THE LOOKOUT is a weekly spotlight on key stories impacting the events industry and news you may have missed in the flurry of smartphone notifications or during some well-deserved downtime away from yet another Zoom meeting.
LOOKBACK – What went down this week
CUSP Agency Launches a New Mixed Reality Experience, Taking Virtual Events to the Next Level
It’s been a few months now since we’ve been “tuning into” virtual festivals and concerts from our computers, smartphones and TV flatscreens. That’s given content creators some time to really up their game.
CUSP Agency led by Gopi Sangha produced a fun and engaging mixed reality concert Thursday night, May 14, out of a studio in Hollywood, complete green screens, multiple cameras, VJ talent, and amazing visuals, and a socially-distanced, masked production crew. Featuring DJs ETC. ETC., Henry Fong and JSTR, the DJs/producers’ creative teams tapped visuals originally created for IRL performances scheduled for the spring and summer tours, the whole production went off in a larger-than-life way, much to the delight of fans watching and dancing from home.
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Everyone has been so collaborative and well intentioned to get this figured out. We’ve been hustling to put together a broadcast dream team and the best technology partners in existence to put performers back on stage, this time streamed in interactive virtual environments. Follow our journey as we start to find the boundaries of music based cinematic experiences: @liveatstadio — We’re live with @jstjr Thursday and have some more fun stuff quickly in tow 🙏🏾 rsvp links in bio
For Gopi, the aim was to deliver a visually engaging experience for audiences. “The generic, playing from home kind of show wasn’t going to cut it,” he told me after I set up our mobile WiFi units for the crew. ECT. ETC. kicked the night off and joked with the distance watchers as if they were crowded up to the DJ stage, “I see a few of you in the front not wearing masks,” faking a call to security while giving props to the kids throwing down in the club.
Events Insighter will be bringing you a more in-depth look into how this production came together and CUSP’s plans for more virtual events coming in the near future.
Glitterbox & Defected Records Makes Fridays Fabulous
For the second weekend in a row, I was able to wake up (California time) to the happiest of deep house tunes, hosted by Glitterbox and livestreaming on YouTube straight from the lovely abodes of DJs from around the world, Ibiza to Manchester, Los Angeles to Tokyo. Nightmares on Wax started things off with plenty of bass funk via Disco Weapon 2, and later down the line DJ Paulette bounced big love tunes from her “stay@home” studio in Manchester. If this is your jam check out the replay here and follow Defected Records on all the socials for the virtual party jam.
Insomniac TV’s EDC Las Vegas #VirtualRaveAThon Benefits Rave Recovery and Place of War
“Looking out for one another and giving back have been cornerstones of rave culture since people first set foot on the dance floor. With so many experiencing hardships brought on by COVID-19, those principles are more important than ever.” –Insomniac TV
This past weekend Insomniac TV produced a three-day star-studded virtual party streaming on YouTube, Littlstar, and Instagram, and filmed at the kind of production studio with high-end visuals one would expect Pasqual to deliver. Featuring those that would typically stand atop huge stages, including TokiMonsta, Duke Dumont, Z-Trip, Flosstradamus, Claude Vonstroke, Afro Jack, and 12th Planet (with the handy assistant, Disinfecto, thoroughly cleaning the decks between sets), the rave-a-thon encouraged fans to give back via donations or purchasing limited-edition merchandise with proceeds going to Rave Recovery, which “was created to support fans within our dance music community who need assistance” with funds being administered by In Place of War, a 501(c)(3), in partnership with Insomniac Cares.
DJ Jazzy Jeff Breaks the Groundhog Day Monotony
DJ Jazzy Jeff rallied his fellow music spinners DJ Clark Kent, Neil Armstrong, and DJ N-Nice for a 12-hour “Break the Monotony Block Party” livestream on IG Live. “The whole idea is I’m trying to keep you in the house,” he told Esquire. “I want you to dance in your kitchen. I want you to grab something to drink and enjoy yourself in your house, because you want to keep practice social distancing.” After both he and his wife contracted and recovered from COVID-19, while he’s sick as hell of being in his house, “I am not sick of it to the point that I’m willing to put myself in jeopardy.”
