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May 23, 2020

Touring In The Digital Space

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but we all need to get musicians back in front of live audiences as soon as possible. However, that’s not going to happen today or tomorrow and it’s also not going to happen at some fixed point in the future, the route back to gatherings will doubtless be staged. Venues, promoters and countries will take different paths and the laws of finance will not be forgiving. So we had better think of something in the meantime.

A lot of people have been doing a lot of thinking, largely focussed on the digital space and how streaming can work. How zero revenue can be turned into some revenue. Perhaps even how that can be continued when live face to face shows return. There has been an awful lot of discussion surrounding the major platforms, the big players, the high rollers… as there should be and as you might expect. Though frankly, there has been little said on how the smaller venues and promoters could pivot into this space.

As an agency, we have high ambitions for all the artists we work with. We are always trying to increase show size, lift ticket price, increase our bottom line. Again, stating the bleeding obvious. Or is it? In fact, it is more complicated than that because some of the artists we work with “reside” in the arts centres and clubs on the UK touring scene. They make a decent living, they have been doing it for years – it is what they do. Similarly, the venues and promoters need them, it is a symbiotic relationship.

It follows that the venues and promoters who the artist normally play for, are going to have to enter the digital space in a way that keeps their brand. This means not doing Facebook, Twitch, StageIt etc. The venues and the promoters are going to have to do it themselves.

Within a month of lockdown I had an email from Hilary Booth and Ron Dukelow, for those of you that don’t know them, they run a roots club called The Live Room at Caroline Social Club in the Yorkshire town of Saltaire near Bradford. They wanted to book one of our acts for a real ticketed show, streamed from the artist’s home studio to their website theliveroom.info. The show being promoted to – and this is crucial – the club’s loyal mailing list built up over years of solid promotion. I jumped at it – my first solid booking during April!

Ron gave me a “guest” ticket to a show playing the following week – I logged in, the virtual curtains gave way to Ron’s front room, he introduced the artists – and then we were transported to the artists home in The Appalachian Mountains in The States – they played for half an hour, the screen split for a live 20-minute interview in both Yorkshire and The States, followed by another half hour of live music. The video of the show being made available to ticket holders for a week, in case they missed it.

What does this mean? Well, The club retains its branding – we can say our artist played there! The artist gets new followers since some of the audience came trusting the promoter’s brand. The audience was local, by dint of the promoter’s mailing list, but they could be geo-blocked and the ticket numbers could be limited. Think about it, if carefully managed we could book a virtual tour, we could do another show the next day in another virtual venue in another town!

The artist gets shows in the diary, and we all get paid.

Matt Bartlett May 2020

P.S. Please do check out Ron & Hilary’s website at The Live Room and if you want to find out about the unbranded technologies behind the work they are doing, Ron will be happy to discuss it with you, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch.

P.P.S. What do you think? Will there be a role for the smaller venues and promoters? I’d love to hear from you! – Thanks for reading.

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