Go back a few months, and every music industry professional would have agreed that the touring business was flourishing. In 2019 alone, the global touring industry saw some of its most profitable tours in history. 2020 looked no different, as the global touring business was geared up to push area tours that could have likely set gross earnings records such as BTS’ Map of the Soul Tour to Pearl Jam’s Gigaton tour. Even PwC mirrored this optimism in a report that noted that the touring business was set to see a compound annual growth rate of 3.3% heading into 2022, pushing the evaluation of touring beyond $31 billion.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The COVID-19 virus came and completely halted the touring global touring business. Within a matter of days, Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Presents, the corporate behemoths that dominate the concert industry, suspended all tour engagements in North America and across the globe in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the touring business is suffering its worst month since the 2008 global financial crisis. In the midst of this monumental shift is Fabrice Seargent, Managing Partner at BandsinTown, who runs the largest live event discovery platform that brings together a community of over 550,000 registered artists which serves over 55,000,000 plus fans globally. Fabrice has not only guided the company to move millions of tickets a year from the biggest arena to the local clubs across the world but has one of the largest pools of global data to identify macro and micro touring trends across the globe. It is this access to data which makes Fabrice Seargent one of the leading experts in the global touring business and its future post COVID-19. In an exclusive interview with Entrepreneur, we met with Sergeant virtually over Zoom to discuss the state of the global touring business amidst COVID-19, how Bansintown’s data will mitigate risk and maximize profit for both artists and promoters, and why the firm’s mission continues to focus on scaling independent artists.
Take us through the origins of BandsinTown and where you see the platform in today’s current music business ecosystem?
In terms of size, Bandsintown is the largest multi-sided marketplace where fans, artists, and venues meet. What makes our platform so different from the others out in the market is really how we nurture this ecosystem that exists between fans, artists, and venues. Consider the sides of fans. We have invested heavy resources to create a real personal experience with unique recommendations to each user to help in the discovery process of new acts to see live. Moreover, on the artist side, we have given artists the tools to create that one to one communication tool to talk to their fans. For instance, about two years ago we created a direct messaging tool within the artists side of the platform that allows acts from Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift to independent artists to touch their fans. These tools have allowed us as a platform to send over 500,000 people to ticketing links a day, which in a year we are driving over 150,000,000 ticket clicks every year. Out of these ticket clicks, we actually tricked the algorithm to drive about 50% of that traffic to those artists with less than 200,000 followers on the BandsinTown platform, to help them grow their fan base and help fans discover new emerging acts.
Data is becoming a bigger and bigger piece to successfully building a tour and mitigating the risk that happens when you go on the road. Can you give us some insight into how you believe data is being used and the types of trends Bandsintown is seeing in the broader market?
Data is a great compliment for any business decision, particularly in music as well. Here at Bandsintown, we are by far the largest aggregators of data for the live touring business in an agnostic manor. By that, I mean that we are not affiliated with anybody so we aren't pushing one particular promoter or ticketing outlet. Our fans buy tickets from everyone. It is also this huge amount of data that allows us to identify rising artists before anyone, including the labels and the streaming services. Many artists tour before their numbers on social or streaming become significant enough to be recognized, so we really put a lot of emphasis on nurturing those acts on our platform to help them scale quickly. Each of these artists can see all of their data through the BandsinTown for Artists platform, which is built to be a free tool to help them understand their own data and how to best use it to make their creative, touring, and marketing decisions. I think the most important piece of our data is our transparency around showing artists their local data points. Alot of the social media platforms aren’t giving these hyper localized data points to artists, and with so many tickets and artists being discovered on our platform daily, it is these hyper localized data points that can really help artists tour more effectively.
COVID19 has completely shut down the global touring business. What ways is Bandsintown adjusting its platform to help artists, many of whom are indie, cope with this new reality of not being able to go on the road?
As the shutdown took hold Bandsintown expanded its mission to become the global hub of live music streaming. In addition to having the most comprehensive listings of live music streams, we quickly added WATCH LIVE and other free tools to help artists promote their live streams and partnered with Twitch for fast-track monetization of those streams. We also launched the Bandsintown LIVE channel which has attracted more than a million unique viewers in its first three weeks to watch an eclectic mix of live streams from both emerging and established artists.
Many economists are now certain that an economic recession and possibly depression is upon us here in the US. What are your thoughts on how this downturn in the economy is going to impact the global touring business?
Our partners at major promotions companies and venues are smart and resilient. They will find a way forward. My concern is for independent promoters and venues that serve smaller artists. We must do all that we can to help them now as well as when the world opens for business again.
During our conversation, you mentioned that consolidation amongst promoters and venues was a trend you were seeing before this pandemic. Do you see greater M&A activity from the major players in music as the economic recession puts pressure on companies across the globe to remain afloat?
It's hard not to imagine that the pandemic will lead to more consolidation of promoters, venues, ticketing and other music companies.
In terms of a recovery plan for the global music business, where do you think the industry needs to focus its time and energy on to help the many venues, artists, promoters, and gig-workers get back to "normal"?
There is so much uncertainty about the future that I believe that artists, promoters and the entire industry are better served by focusing on now. What can we do to build our audience and our business now? I'm excited, for example, that some artists are pioneering a new intimate format with their live streams - part concert and part conversation - that creates a bond between artist and fan that even a concert can not.