LOOKINTO – Following Industry Trends and Reports
Event Industry Alliance Releases the Reopening Guide First Edition
The new Reopening Guide from the Event Industry Alliance addresses health, sanitary, and security issues that event and venue professionals need to consider in order to protect both patrons and workers. Citing the guide’s introduction, “Since there is still insufficient testing, no contact tracing, and no vaccine against COVID-19, this guidance is particularly detailed. The first edition is tailored to be especially useful for event professionals reopening the smallest events with the fewest resources available to mitigate their risks, since in every municipal reopening plan these will be allowed to reopen first.”
Notice the “smallest events” aspect. This isn’t meant for the full-scale festivals or large venues opening their doors as if it were January 2020. Its guidelines are designed for those event producers and event owners that are going to tip their toes in the water with a small-scale opening or event, mainly knowing how to establish clear and obvious processes for patron and staff safety. It’s about avoiding liability issues by strictly adhering to those health and safety policies so a patron (like the bright ones who crammed into a restaurant in Castle Rock, CO for Mother’s Day) can’t sue the establishment or organization, claiming to have become infected at said establishment.
Events Insighter will be doing a deeper dive this coming week and gather feedback from venue owners, which we’ll share with you. Download the ESA Reopening Guide and feel free to email me at email@example.com with your own take.
Results of Magid Survey Reveals Even Major Movie Fans Will Stay Away from Theaters
A number of states released their stay-at-home-orders in the past week, so different facets of in-person industries like restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls are asking, “If we open, will they come?” In recent weeks Magid has been researching and polling, as they do, and released the results via a video starring Mike Bloxom, Magid’s SVP, Global Media and Entertainment, aptly calling their data and perspective, “Let’s [not] go to the movies this summer?” By the title you can guess that business will not pop back into place to pre-COVID levels. “Many movie-goers say safety measures won’t be enough to get them back through the doors even for major titles,” Mike states. “With studios finding success in opening movies on streaming platforms the nature of the ‘opening weekend’ is likely to be redefined. What does that mean for all involved? And for TV ad dollars?”
Check out Magid’s video for the results data and perspectives.
House Representatives Send Congress a Letter in Support of Independent Venues
This past week one of my favorite independent venues, 3 Kings in Denver, where I’ve seen countless shows since it opened in 2006, shared the news that they would not be reopening. Clubs come and go, but when there’s a special music home like 3 Kings run by good souls with a passion for bands and their fans, a place that’s deeply woven into the fabric of the local music community, that shuts their doors for good it’s nothing less than heartbreaking.
Hopefully, more venues won’t experience the same fate.
On May 14, numerous House Representatives signed their names to a letter requesting from The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy they act on additional economic relief legislation specifically for independent venues in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter points out the economic impact venues provide local economies (in Chicago every $1 spent on a ticket generates $12 of economic activity), how the live event industry generates millions in tax revenue and jobs for thousands across the country, in addition to the financial hit experienced since the closures by “the hundreds of contractors, suppliers, and business partners that support the live entertainment industry.”
It goes on to point out that the economic relief made available to small businesses (and not so small businesses; it doesn’t say this specifically, but gotta call that out…read below) and millions of Americans has not been accessible to venues, which is one of the main talking points within the National Independent Venue Association’s lobbying agenda. Read “America MUST #SaveOurVenues”.
“These venues support the economies of communities across the country, are a crucial component of the music industry’s ecosystem, and serve as incubators and launch pads for the most popular talent in the world. We can provide a vital lifeline for the industry that will help to sustain the iconic venues that are central to the social, cultural, and economic fabric of so many of our communities. This industry is not going to make it without our help.” Download the letter here.
