The Big Bounceback: Entertainment

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Demand for Concerts Will Drive Comeback Even as Hybrid Experiences Remain

Now that more than half of U.S. adults are vaccinated, many music fans are excited to get out and see their favorite bands in person. 

Some 95% global customers surveyed by Live Nation said they would return to live shows when it’s possible. Additionally, 83% of fans globally have held on to tickets for cancelled events, signaling a desire for the show to go on — even if it’s delayed by a year or two. 

“The absence of live events this past year has generated a demand that is ever-increasing, and one that we will see play out over the next few years,” said Russell Wallach, Global President, Live Nation Media & Sponsorship.

In Barcelona and the UK, concert promoters are already running tests to see the impact of indoor concerts on the spread of COVID-19 among vaccinated volunteer attendees who have tested negative. In the meantime, many artists and events are planning their return for the end of summer or for fall. August’s Reading & Leeds festivals and September’s Bonnaroo Arts & Music Festival have sold out in record time.

We are on the verge of the next ‘Roaring Twenties’ and it’s about to get even louder with the return to live music,” said Wallach. “This pent-up demand presents unique opportunities for marketers to meet millions of live music fans during a landmark moment, and when emotions are running highest.” 

While some consumers cannot wait to go out, for others, the idea of cramming into a venue or experiencing the crowds of summer festivals makes them anxious. These mixed sentiments will likely create an audience for virtual and digital concerts – which developed robust followings during the pandemic – are likely to stick around.

“As we gear up for what is sure to be a blockbuster return to live music, digital and livestream experiences will continue to act as a close digital companion to concerts and festivals,” said Wallach.

To that end, Live Nation, one of the largest global ticket sellers, recently acquired a majority stake in Veeps, Joel and Benji Madden’s livestreaming company. As part of this deal, Live Nation plans to equip 60+ venues to offer livestreaming tools so that artists can offer access to global audiences in iconic venues.

Brands have long used physical events as activation points to engage consumers and this is likely to continue as consumers get back out there. 

“Experiential marketing and events are poised to rise again, and consumers are ready to step right in when it’s safe to do so, whether that be at festivals, concerts, and more,” said Azania Andrews, VP of Connections, Anheuser-Busch. “Our goal in all of our activations is to create memorable and meaningful experiences – that goal will be more important than ever now as people experience so many ‘firsts’ again – first concert, first visit to a ballpark, first time traveling. We hope to help make our country’s new normal – even better and more enjoyable for the people we interact with.”  

For Anheuser-Busch, live entertainment offers the brand a way to create fun and relevant programming for consumers. During lockdown, this evolved to include digital activations. Expect these to continue as people slowly reenter the world. “As we gear up for summer, we’re excited to kick it off with a feel-good livestream event, Reventón de Verano to celebrate Hispanic cultures, artists, and communities featuring some of the hottest entertainers and personalities in the industry like Maluma, Eva Longoria, Becky G, Myke Towers, and many more from the comfort and safety of their own homes,” said Andrews. 

In the end, whether it is a virtual VIP event or a selfie wall at a festival, it is about enhancing the consumer experience. “Everything we do is created with our customers in mind,” added Andrews. “For some, these experiences might be their first time interacting with our portfolio of brands and for others, we offer a welcome return. As we continue to listen to our customers and support the growth of each of our brands, these in-person moments are going to help accelerate not only our business but rally our internal teams and partners to create the rich experiences our fans have fallen in love with over the years.” 

The close connections that VIP virtual events and meet-and-greets have afforded music fans during lockdown have proven their unique value. Expect these kinds of digital experiences to continue even as in-person activations take off again.

Matt Ringel, EVP of Red Light Management, points out that the quarantine only accelerated digital trends that were happening already. “Digital can expand new possibilities for live events,” he said. “For instance, as we ease back into social proximity, we have seen in a number of programs with Verizon how ‘meet and greets’ may be done at a greater distance via screens.”

Andrew Hampp and Dianna Dilworth contributed to this story.

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