How Andrea Bocelli’s Record-Setting Christmas Livestream Grossed $1.75M And Introduced An 8-Year-Old Star To The World

Andrea Bocelli and Virgina Bocelli
Luca Rossetti

A Star is Born: Andrea Bocelli and his daughter Virginia performing “Hallelujah” as part of the “Believe In Christmas Concert” at Italy’s Teatro Regio di Parma Opera House on Dec. 12.

Everything about Andrea Bocelli’s ticketed livestream “Believe In Christmas Concert” at Italy’s majestic Teatro Regio di Parma Opera House on Dec. 12 was pitch perfect: gorgeous production led by Franco Dragone (Cirque Du  Soleil), flawless stage direction by Giorgio Testi for Pulse Films; special guest appearances by Zucchero Fornaciari, Cecilia Bartoli and Clara Barbier Serrano; creative choreography and interplay between a full orchestra, chorus and dancers; successful promotion and livestreaming technology via UK-based platform Driift; a tie-in with Bocelli’s stunning new Decca/Universal album Believe; and, of course, the Italian tenor’s mellifluous voice, itself beyond compare; and, one more thing, an 8-year old girl who  stole the show. 

“I think it’s probably best if Virginia Bocceli completes her school courses first,” says Bocelli’s co-manager Scott Rodger of Maverick Management who laughs when asked if he plans to manage the Opera singer’s wunderkind daughter. Throughout the performance, this prodigy-like child acted as her father’s guide while her angelic voice soared on their heart-melting duet on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” “This is really the first time Virginia’s been in the spotlight,” Rodger says, “but she’s a natural.”

Perhaps the other the other unexpected star turn came in the form of the stunning Teatro Regio di Parma itself, built in 1829 and used to full effect. “They opened every single corner of the theater to us,” says Maverick’s Francesco Pasquero, Bocelli’s co-manager. “The Teatro Regio di Parma were wonderful. They welcomed us and opened it to us every single day. We used costumes and props from different operas previously produced there.  Dragone’s approach was to try to bring to the outside world what was hidden inside the theater during this crisis. The Teatro Regio di Parma has one of the most important Verdi programs in the world. Everybody there was amazing.”

Zucchero and Bocelli
Luca Rossetti

Zucchero and Andrea Bocelli perform at the Teatro Regio di Parma Opera House built in 1829 and which was used to full effect for the “Believe in Christmas” concert.

“We wanted to give our audience a different experience than they could have in person, ” Rodger adds, “so we tried to use the whole theater because there was no audience. We choreographed the show and had Virginia act as Andrea’s eyes essentially and lead him throughout the theater, which was something you couldn’t do at Madison Square Garden or the Hollywood Bowl or a traditional venue. We tried to create a bit of a narrative, but not go too deep, and take the audience on a journey for the hour and five minutes and give them a different experience.”

This was accomplished to great effect with different musical configurations, exquisite yet subtle production playing warm lighting off the gothic and darkened theater and utterly virtuosic performances. “The concept of the show was to have Andrea do something he’s never done before,” Roger says, “which was not the traditional, shall we say opera for the masses where he would do opera’s greatest hits and a few new original titles.” This included such non-traditional opera fare as “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “Amazing Grace” and even an unreleased track by the late-great Ennio Morricone who passed away this past summer.

“The concept behind Believe is based on three words: faith, hope and charity,” said Bocelli in a statement. “These are the three theological virtues of Christianity, yet – quite independently of any religious belief – they are also the three extraordinary keys to giving meaning and completeness to the lives of every one of us.”

Those who now believe, if they didn’t before, included some 70,000 fans from 120 countries who paid $25 each and generated an impressive gross of $1.75 million from the livestream. Organizers said Bocelli’s “Believe In Christmas,”  was the “most successful online ticketed classical event of all time.”  That said, this large-scale and rather opulent production had far slimmer margins than one might initially think.

“Most of it was eaten up with all 120 people working with us,” Rodger says citing the orchestra, the singers, film production, tech crew, production team, venue staff, dancers and others.  “It’s a really good thing to do because a lot of these people haven’t worked much this year. That felt really good actually trying to employ people not just for one night, we were in that building for several days building the production. We didn’t look at this as just a pure venture to make money, we could have done that. No production, stripped it way back, gone into more of a standard space and just done it to make money.”

What many people may not understand with livestreaming, as Rodger explains, are the associated costs can be exorbitant. “As soon as you stop playing, you have ASCAP, BMI, PRS and all the collection society fees,” he says. “You pay your Ticketmaster fees which were baked into twenty-five dollars and not an add on, you have to pay all your sales tax in every territory in the world where you sell a ticket in and the VAT in Europe. As soon as you start taking all these costs down, it’s like running a traditional show but the costs associated are absolutely astronomical.”

Rodger, who manages Sir Paul McCartney and Shania Twain (and formerly ran his own independent firm Quest Management for over two decades with clients that included Arcade Fire, Bjork, Lily Allen, La Roux and Mikky Ekko), knew he had to strike a deft balance in this burgeoning livestream medium that is still scaling between ticket price and expenses. While Bocelli is enormous across the globe, he’s not exactly BTS or Billie. “We had to get it to a point where we wanted to try and keep the ticket price low, but we didn’t want to lose money either. So it was trying to find that sweet spot. We were always hoping we would sell 40, 50 thousand tickets, but again you don’t know, there’s no guarantee and there’s no real science other than us doing our budget and  the numbers and trying not to lose money while trying to be fair with the audience.”

