As Founder and CEO of GUION PARTNERS INC., a multi-tiered media consultancy firm, Lindsay Guion runs a business that inhabits the unique space between media, music, and technology. Lindsay’s extensive industry experience has provided him the opportunity to guide many well known and aspiring artists including Grammy award-winning musicians, to achieve unparalleled professional success. By fusing his creative expertise with his entrepreneurial abilities, Lindsay Guion has made a significant impact on the entertainment industry over his twenty-year tenure.
As someone whose own work and whose clienteles’ work has frequented festival circuits, we are interested in your take on what has happened to music and film festivals amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. What can festival organizers do to maintain their significance within the cultural calendar when we are all confined to our homes?
Social distancing is the new norm, so festivals are going to have to adapt to a shifting consumer landscape. Individuals who have already purchased tickets are actively looking towards the future, so a wait-out approach is unfortunately not ideal. Fans are looking for entertainment material while being quarantined, so I think it imperative that organizers take advantage of the wide range of virtual platforms currently at their disposal.
On top of re-positioning media to serve customers at-home, festivals are offering up new perks, such as special discount codes to those who hop onto event live streams early, or exclusive, behind the scenes material. This is the time for organizers to get creative with how they can make customers feel invested in their content and branding from a distance.
Is it possible for virtual shows to become profitable on a scale that is comparable with live events?
Past metrics have shown that the revenue derived from online events is usually not on par with the revenue from live events like festivals. In a dollar-for-dollar breakdown, using pay-per-view to watch a concert is significantly cheaper than purchasing a ticket to the actual event, which of course, has to do with production cost. Festivals will have to shift their expectations, and while it is less expensive to produce a stream than a festival, budgets and revenue projections will all have to be modified without sacrificing quality control.
A lot of physical events are based on tertiary effects like the sale of food, drinks and merchandise; how would an online festival supplant, or replace, such measures?
In some cases, like with food and drink, there is no direct equivalent. However, merchandise may prove to be more promising. Items that are produced especially for an online festival would have an exclusivity factor. After all, the given festival may only live online for a temporary period, which would only add to its merchandise’s rarity. Nonetheless, different business models will have to be considered with online festivals. Monetizing is always challenging for online services, and that includes events. However, one notable example of success in this area are prominent YouTubers who profit from ads and paid subscription services such as Patreon.
Where does advertising fit into the model of festivals in a post-coronavirus society?
With more people on their mobile phones, TVs, and computers, off-screen advertising will fall at the wayside in favor of commercials and product placement. It is wise that online festivals reinvest their in-person marketing dollars into digital strategies and online ads. Utilizing social media platforms is the most effective means to target an audience.
How can you make an online festival feel communal?
Just like with regular concerts, online concerts are not only about music. They represent an experience that is shared amongst fans. Especially given the reality that online festivals have to compensate for their lack of physicality, organizers are adding options where interaction is prioritized. A few examples of online interaction that I have personally seen include, engaging an audience with live chat boards and conducting a tour around an artist’s home or studio. For fans it is exciting to see another side of their favorite artist.
What are the existing models that individuals and companies can adopt in the online move of media?
On the music side of the equation, YouTube is probably the most used platform. “One World: Together at Home,” a concert series curated by Lady Gaga that received major press, utilized YouTube along with a host of others. Instagram Live stream has proved to be very popular as well, and I have seen Zoom used for events like Club Quarantine, which is based on seeing others dance and interact. Film festivals are creating their own screening platforms that support time-based events with ticketed screenings, as well as live Q&As.
Will festivals survive the pandemic?
Unfortunately, no one can quite predict that at this point and only time will tell. I am hopeful that they will and I know that individuals will be eager to participate when it is safe to do so, as festivals are very singular in the experience they provide.
I do believe that more virtual elements will be integrated into all festivals moving forward. In the meantime, for smaller festivals that are trying to stay afloat, there are grassroots funding initiatives available. For instance, the Seed&Spark Festival is providing a platform for content creators and is helping to raise funds for artists who are dependent on festival circuits to make their income. I look forward to seeing how the entertainment evolves as the result of social distancing measures.