Original content provided by BDO Global.
Author: Peter Smithson.
Will the future of live entertainment include AR? VR? The Metaverse? Or will we see a full resurgence of enjoying events in person?
As lockdowns come to an end, live events are returning. However, things have changed during the pandemic.
Across the globe, event organisers and media companies are busy figuring out what the lessons learned mean for the future of live events.
Will participants, for example, prefer to continue enjoying live events in digital form once the ‘old fashioned’ analogue versions make a full comeback?
In early 2019, Marshmello’s virtual concert in Fortnite drew almost 10 million viewers. In 2020 and 2021, live music has become a regular feature in not only the shooting game’s extended online universe, sometimes referred to as an early-stage Metaverse, but many other computer games, including performances from some of the world’s biggest stars.
Many other virtual event platforms have seen rapid growth during the pandemic, as artists have turned to virtual concerts.
On the verge of exiting the worst of the COVID impact on live events, many event-goers seem like they will prefer to keep flossing (we are quietly confident that is a Fortnite thing) as part of their concert experience. 91% of people who watched a livestream event during the pandemic say they will continue to watch them even when in-person events return.
Virtual VIP, Baby
Virtual concerts and live events have some unique upsides that seem to appeal to viewers. For example, the format adds opportunities for engagement and interaction, not to mention add-on sales.
Billie Eilish provided an excellent example of what might be in store with a ticketed live streaming performance. Here, Eilish was complemented by augmented reality layers that changed between songs. Ticket holders could also visit a virtual merchandise shop and interact with one another in comments threads.
Virtual VIP experiences and increased interaction with the performance seems to be in demand. A survey of live music fans showed that 82% would be willing to pay for such perks and additional content.
While it is still early days, event companies are exploring many similar avenues, like giving the audience a say in stage lighting or set designs - or perhaps even voting on the musical content.
Investment in Upgrades
The changes to live events and the possibilities of mixing virtual and real in concerts and events have already led to investment and M&A deal activity.
Some of the activity is tied to consolidation and building out offerings. One example is curated platforms for online concerts and events. Here, as with the likes of Netflix and Disney+ for TV and film, your offering is only as strong as your content catalogue. One example is Live Nation Entertainment Inc. that in January acquired a majority stake in the livestreaming company Veeps Inc., which hosted close to 1,000 ticketed streaming shows in 2020. The deal also enables Live Nation to offer turnkey live streaming at various venues.
There is also a rapid growth in companies and start-ups exploring other add-ons to current formats, such as hyper-targeted ads, drone selfies, VR, and AR.
Prominent technology companies are also getting involved. For example Sony through its newly launched Sony Immersive Music Studios. One of its early projects has been an immersive 3D music video powered by the same Unreal Game Engine that Fortnite uses.
What About the Live Talent?
So, is the future of events all digital?
Short answer: no.
Slightly longer answer: We foresee a mix of real-life and mixed reality live experiences. The latter may apply to both fans at venues and those participating online. Live events will not be replaced but rather augmented.
Simultaneously, things will change for the artists.
Being able to virtually attend a live event in Brazil from anywhere in the world is great. And it opens the door wide open for artists to build global niches and find a much larger audience.
However, if there are no fans present at the event in Brazil, the experience for both artists and viewers will fall a bit flat – unless there is a lot of virtual content involved. This is great news for major stars like Dua Lipa, who sold 284,000 for a livestream, but things are a bit murkier for indie artists.
More platforms to support such artists are emerging, and we believe that the new mix of realities holds vast potential for smaller artists to gain a global reach.
The next five years looks likely to continue seeing analogue and digital experiences mix. Simultaneously, there will be a lot of M&A and investment as the industry finds out who will become the Facebook of live events – and who will be condemned to become the Myspace equivalents.
Another question will be if the future of live events will rely solely on Facebook-like platforms, or if there will be room for the smaller events organisers – and even events that are solely ‘analogue’?