In 2019, people spent more on live music than we’ve seen in decades, underlining the experiential value of live experiences- even as the capabilities of virtual reality continue to grow. This trend has been gaining momentum for quite a few years, and shows no signs of stopping in 2020. The 2018 PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2018-2022 report projected that the live concert industry’s revenue will reach $31 billion by 2022. $42 billion of that will presumably originate from ticket sales. But how does this growth specifically impact event businesses?
As corporate events continue to mix business with pleasure and become more festivalized, a new spotlight is cast on live music. In the past, music at events was all about corporatization, and generally speaking, the largest companies had access to the biggest stars and most popular performers. While that remains the case on some levels, there has been a shift in that dynamic between live music and the event industry. More and more, concert promoters are tapping into the local market by linking up with and purchasing smaller venues.
The result for events? You’ve got access to a whole new pool of performers and promoters that weren’t in your league before. (Read: “out of your league” translated to “corporate owned”, a dynamic that stifles a whole lot of creative, experiential, and overall industry growth). Here’s what you should know in 2020:
1. Unique, Alternate Venues Are in Vogue
More than ever, people use the web to discover new music talent and live shows. With the soaring popularity of livestreaming, just being active on social media can double or triple exposure to a wider range of artists. In this experiential market, artists and entertainers invest a significant amount of time and energy into cultivating their social media presence and building relationships with niche audiences. That means that indie artists are becoming more mainstreamed than ever- without losing authenticity and unique value to their loyal fans.
What does this mean for venues? Well, as fandom diversifies, so do the venues where people go to see music. And more local artists means more business for local establishments. Venues like cafes, theaters, clubs, studios, and warehouses, and corporate spaces are booking more artists than ever. In fact, one of the most notable trends in the 2020 event industry is a rise in unique, alternate venues that add aesthetic and personality to events. So don’t be afraid to take a risk and book at artist at a quirky venue that caters to your niche audience. This trend picked up speed in 2019, and is expected to gain momentum in 2020.
2. Top-of-the-Line Artists Are Within Your Reach
Bigger names are moving downmarket. Once upon a time, large concert promoters were primarily interested in even bigger, mass-produced markets. The most popular festivals and venues were the highest on their priority list. But this year, they’re beginning a slow downmarket descent that is very much to the advantage of event businesses who want to book top-notch talent. Now independent markets are more able than ever to book popular, coveted artists.
The most current research encourages event businesses to take bigger risks. Sometimes taking a risk means going off the corporatized grid and betting on an independent artists, and other times it means making a big splash with a big name. As we’ll talk more about soon, booking bigger and smaller artists means cultivating relationships with their followers and offering them something unique.
3. Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Gone are the days when bigger automatically meant better. In an experiential market, quality experiences that stand out and fulfill personalized needs are the most coveted. Millennials care less about big names and events than they do unique, memorable experiences. That’s why smaller, independent promoters and venues have more to offer event businesses than ever. They offer something more valuable than a huge budget: The opportunity to give attendees unique, on-brand experiences with character and innovation. Consumer interest is more focused on live music at events than ever- and more specifically, the culture and aesthetic of live music events.
For music to reflect a brand’s unique personality, it takes the kind of nuance and subtlety that headliners can’t always deliver. This is not to say that you shouldn’t take advantage of more affordable access to popular, top-of-the-line artists. It just means that doing that alone is not enough to refine and personalize your brand in a way that appeals to today’s culture-hungry consumers. Indie and local artists may not have the huge followings that headliners do, but their followings are just as substantial for two reasons: a) they’re loyal and committed and 2) they typically form a bigger emotional connection with their fans. With a more specific, on-brand audience, they’re able to make more personal connections and touch the lives of their fans in more authentic ways.
