Matt Heafy during Trivium’s “A Light Or A Distant Mirror” livestream event at Full Sail University in Orlando.
While it seems any band can put on a livestream right now, it takes a small army – and years of artist development – to pull off what Trivium did with its “A Light Or A Distant Mirror” ticketed stream, which sold just under 12,000 tickets and grossed $108,000 July 10.
“It’s crazy, it was a huge risk and we stood to lose a lot of money. We definitely spared no expense with this thing,” says Trivium
frontman Matt Heafy, 34, who joined the Orlando, Fla., band when he was barely a pre-teen before shortly becoming its lead guitarist and singer. “If we didn’t hit it correctly and let’s say it was only a couple hundred people who watched, in a time when no one is generating income [from touring], we would have taken a big hit. But our fans came through like always and showed our investment paid off.”
The show was conceptualized as a true event rather than the Zoom-type performance fans have become accustomed to in recent months, making use of a full broadcast production space at Full Sail University in Orlando, boosting production value through the roof and creating full-length pre- and post-show content hyping up fans.
“There’s a couple of reasons we did it,” says 5B Management’s Justin Arcangel (see page 26), who has watched the band grow up from actual kids into the worldwide touring force. “Obviously, our major summer album tour was canceled, we were going out on the Megadeth / Lamb of God / Trivium / In Flames tour that was looking to be very successful from a ticket-sales standpoint. We went through the process of investing in a whole new stage production – the look, feel, stage lights, the whole thing, then we had nothing.
“So we came up with the idea to present this new stage show and album in a way that was more than just a band performing in a rehearsal room. How do we do this in a big way?”
What may have simultaneously made the gig, which was hosted and streamed by the Maestro service, a slam dunk as well as a risky endeavor is Trivium’s long-standing embrace of tech and streaming.
“They’re sort of known as the streaming band,’ adds Arcangel, explaining that Heafy has been streaming daily on Twitch for a few years, and is an official representative of Twitch Music, streaming directly to fans while rehearsing, playing video games, doing covers and more for hours at a time.
“It’s turned into a lucrative side business for him, but most importantly he’s part of that culture,” Arcangel says, adding that the band’s other members are also streaming but newer to the game.
On top of that, the band has been streaming full shows live – all free –on Twitch for the last couple of years, with Heafy bringing a camera on tour that is then worn by a tech or crowd member during shows.
With a new album, What The Dead Men Say, dropping during the pandemic and a new stage show with full new production to offer, the question became whether to charge for tickets or get in front of as many eyeballs as possible via free stream.
“That was probably two months of deliberation,” Arcangel says. However, as production costs started mounting to match the scale and scope the band wanted to deliver, the decision became easier.
“The idea of making it a free steam where we had zero or limited income got pretty scary, so we flipped the switch,” Arcangel says. “We decided to make it a cheap ticket for people to come enjoy the experience with us, and we continued to invest more money on the production side of things and really spared no expense – we brought in some really amazing talented people that helped us work on the video behind the band, the people from the school and our crew and camera and erection there were probably 30 people involved.”
Heafy, who is heavily involved in the band’s business decisions as well as the creative side, said it was important to make sure fans felt they got their money’s worth, even for just a $10 livestream ticket.
“You can’t be charging for a Zoom chat, that’s my advice and where I draw the line for the fans,” he says. “That’s not me as Matt from Trivium but as a consumer of music as well. Not every band has access to the kind of location we were able to get, but you’ve got to be a little bit savvy, and make it something worthy of being paid for. I’ve been streaming for five days a week, there’s no paywall, it’s free, we’ve streamed every single show for the last two and a half or three years on Twitch, it’s free every single time, with a properly mixed audio from the soundboard.
“That’s why we really went to the full to make sure this thing was properly something that people wanted to be part of, to make an event, and make it worthy at a time when people are unemployed or furloughed or working from home while trying to watch their kids. If it’s a paid model it has to be worth it, has to be every bang for the buck.”
With bands and their management now finding themselves as nearly 360-degree event producers, Arcangel said the transition was natural – but still hectic.
“It was quite an experience,” he adds, noting that they had about two months from the announcement before the show to get the word out and pull off the event. “Our marketing plan was a combination of producing a television show and a concert and a merch drop and trying to educate the fans on what we were doing. Literally every day it was messaging and trying to convert our fan base into ticket buyers. It wasn’t easy. I think a lot of kids are used to getting anything they want on Twitch or YouTube for free so it felt a little daunting – how are we going to convert people and make the money back we invested in this thing?”
Like the hottest club shows, however, the walkup proved fruitful, covering the costs of the show and making the exclusive merchandise sold in conjunction with the event all profit.
“Slowly every day we saw the increase in ticket sales. People started understanding what we were doing,” Arcamgel says. “Within 24 hours of the stream, we went from maybe 3,500 tickets sold to up to just about 12,000 tickets right when the stream started, which was beyond what I anticipated.”
Thanks to Heafy and the band’s online presence, the sell was a lot easier than it might have been.
“I do believe that’s why our stream did so well,” Heafy says. “I’m sure there’s a lot of bands bigger than us who don’t stream and they’ll do better because they’re bigger. But as a middle-sized band, because we’re all so savvy in this and so plugged in to our network of fans, I guarantee at least 50-75% of the ticket sales were from people who at least watch my channel regularly.”
“Trivium has never been a band that’s been heralded by the press or other bands, so all we’ve ever really had are our fans and that’s why I initially wanted to give them another layer [with streaming].”
Twitch has been seen as largely a gamer’s platform and for the younger generations and, while Heafy himself is only 34 years old, he still stands out as among a very select group of prominent and dedicated Twitch streaming musicians. One doesn’t stream for hours without enjoying it, and he says the fans can tell if you’re not giving it your all.
“That’s the big thing and what I’ve been trying to teach a lot of other musicians – you have to love doing it because it does take a lot of effort, it takes a lot of time, it’s like building a band from the ground up,” says Heafy. “When I first started streaming it was like 10 to 15 people watching at a time. But anyone getting into it now is kind of being thrust into a time when a lot of people are at home, and conditioned to watching streaming.”
The direct-to-fan connection isn’t something artists can take for granted anymore, regardless of genre, and metal or hard rock is no different.
“You have to have that authenticity, you have to want to cultivate that community you’ve built as a band and have to love what you’re doing or I think it really shows. It is a lot of hours and something that keeps you accountable, and something I absolutely love,” Heafy says, adding that he’s happy to mentor any artists who want to start streaming on the platform.
“That’s why our live show did so well, because our fans really understand the livestream medium,” he says. “We’re going to see a lot more bands doing it, and it’s going to go well.”