Francesco Pasquero and Scott Rodger.
(Courtesy Shore Fire)

Behind The Curtain: Maverick’s Francesco Pasquero and Scott Rodger at the Teatro Regio di Parma Opera House.

But the team also had a fantastic proof of concept, albeit a very different one, from last spring: Bocelli’s Easter “Concert For Hope” livestreamed on April 12 from Milan’s historic Duomo Cathedral was a massive success.  Though free and not-for-profit, the concert elicited 2.8 million concurrent views and then 28 million views within its firs 24 hours. It currently stands at 42 million views.

“This was done because the mayor of the city called Andrea to help to relieve some of the suffering the Italian population were going through at that moment,” Pasquero says . “Obviously no one got paid apart from the production costs which were partially covered by the record company and YouTube, which sponsored the event.

Andrea Bocelli
Luca Rossetti

Andrea Bocelli in front of Milan’s Duomo, where he performed an Easter “Concert For Hope” on April 12.

When asked to compare the two events, Pasquero mostly contrasts them. “It’s not really comparable because that one was a zero profit event,” he says. “This one was a commercial event and ticketed. The reactions, though, have been very similar in terms of feedback on the quality of the production that we were able to come up with. But to be quite honest, the Easter event was much more difficult because we could not  move during the performance or do location scouting. We could only be there with eight or nine people in total. Here we were one hundred and twenty with a big international production team between Driift, Pulse, the management company, orchestra, The Teatro, The only thing very similar is the quality in the results and the global approach, but not in terms of the of the financials.”

Another challenge in these socially distanced times is marketing to a global audience for a livestream event across far flung territories with different rates of connectivity and engagement. “Our biggest market is the U.S., which was one of the reasons we partnered with Ticketmaster,” says Rodger, who as a manager under the Maverick umbrella shares the ticketer’s parent company Live Nation. “Most, but not all our shows, tend to use Ticketmaster,  they often have contracts with the buildings, the Garden and so on and so forth, so it allowed us to target people who are fans who had come and see Andrea and those were people we wanted to market to. That was very successful. Ticketmaster however are not as present in every country, but we drew people there to try and make it as easy as possible. We wanted to make this not too complex and minimize the number of clicks people had to do in order to buy a ticket.”

Rogers says his team also marketed through social media, including Facebook and Instagram, and had promoters in every country Bocelli had physically played do mailouts. “It was really a grassroots marketing campaign to try and target people who we know are fans but who are still being educated in different territories.”

“Basically 40 percent was U.S., Pasquero adds. “The New York area was the biggest one. Then we got the East Coast and we did very good in the U.K., very good in South America, very good in Poland, very good in Germany, very good in Japan, Australia, and Singapore. It really was a big global event.”

With the pandemic, Rogers says, it was difficult to predict any market with certainty. “South America for Andrea is very big for a traditional live concert, which people may not necessarily expect,” he says. “In Brazil, for example, we’ll play soccer stadium. But again this is a medium people aren’t used to. it’s not like you can gauge it on ‘Well, we can sell out to Madison Square Garden. So we should sell thirty thousand tickets in New York.’ It just doesn’t work that way.”

Andrea Bocelli
Lucca Rossetti

Andrea Bocelli
When asked about the future of livestream market Rogers predicts there will be some major player entrants to the market. “I guarantee within three months YouTube will have a paying mechanism so they can do it directly; Live Nation has dedicated a team now; AEG have
dedicated a team, everybody is onboard now trying to build out their own platforms. Within three months there’s going to be so many players. Most of the small ones will shut down, you’ll be left with the big ones.”

For its livestream platform Team Bocelli went with Driift, a relatively new start-up co-founded by Ric Salmon and Brian Message with Charlie Sinclair as creative director, who have put on ticketed online events for Niall Horan, Nick Cave, Kylie Minogue, Laura Marling and Biffy Cyro among others. “I’d personally have a 20-plus year relationship with some of the key partners at Driift, Ric and Brian Message,” says Rodger. “When you work with people you know and trust they’re not going to let you down. So that was really important.”  Driift was borne out of ATC management whose clients include Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Santigold and Johnny Marr amongst others and Message also co-manages Radiohead along with Courtyard Management.

When asked his thoughts on how livestreaming will be used going forward, Rodger see a number of different scenarios. “imagine you’re playing Madison Square Garden and you think, well maybe we just do one show during that period and the last show of the year, its December 2021 and do we do an add on for that show. Maybe we do another five or ten thousand tickets? Maybe it wouldn’t be as big, but again maybe you can look at doing things like that. It’s something we’ve all discussed. Is there a hybrid model there that we can explore in the future? Maybe yes maybe no. I don’t think it’s going to be right for every artist.”
While management says there’s no immediate plans for another Bocelli livestream they do say something by next Easter or summer might be possible. “By that time,” Rodger says, “hopefully we will be doing shows with Andreas with a seated audience.”