Jackson Ducasse – Lianne La Havas
Captured during her special, one-off solo show at the Roundhouse, July 12.
“In history, real innovation tends to come from turmoil,” said ATC Management director Ric Salmon, referring to the ongoing Covid crisis, which has immobilized the live events industry.
The professionals working in this sector are in no doubt that they will be the very last people allowed to reopen, which is why Salmon and ATC Management co-founder Brian Message came up with a solution to keep live going.
Their solution is called Driift, a company that produces and promotes ticketed live concerts in empty, and often spectacular, venues, which are captured by multiple cameras under the guidance of professional film directors, and broadcast online.
So far, Driift has realized concerts by Laura Marling, Nick Cave (both managed by ATC Management), Lianne La Havas and Dermot Kennedy.
Laura Marling performed two live gigs, one for a UK and one for a U.S. audience, selling 6,500 tickets, grossing more than $70,000.
“We were over the moon. It was a profitable show, everyone enjoyed the experience, the fans were blown away by it, Laura adored it,” Salmon recalled. “It felt like a new format from a creative perspective. It was very unique. Shooting a live show with all the energy and jeopardy that comes with it, but no audience, gives you a huge amount of freedom and flexibility both as a director/producer and as the performer.”
Joel Ryan – Laura Marling’s Union Chapel performance
Captured from multiple camera angles.
It’s the high-quality, almost cinematic production that makes these performances stand out from other livestreams. “We’re not a platform. We’re essentially a digital live promoter and producer. There’s a real complexity to these shows. It’s not clinical like a music video. Things can go wrong, the artists still get very nervous before they go on stage. There’s an energy that comes from that kind of performance, and the fact that it has to be done in one go, you can’t stop, cut, edit. It’s a very special energy,” Salmon explained.
Catching that energy without an audience creates a certain kind of magic, according to Salmon: “The end result is a very different experience for the viewer, because we’re not used to seeing that. The energy of a live show, but up close and personal, in a very direct way.”
Marling’s concert at Union Chapel or Nick Cave’s performance, alone with a piano in the vast West Hall of Alexandra Palace are case studies for what can be achieved with a film and production crew on site. Driift works with independent producers and contractors to give artists the creative freedom to work with the people they want.
Lianne La Havas’s July 15 solo performance at the Roundhouse was the first show with a non-ATC client, and one of the reasons it made sense to form a new company, called Driift. It was also Salmons first experience as a promoter. “When you’re a manager, of course, you have such an intrinsic understanding of an artist’s business, psyche and life. It’s quite interesting being a promoter, because you don’t really know all of that,” he explained.
Lianne La Havas ended up selling a few hundred tickets more than Marling. Nick Cave’s show did 36,000 tickets at $20, grossing $720,000.
Jennifer McCord – Dermot Kennedy performed at London’s Natural History Museum, July 30
More than 30,000 fans paid $13.50 for a ticket to watch the performance live.
The most recent show realized by Driift was Dermot Kennedy from the National History Museum in London, the first show with a full eleven-piece band, including rhythm section, strings and backing vocalists. “Huge crew, expensive production, we’ve just sold over 30,000 tickets for it. It’s going to gross approximately half-a-million dollars,” said Salmon.
It’s a substantial amount of money, and there’s the potential for meet and greets and a merchandise-shopping experience that isn’t possible in the physical realm. “Anything in the digital domain like this, there’s a lot more flexibility in what you can do, as it’s a direct-to-consumer transaction, unlike in the physical space, where more people involved tend to take a lot of cuts,” said Salmon.
The intention never was and still isn’t to replace the experience of going to a concert, according to Salmon. “We all want live music in its physical form to return. But we realized very quickly, that there was a huge demand for it, and that if done, produced and promoted in the right way, and delivered in such a way that it felt like it was giving value back to the visual medium, then it was establishing a new format.”
The livestreams Driift produces combine every aspect of the music industry, from live to digital marketing, ticketing, licensing, broadcasting, streaming and synchronization, so there’s royalty income involved as well. Salmon’s team is currently in talks with the UK’s collecting society PRS to find a tariff that fits the Driift model.
In the UK, promoters pay a 4.2% royalty rate for songwriters to PRS, taken from the gross ticket sales. Tariffs for streaming are 15% to 20% depending on the usage, Salmon explained, adding, “We feel that this is ultimately a live concert. The economics are based entirely on the live music industry. Revenues are generated by selling tickets, costs come out of the production of the show, artists and songwriters get paid. The difference, of course, is that the audience isn’t in the room. It means that the event needs to be broadcast live. At that point you’re setting a new precedent.”
Joel Ryan – No audience, but a beautiful view nonetheless
Laura Marling during her June 6 performance at Union Chapel, London, the first Driift production.
According to Salmon, PRS acknowledged that these types of shows sit in a new place. He’s hoping for a 6%-8% tariff, which would be more than a live concert pays, but less than a stream pays, because the economic model doesn’t allow for streaming, advertising, and broadcasting income. It’s just ticket income. “But,” Salmon added, “we like the idea that the songwriters can get paid more from it than they used to from the old-fashioned live industry. So, we’re encouraging that we should be paying more than the [4.2%] percent tariff.”
The rights of the audiovisual master post-concert lie with the artist or the label, depending on the deal. Driift takes what is essentially a promoter cut from the ticket sales, and, just like a traditional promoter, Driift is underwriting the costs for each show, which have all turned a profit so far. Driift secured “a very small amount of investment to get things started” from Beggars Group, which is also a stakeholder in the business.
Before the crisis hit, the live industry was booking talent as far as nine to 18 months in advance of show day, with a tendency to secure dates even earlier, in order to keep up with number of live events and artist demand. The time frames in Driift world are completely different, according to Salmon: “We do a deal in week one, we go on sale week two, show’s week four. It’s a three-week onsale period, and you may do the deal a week in advance, so it’s about a month in and out.”
He continued: “Most tickets are sold in the 48 hours leading up to the show. It’s a very different process to buying a normal concert ticket. There’s so many other things to think about in the physical world: can I get back from work, can I get a babysitter, can I get there, what’s the weather like? Yet, in this format, you can go, ‘oh, Coldplay are playing tonight. I’ll buy a ticket.’ It’s the same process as downloading a song or watching Netflix.”
One exciting option for the future would be to record band rehearsals. According to Salmon, “You could monetize the production rehearsal process. All big bands do weeks of production rehearsals with full area and stadium production before they go on the road. Imagine a time, where on the last day of production rehearsals, you do a live concert, monetize it, and then you go off on tour. You could do really cool stuff, fans get an insight into what’s going on at rehearsals, you could do behind-the-scenes stuff, and you might even find people buying regular gig ticket off the back of such an experience.”