When lockdown hit the UK, the majority of music management and live agency businesses were plunged into a dire situation.
ATC represents more than 40 artists for whom gigs and festivals provide the cornerstone of their livelihoods. And while some were caught overseas and had to be rushed home (Laura Marling and Sleaford Mods were literally on the other side of the world) others were preparing to embark on an extensive year of shows. Plans have been ripped up, rewritten and ripped up again.
Consequently, the concept of a calendar for 2021 is already looking hugely congested, and of course we are all praying that venues and festivals will emerge intact from this crisis. Live music is a deeply engrained part of UK (and therefore, worldwide) culture and identity. It is imperative that it is protected.
But amidst this angst, there has been light. Promoters, agents, managers and artists have pulled together in a remarkable show of camaraderie. Through our trade body, the MMF, of whom I’m proud to be a board member, there’s been an incredible spirit of generosity with regular calls and online meet-ups to compare notes on insurance, on contracts, on funding and, more broadly, on survival.
And now also, on how we can focus on an even brighter future, for every single human working in the industry in a truly collaborative and inclusive way.
People are checking in on each other. In tough times, we must stand together.
Artists have reacted too, and the blossoming of live streaming, in particular, has been amazing. Whether it’s an innate urge to connect and perform, to fundraise for charity, or to salvage campaigns, we’ve seen an explosion of performances across a wide range of platforms. It’s been hugely inspiring.
However, in face of such uncertain times, we are determined to innovate and push forward by producing and promoting incredible paid-for livestreamed shows.
Partnering with digital ticketing platform DICE, YouTube and production company Pulse Films, the first of those events happened this past Saturday (June 6th) with Laura Marling playing London’s 800-capacity Union Chapel to an online audience of over 6000.
This clearly runs counter to traditional digital orthodoxies, where video content has historically been offered free-to-view. But these are extraordinary times.
By promoting scarcity, controlling capacity, and by the simple fact that if people don’t purchase a ticket they’ll never get to see the performance, our aim is to create an atmosphere of intimacy and exclusivity – just like a gig – which, combined with a multi-camera shoot in Ultra HD, will more than justify a £12, or £15, or £20 ticket price. As with any venture that breaks new ground, we’ll learn as we go along. But we certainly believe it’s economically viable.
This isn’t a replacement for the physical experience of live music. We don’t want it to be. But for the time being, it’s what we can do, and long term, it will prove to be a format that resonates for many years to come.
But it is a sign of hope, and shows that our artists will continue to find a way, even in the most difficult conditions. If we can establish a legitimate paid-for model, I believe it will not only help create a pathway back for live, but also become a complementary and additional source of revenue with significant creative opportunities. That’s exciting. And if we’re delivering on our part of the bargain, then we trust Government will show commitment to deliver on theirs.
Ric Salmon, ATC Director & MMF Board MemberBack to news