Closing out day one of the Australian Music Week Conference was the “State of Play” panel where the past of the live industry was reflected on and the future of it was forecast.
The overarching theme of the panel’s discussion was around the adaptation and changes of touring business’ in the wave of technological innovation over the decades.
In light of the massive upheaval and change of the way we use technology to our advantage while touring, the panel also noted that with the exception of technology and data collection, this industry is more or less the same as it has been throughout the last century.
Tim Worton (ASM Global) illustrated just how far we have come, telling the panel that over the last two months, his company has been integrating and using facial recognition software at the gates of their events to detect banned punters.
So far, Worton reports there hasn’t been a single incident where the software has detected someone that needed the intervention of security. The assistance of this AI technology will ultimately facilitate the creation of safer, more enjoyable events for punters.
Speaking on the power of data collection, Michael Chugg (Chugg Entertainment) told the panel he’s put on shows that have sold out in 2.5 seconds due to database email marketing alone. Chugg attributed this level of success to knowing his audiences and building a profile through the data his company collects around its customers.
For artists, collecting a database of emails through every album or ticket sale is crucial from the get-go. Capturing your audience and creating that direct connection still an incredibly powerful tool before you hit the big leagues.
Not all technology has been successful in improving the touring landscape. Owen Orford (New World Artists) noted that technology at the grass roots level can sometimes slow processes instead of streamlining them, referring to Queensland’s ID scanners that Owen believes causes some punters to miss the first act of the night sometimes due to the queue up out the front of the venue.
Owen also said that one significant change he’s seen over time is that every party involved is trying to increase their share of the pie and are “squeezing artists’ margins” to achieve it. This is also being done through increasing booking fees and charging additional fees to deliver your ticket, even if you elect to print it at home with your own ink and toner.
Orford then proposed that there needs to be a disruptor that enters the market and only charges a $1.50 booking fee, pressuring other ticketing companies to follow suit.
Sahara Herald (Frontier Touring) also noted that she’s had to fight with ticketing companies extensively to get them to own what they’re charging on top of the ticket price rather than having the booking fees included in the advertised price.
It was discussed and agreed on by the entire panel that show counts are on the rise in this industry. However, it was noted by Orford that the industry is “going to have to tweak some things for it to be sustainable in the longer term”. This is due to the fact that, as Owen put it, “there are more revenue collectors than there are revenue creators”.
It was also touched upon that Live Nation have been buying management companies, keeping smaller promoters from working with acts because of contractual obligations. With Sahara noting that a large part of what promoters do is built on relationships, and this almost monopolistic buy up is hugely alarming.
One thing that has not changed though, according to Roger Field (Live Nation Australia), is that “you have to play live to build a following”, so in the age of technology and all its advances, nothing beats getting out into the world and making music when it comes to breaking as an artist.
Field noted that it is in all our interests to build the Asia Pacific market, as being able to offer international acts dates in multiple regions is more attractive when enticing them over to Australia.
Worton noted that ASM Global are currently building venues across the region so that there is infrastructure to support these developments. Ultimately, Field hopes that this will lead to “more content coming into this market”.
It was at this point that Chugg chimed in, stating that in order for bands to be successfully selling out venues in Asia, they need to have a radio hit in either the US or the UK, as Asia doesn’t follow the trends of Australia as closely as they follow American/European trends.
These trends include the rise of hip hop as according to Worton, as some of ASM Global’s biggest ticket sale numbers at the moment are the result of multi-market reaching hip hop acts.
When it comes to the rise of digital marketing to drive ticket sales, Chugg declared that promoters should “still do all the old school shit as well as the digital marketing” as a print or billboard ad are still just as valuable in todays world for getting the message out that an act is in town.
Chugg then expanded on this by stating that he places great importance on this multi-channel approach to marketing as his least favourite sentence to hear is when he tells someone he toured an act recently and that person says that they would have gone had they known the act was in the country.
Chugg said his company differentiates themselves from their competitors by continuing to promote their acts shows once they’ve sold out to build hype and allow the company to bring the artist back sooner. The strategy aims at not only creating further demand for more shows, but purposely wants to create a FOMO environment for current and potential fans who missed out the first time around.
Adding to the theme of technology changing the way the industry operates, Orford made a great point closing out the panels discussion that promoters can’t continue to cater to “just Caucasian audiences” and that the industry needs to make a bigger effort to put together line ups that encourage a diverse range of punters to attend.
With the rise of technology and platforms in other media landscapes such as Netflix’s ever growing offering of Asian, Mexican and Indian programs, more and more diverse stories are being told and shared in Australia. It’s now the time for the music industry to follow suit and reflect the diversity of our region in the shows we tour around the country.
You can pick up your tickets to the rest the conference and live shows that run until Sunday here.