After The Livestream Gold Rush: Acquisitions, Startups, Consumer Adoption Usher In New Era

Moment House
– Moment House
Moment House, with backing from Jimmy Iovine’s USC program and investors such as Scooter Braun, has hosted “moments” (not livestreams) by major artists including Justin Bieber’s New Year’s event as well as Canadian DJ Kaytranada (pictured).

The concept and execution of digital livestream or virtual concert was nothing new when the pandemic hit.

In fact, as far back as 1995, the Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf and then-owner of Irving Plaza Andrew Roseij launched the Macintosh New York Music Festival with 350 bands in 15 clubs for $75 a ticket, cybercast online, albeit with some technical hiccups. Since then, many concerts and major festivals have livestreamed performances, often for free. As technology and quality improved across the board, there has long been talk of capitalizing on an untapped digital at-home audience. 
However, specific to the concert industry and its agents, managers, artists and even promoters, nothing brought on the urgency quite like 2020.
“Whether you’re an artist or manager or agent, the second people started doing virtual shows, there was a new company every two hours that wanted to present it, or host it, or ticket it for you,” says WME head of electronic music Stephanie LaFera, who started her new role in March 2020 and had to adapt quickly, which meant forming a whole Virtual Appearances team, led by Nashville-based music agent Marissa Smith.
“They dug deep and did their research and had an amazing understanding of the platforms, the deal structures. That’s a service, to ensure our clients are getting the best deals. … Everyone is seeing there’s so much value in it.”
Going from largely putting up some cameras in an empty venue or bedroom for a livestream concert in March to WME client Dua Lipa’s high-production Studio 2054 December event – which drew 5 million paid views on the LiveNow platform – was no small feat, with artists, managers and agents largely having to either use existing relationships to put on their own virtual events or navigate a whole new world that is mostly removed from the traditional concert space.
Enter Veeps, co-founded by Good Charlotte twins Benji and Joel Madden, originally formed to provide VIP experiences. Started by artists with working knowledge and relationships within the touring industry and a platform that was developed before the pandemic hit, a major player quickly emerged. 
“Veeps has been an incredible partner for Liam and the success we’ve had during the four shows so far has been truly transformational,” says Steve Finan O’Connor, Head of Music at KIN Partners, which manages Liam Payne. “Livestreaming is here to stay for the music industry and we’ve enjoyed pioneering an approach with Liam that has seen hundreds of thousands of fans all over the world watch his shows on the Veeps platform and millions more engage with them via social media.”  
– Headliner
Headliner is another tech-heavy player in the livestream space, offering extremely low latency, streamlined merch and ticketing options, and presenting content that differs from standard concert formats, such as Duckwrth’s interactive performance.

That kind of response led to the Jan. 19 announcement that Live Nation was acquiring Veeps, after being mostly quiet in the livestream space in 2020. With the relationships and clout of Live Nation, Veeps surely continues its momentum into 2021 as one of the top concert-focused, ticketed livestream platforms.

 But, just like all promoters and venues not being a sure fit for everyone, the livestream space is no different, with non-ticketed options like Twitch Music (now backed by Amazon), which is popular with with artists from Sofi Tukker’s daily DJ sets to Phish frontman Trey Anastasio’s Beacon Theater residency, to no-fuss Facebook or Instagram live feeds, to BandsInTown’s latest subscription-based model, to high-production ticketed events like the ones put on by Driift (started by ATC Management’s Ric Salmon). 
“What I find the challenge really is with all these livestreams is the reliability of who you are dealing with,” says veteran booking agent Eva Alexiou-Reo, who runs FATA Booking and represents artists including Weathers, Transviolet, MC Lars, and Leon of Athens. “There’s a lot of people coming out of the woodwork that I’ve never heard of, and then at the end of the day you’re trying to find out if it makes sense to work with people you don’t know. As an agent, that’s something I feel is always a gamble on the live side of shows as well.”
Alexiou-Reo has had success with Veeps as well as the new BandsInTown subscription model, which she says has impressive quality and could likely work for artists of all sizes. 
“I’m kind of looking at these livestreams in the same way” as in-person events, she says, noting the need to vet a streamer’s pitch, such as whether there’s an artist guarantee, marketing plan or other promises. “There’s so many [streamers] right now. We’ve had some where the initial pitch was very heavy and super good, and then the outcome was terrible.”
But the entertainment industry is known for big bets and taking chances, as the successful innovators rise to the top as word of mouth spreads and new relationships are built.
Getting your foot in the door with some early industry support probably doesn’t hurt either. Such is the case with Moment House, whose founding team comes from the USC Jimmy Iovine & Dr. Dre Academy for the Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation and is backed by Silicon Valley investors and music industry players including Scooter Braun, Troy Carter and Jared Leto.  

