Live events emerge from the pandemic, jump into an immersive future

One look at the crowded polo grounds at the recent Coachella Music and Arts Festival was enough to verify that live events are making a comeback after two years of pandemic cancellations, hiatuses and delays. Here, at the start of the traditional summer music festival season, fans are making it clear that they are ready for more live, in-person, but also perhaps less traditional experiences.

This hunger is already manifesting itself in the bank accounts of venue operators and the artists who perform there.

In February, concert promoter Live Nation announced record revenue in 2021, with “a record pipeline of concerts, ticket sales and advertising engagements for 2022,” President and CEO Michael Rapino wrote in the company’s results letter. “The two-year wait for artists and fans is over. Never have the tailwinds for our business been stronger, and I think this is just the beginning of what will be the most multi-year period. all-time strong for the live music industry.

MSG, which operates Madison Square Garden in New York, also posted strong quarterly results this spring, as attendance at the iconic venue’s professional sports teams returned to historic levels while revenue from corporate suites and television rights have increased.

“We are pleased with how quickly our business has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with our second quarter results reflecting continued strong demand for the Knicks and Rangers,” said President and CEO Andrew Lustgarten. . “We will look to build on this momentum throughout the year and remain confident in the value of owning iconic professional sports franchises.”

The thirst for live events is showing up in other sectors as well. The video game industry has exploded amid record merger/investment activity. Now, after two years of everything virtualized, the industry’s conferences, esports tournaments and pro leagues are rebounding in a big way, said Josh Swartz, CEO of player-focused talent management agency Loaded.

“There are a ton of pent-up requests to socialize in person,” Swartz said. “And we’re already seeing that (with) just a few live events happening (in the first quarter of) this year that have been extremely well-watched. That probably bodes well for live event operators in general.

Even a resolutely virtual company like Netflix

NFLX
commissioned in-person experiential events in Los Angeles with immersive theater troupe Secret Cinema creating experiences tied to hit shows Bridgerton and Esoteric.

the Esoteric The event took place in an old Victorian-style factory in South Los Angeles, transforming it into a steampunk recreation of the animated series inspired by characters from Riot Games’ League of Legends. Live performers in costume interacted with fans in dramatic sets of key scenes from the show, sending fans on scavenger hunts while handing out drinks and personalized merchandise.

The definition of “live event” also continues to evolve, as new types of cross-platform creators merge music, sound, images, video, live performers, props, and technologies such as projection and augmented reality.

Such immersive live experiences manifest frequently in the art world, where new generations of tech-savvy artists are creating new types of creative experiences that combine film, live theater, sculpture, and even art. ‘architecture.

One of the most successful marriages of technology, performance and art is the Lighthouse Immersive experiences built around the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo and Gustav Klimt.

After a hugely successful pre-pandemic run in Paris, the Immersive Van Gogh experience came to North America two years ago and has since sold 5 million tickets at around two dozen venues from Toronto to Los Angeles, from Houston in New York,” said Corey Ross, Co-Founder and Producer of Lighthouse. Yet another Lighthouse location is opening this week in San Antonio, Texas.

“Our art form brings traditional artwork to life to create a whole new way of experiencing art, suitable for 21st Sensitivities of the century,” Ross said. “Our creative team uses art as source material, much like a jazz musician might take a classic song and make it their own. Vincent van Gogh was a natural performer to feature first as his work is almost animated in itself, and we find that patrons return multiple times to see our programming.

The “breakthrough” experiences feature swirling iconic images projected onto walls, floors and ceilings with a rich mix of music, a end of century-“bar”, period merchandise store, etc.

“The public has been groomed for an experience like this over the past few years as the pandemic suffocated people and kept them indoors and isolated,” Ross said. “The beauty of our business model is that even at the height of the pandemic, people were confident they could experience our attractions safely, unlike a more traditional theater or cinema where you sit shoulder to shoulder with strangers. Our immersive shows showcase a cross section of art and technology and create something entirely new, an entertainment and artistic experience like no other.”

It’s an example of how the live event industry has found to survive and even thrive during pandemic restrictions, taking advantage of how fans are open to a much wider range of experiences. , said Vito Iaia, founding partner of Impact Museums, which manages several Lighthouse sites, and also develops other types of immersive experiences involving music, films and more.

“Coming out of the pandemic, the appetite for live events is higher than ever,” said Iaia, who spent eight years with Ticketmaster and Live Nation and was chief revenue officer for MLB’s Washington Nationals. . “I think you see a refinement in how fans consume live entertainment. One of the things we try to solve is the question ‘What are we going to do with the family this weekend?’ It’s still a bit of a black box for a lot of families.

That means many people are looking for more to do than just attend the same set of traditional live events, Iaia said. Increasingly, fans also want these new, immersive experiences to be more readily available, in an always-there way instead of, say, a concert tour every three years by a favorite artist.

“Five years ago, this kind of stuff practically didn’t exist,” Iaia said. “There were very few examples that you would define as properly immersive. Then what happened during the pandemic was a real sea change in the dynamics of live entertainment. I think what’s starting to be challenged now, with immersive blast like it is, is having that experience available to you pretty much whenever you want it live.

The shift in demand since the pandemic has been quite dramatic. Iaia cited third-party analysts who, prior to the pandemic, estimated a total addressable market for immersive live experiences between $1 billion and $2 billion. Now, these analysts’ TAM estimates are five times higher.

“With the massive hunger around the world for the increased consumption of live events, our role as a scale partner of captivating major shows like Immersive Van Gogh has never been more important,” said Iaia. “We work with top intellectual property holders and creative producers to scale experiences globally and ensure we reach the widest audience possible. Fans want to consume experiential content on their own schedule and on their own conditions when they participate in the experience. This is the future of live entertainment, and we believe we are at the vortex of this trend.

In the art world, creative minds are embracing the new tools for many kinds of temporary experiences at art fairs, galleries, museums, and beyond.

During this winter’s Frieze LA art fair, the Spring/Break Art Show satellite event has partnered with Skylight Studios to find “unusual exhibition venues,” including a 30,000 square foot. former factory in Culver City that hosted 50 immersive installations during Frieze weekend. Among the participants was Research group Alia Shawkat, who created new art live in a “workshop” alongside her childhood friend and artist Maria Gajardo.

Musician and cultural curator David Byrne promises ‘a whole new form of theatre’ as he opens his latest show, ‘Theatre of the Mind’, in New York’s York Street Yards from August 31.

And at the end of June in New York, photographer/agency owner Erica Simone and artist Lena Viddo stage natural intelligence as a satellite experience tied to the big NFT.NYC blockchain conference at the Waterline Square development. Previously, the duo staged other versions of their Wonder Fair Art experiences for three years at Art Basel Miami.

Simone triangulates the sensitivity of natural intelligence like “Web3 meets Burning Man meets climate change/sustainability.” The event, which runs June 20-23, will feature the work of 30-50 artists, as well as musicians, DJs, chefs and more.

Simone said she and Viddo hope to tap into a widespread desire to go out, have fun and experience unique events this summer.

“I think people are really into it,” Simone said. “I can really feel it. They’ve been locked up for two years. People are going crazy. A lot of people in my community aren’t necessarily artists. It’s just a whole new thing. And people are realizing it’s in fun and super exciting fact. They’re tech guys. You’d never think they’re the kind of men who put on nail polish and go to parties.

About Bernice D. Brewer

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