To borrow from Stephen Colbert, “Quarantinewhile…”
LiveXLive Valued at $300M Gets $2M PPP Money Designated for Small Businesses
And they’re not giving it back, according to Billboard reporter, Dave Brooks. “In the coming weeks, investigators from the Treasury Department are expected to begin examining the financial records of companies like LiveXLive, which has accepted approximately $2 million from the Paycheck Protection Program meant for small businesses.”
Here’s some rich icing on the cake, “Last Friday, LiveXLive announced one of its largest purchases to date — podcast network PodcastOne — acquired through an all-stock deal valued at $18 million.” A cherry on top of the icing: since the company received just under $2 million in SBA funding, it qualifies for a safe harbor provision certifying eligibility under new guidelines set by the SBA.
In addition to the Treasury Department investigation, LiveXLive is dealing with numerous lawsuits, including filings by “festivals and venues the company has worked with or purchased streaming rights from.” Festivals and venues that have not had access to ANY federal or SBA funding.
LOOKUP – Inspiring Hope, Community, and Support
Dave Grohl Had Something To Say, “I’m hungry for a big old plate of sweaty, ear-shredding, live rock and roll, ASAP.”
If you’re in the gig-addict camp like me and most, if not all of my friends (talking to you Indie Music Meetup kids), the thought of being in a small venue close to other people while the musician’s sweat from the stage cascades around their head and eventually falls onto the crowd below is hard to comprehend these days.
For the many of us going through withdrawals exacerbated by the continual “cancelled” notifications from Songkick and BandsInTown, check out Dave Grohl’s op-ed in the Atlantic, providing some rock and roll sympathetic therapy not only from the performer’s perspective, but as “as a lifelong concertgoer.”
He throws in some cultural references that those under a certain age might not get (“who’s Max Headroom?”) while comparing the countless IG Live or Zoom-based concerts that have emerged since the March lockdown, “Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has reduced today’s live music to unflattering little windows that look like doorbell security footage and sound like Neil Armstrong’s distorted transmissions from the moon, so stuttered and compressed. It’s enough to make Max Headroom seem lifelike.”
While acknowledging the power of human connection, the musician to audience connection, and the sharing of musical experiences IRL, he ends on a positive note, “…together, we are instruments in a sonic cathedral, one that we build together night after night. And one that we will surely build again.” Check out more of Dave’s Stories at https://www.instagram.com/davestruestories/.
Mental Health Awareness Week
May is Mental Health Awareness month, and this week the focus increases with a number of events taking place this week, including the following:
Wednesday, May 20, 8pm (timezone?) – Black Men Cry Too
The IG livestream will feature Aaron Warrick (@electrospect_), entrepreneur, engineer, and a co-founder of the Elevate app (@elevateapp_), that “serves as a personal guide to mental success and self-care. We will discuss inspirational motivation, importance of community while healing, and going against the grain.”
Thursday, May 21 – Holding Space for Music Industry Professionals
Variety reported the series of mental health Zoom conversations for people in the music industry hosted by No Other Agency, Good + Energy, and Pretty Mental with a certified therapist called Holding Space. They take place every Thursday 3pm PT / 6pm ET. Go to https://www.hldngspace.com/ for the Zoom link, which is currently broken, but I expect it will be fixed by Thursday.
Silence the Shame Self Care Meditation Saturdays
Record executive Shanti Das founded the non-profit, Silence the Shame and has been partnering with Jermaine Dupri, Kwamé, and DJ Trauma to get the word out about mental health this month (and year round, TBH). Check out this great profile and in-depth piece on Source by NDSmith, “Hip-Hop, Mental Health and the Shame of Silence.”
On Saturday’s Silene the Same hosts self care meditation sessions at 11am (guessing it’s ET). Follow their IG for more events through the months and onward: https://www.instagram.com/silencetheshame/.
If you’ve got a story to share, an event happening, or product or service to be featured in Events Insighter, please contact me, Kim Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org.