– Abracadabra
The Twitch model continues to be a popular model for many artists, but leaves room for innovation, as is the case with Kaskade’s set at the Abracadabra New Year’s event, which was also a ticketed drive-in show co-promoted by Nederlander Concerts.
While the digital concert or livestream sector looks to get more tech savvy and produce the highest-quality content available, it’s a fine balance to strike between traditional event business deal structures and high-tech ecommerce.
“We’re not just another tech company building another tool for monetization,” says Moment House CEO Arjun Mehta, a recent grad from the USC program. “Moment House was formed prior to the pandemic, and started in 2019. We’re not approaching this with the mindset of, ‘How do we enable people to survive and build the bare minimum?’ It’s more of, ‘How do we craft a product experience so compelling it can thrive in a world that has concerts in it, too?’” 
Mehta says Moment House has put on about 100 “moments” – decidedly not “livestreams” –  since its formation, with high-profile artists such as Halsey, Danny Brown, Blackbear, YungBlud, and a New Year’s Stream with Braun client Justin Bieber. The back end is hosted largely Through AWS, or Amazon Web Services. 
Mehta says the concept is to package moment-exclusive merchandise, which can total as much as ticket sales in many cases, and provide a full experience for artist and fan.
“The way we’re educating the industry is, ‘Don’t think of it as a ticketed event, think of it as a 360 e-commerce experience that is anchored by a piece of live content,’” he says, adding that Moment House’s creative team is happy to brainstorm on specific projects for artists. “The word ‘livestream’ has a lot of baggage to it, or ‘virtual concert,’ which is even worse, because it’s suggesting inferiority to a physical show. COVID makes it feel like a substitute, but you’re not supposed to compare the two. It’s not a replacement at all.” The space is becoming more crowded, with everything from in-game Minecraft and Fortnite events becoming virtual concerts to Deadmau5 becoming Supreme Leader of his own “StreamVoodoo” platform. The goal now may be to not only build relationships and trust, but do it better and more creatively. 
“When we started thinking about what this could be, we asked what is the perfect digital event?” adds Headliner CEO Matthew Smolin, who has experience in the ticketing space and launched the Headliner platform in 2019. “They were events not bound by a stage, like us doing shows with Diplo in Big Sur, or a show with the Unreal Engine, or with Duckwrth, we had a whole moving set at a roller rink in LA, where he basically took a girl on a date there.” Smolin says the production was so high quality on Duckwrth’s event that fans thought they were being shown a pre-produced music video before the artist started interacting in real time during the choose-your-adventure type of experience.
Smolin says the platform offers best-in-class latency, creative direction with experienced music video producers and its own commerce network with seamless merch integration and the ability to use its own ticketing platform or integrate with Ticketmaster or DICE. Headliner shows have included major artists such as CAA client Melanie Martinez, who grossed just under $1 million on ticket sales around 30,000 on her Headliner event. The point is to do something different than the traditional recorded concert – and do it better.
“At some point concerts will come back and I’ll be the first one in the audience,” says the dedicated Deadhead and Phish phanatic. “I think drive-in shows are a Band-Aid, but if you create new content that’s not here to replace concerts, but here to create new experience for artists and their fans, and a way for artists to make more money than any show in the world but at the same time connect with their audience in a new way, create a brand new piece of content that for all intents and purposes has the same value as a music video, it’s a win-win-win for everybody.”
One thing most seem to agree with is that the livestream concert will exist in some fashion going forward – whether that is based on the traditional concert format or not.
“If you’re not thinking about a premium digital live experience for one of your artists, it’s almost like you’re behind,” Moment House’s Mehta says, adding that inbound calls have exploded since the Bieber New Year’s performance, which made a splash despite some technical hiccups from a third-party streaming service handling that standalone event. (He says Moment House will handle its own streaming going forward). 
It will often be a matter of putting your money where you mouth is and delivering on the promises.
“Seeing big names attached to platform does not sell me anymore,” Alexiou-Reo says. “Getting a payday is great and in the situation we’re in now, being a representative for an artist, you feel like you’re not able to provide any work or anything tangible. But an artist might do something one time and then get tagged to a site that does one event and it never happens again.”  

Veeps Live Nation
– Veeps Live Nation
during Liam Payne’s stream
While many artists and agents surely do view the livestream explosion as a primarily a stop-gap to get back to the physical, in-person stage, Live Nation’s acquisition coming in 2021 in the middle of COVID vaccine rollout and talk of shows coming back would seem to show confidence in the value.
“Today, livestreams, and ticketed livestreams at that, have earned themselves a permanent place on the touring calendar,” Veeps’ Joel Madden said of the Live Nation acquisition. “Now, artists have to figure out what that looks like for them, especially as in-person shows return.”