To cultivate the personality and culture of your brand through independent live music, you’ve got to bring people together. Give smaller and moderate-sized promoters and performers a chance to connect at venues that feel friendly and familiar to them. Brand loyalty can be cultivated across venues, promoters, performers, and niche audiences. Do some research to find a venue that is both beloved to your customers and marketable to promoters and performances. Chances are, there are multiple venues like this in your area. Finding a happy middle ground where multiple talents, markets, and niches can connect is key to building strong relationships with them.
4. Businesses are Creating Their Own Networking Opportunities
Choose a venue that can hold a large crowd, but also has plenty of places where smaller groups can branch off and talk intimately without distractions. When independents and smaller have the chance to get to know each other authentically, this lends itself to relationship-building. Why is relationship-building so vital to any experiential market? It’s easier to pull off a one time smash event than it is to incentivize promoters and talent to work your future events, too. Smaller to moderate talent is still majorly in demand. They may not be too inundated to notice or make time for you, but they’re still flooded with more requests than they can juggle.
That means you need to appeal to them in a way that stands out. Cultivating long-term relationships that have meaning and value to both of you has some important consequences: For the obvious one, they’ll be more likely to work with you in the future. For another thing, regularly featuring a local favorite artist at your events attracts their fans to you- and gives them a reason to be loyal to your brand. It also further personalizes and authenticates the essence of your brand, which should be something sacred.
The culture of your brand may have a lot in common with the culture of others, but it stands out as uniquely yours. The culture of a brand is a feeling created by the ways in which you relate to and personalize your events to fill customers’ needs and desires. It’s also a mood and energy you create with live experiences, and music performances are at the top of that list.
Many event businesses and marketers make the mistake of leaving attendees out of their networking agenda. While they’re creating relationships and opportunities for promoters and performers, they’re missing one crucial element: Consumer engagement. In today’s market, consumers want to feel like part of the same world as the artists they love; they look to events for a sense of belonging. The better their chances of interacting personally or even being in a live setting with artists and brands they love, the happier they are. And if your events start featuring performers they love, they’ll take major notice.
If you’re still on the fence about taking risks with smaller artists, take heart in the fact that live streaming effectively mainstreamed much of the independent sphere. Although their followings tend to be more niche-oriented than big headliners, which works to your advantage, they’re still big. “In most cases, “independent” no longer suggests obscurity. As we mentioned earlier, the pool of popular independent artists is bigger than ever.
So if you’re not sure quite where to start, look to your customer base. Building relationships and interacting with them across social media platforms and through personalized content gives you information about the music they love. So can demographic and psychographic data, which is collected over time. Besides, the bigger promoters can afford to buy a lot more of the artist’s time than singular events- so you’ve got that edge, too.
5. Corporate Events are Mixing Business with Pleasure
It’s no secret that the festivalization trend is taking the industry by storm and changing the way corporate events are done. One key incentive of corporate festivalization is to satisfy various needs and cater to various interests in one event. Corporate events are no longer singularly driven by professional development goals. Enter live music, which is high on the list of pleasure principles at live events. Music creatively inspires people to feel more connected to their work and each other. Who knew pleasure actually makes one more productive? Millennials have been tapping into that wisdom for years, and it’s fundamentally changing the corporate event industry.
Opening your corporate event with a concert performance sets the mood for the event to come. It also gives your brand substance and character, and creates a memorable experience that your attendees will permanently associate with you. If one quote could sum up the entire experiential market, it would be one of Maya Angelou’s most notable: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. Similarly, the feeling attendees take away from your event will last longer-and make a deeper impression- than what they actually learned. Live music is one of the most powerful ways to create an atmosphere and make an indelible impression.
It also creates a media buzz, publicity, and even generates press for corporate events that may have otherwise slipped under the radar. Even without the press, many events go viral simply because of a memorable performance. As we discussed above, the key is not always a big, headlining name. Sometimes it’s a local favorite that makes a unique impression on your specific niche audience. Live music should always be carefully chosen based on the expressed interests and culture of your niche audience. Keeping up with trends in their music consumption, such as livestreaming and even the way they prefer to buy tickets, can key instrumental.