An all-star panel shared their thoughts on technology's role in the future of live music in an enlightening panel at the Music Week Tech Summit Together With O2.
The Next Generation Fan Engagement In Live Music session heard from Diid Osman, head of artist relations and venue partnerships at Peex; Sam Slee, senior sponsorship manager of O2 and Jackie Wilgar, Live Nation's SVP, head of marketing - international - UK/Europe/APAC/Emerging Markets.
“It’s a very interesting time to be involved in music and tech," Osman told a packed room at Indigo At The O2 in London on Tuesday afternoon. "Historically, music and fashion have been long-term bedfellows and music and tech is the one for today."
Wilgar discussed some of the challenges and opportunities facing the live sphere.
"One of the things that I think about when I look at engagement or tech, is how can we fix problems like ensuring people never tell us, 'I didn't even know that show was happening?'," she said.
"But the opportunity of live just continues to grow. I see consumers and fan wanting to go to live experiences, not just in their own countries, but more and more in different places around the world. I see them wanting to be connected with it and experiencing it through technology - and taking technology to be a way that can really enhance their experience."
On the subject of data, AEG's Funnell said: "Historically, our understanding of the fans has always been based on the ticket purchaser... but obviously that only gives you a small picture of who's actually coming to the venue. So you're trying to grapple with who else is actually attending with events here at The O2 and being able to communicate with them directly in a targeted way. It offers huge opportunities for us."
Wilgar trumpeted the impact of data on the touring business, with BTS providing a perfect example.
"When we first started talking about BTS in the US, the gut feel was, 'not so sure'," she said. "But when we looked at the social listening, it was blowing up. So the data gives us that ability to complement some of those gaps."
"We're just putting our toe in the water on that right now," added UTA's Kessler. "The majority of [touring] is still pretty much done by some odd combination of bands' desires, market demand and availability.
"We're just now starting to understand that we certainly can surface quite easily geographically where particular concentrations of fans reside and direct touring schedules toward locations. What gets more interesting, is when you cross reference that locational data with other things like, for instance, the signals that are coming off of social media, like weather data, which is highly underrated in the live space.
"At the end of the day, the data conversation is really all about the more you have, the more accurate it can be, the more different sources you have that you can integrate into a singular platform, the more likely it is that that data is going to be able to answer the kinds of questions with greater accuracy than you might think. On the location and touring space, though, we're just now starting to really understand the power of that as a vehicle to maximise both the fan experience on the output for our artists."
5G will allow us to have access to, share and send a lot more content in real time
O2's Slee pointed to the potential of 5G technology.
"5G will allow us to have access to, share and send a lot more content in real time," he said. "The immediate thing springs to mind is just capturing images and sharing images. But there is a variety of opportunities beyond that and content that perhaps hasn't even been created yet that can be captured at gigs and distributed, however possible.
"The other opportunity is in data processing. The better connectivity would just allow the data - and there's going to be more of it - to be processed a lot quicker. That allows us as a brand, or venues or rights holders, to provide better, more informed services in more real time.
"The challenge is really, that it's all still a bit unknown - 5G is very new. There isn't obviously huge adoption at the moment. It's exciting to see where it goes, but it's certainly still a little bit unknown."
The panel also expressed scepticism about the widespread adoption of virtual reality in live music.
"If someone had asked me a couple of years ago, I think I would have thought it would have taken off more than we maybe have seen." said Wilgar. "We've actually been a little bit surprised that we haven't seen a bigger movement in that virtual reality space. And we've definitely had some fun with it. We play with it, but we haven't seen it become this huge demand yet.
"We've seen, certainly in some of our Asian markets, a little bit more of a spike in the virtual reality interest and viewership. But even then, we're not seeing them sitting there and being involved for two to three hours, the way you would be in the true live experience. So is there a future? Maybe in some role, is it going to take away or change the world? No, I don't think so. People are still looking for something that I can sit beside you and experience together."
"There are still quite a few barriers to it," added Slee. "The headsets are expensive, they're pretty uncouth and they cost a lot of money,. They probably cost more than actually buying a ticket to a gig."