, which saw TempleLive reduce its capacity from 1,100 to 229, but many more fans could take part in the event by purchasing tickets to the livestream for $12.
Additional reporting by Ryan Borba