For the music industry, it was live that got hit first and hit hardest by COVID-19; but technology is helping to plug some of those gaps caused by the mass cancellation of shows and festivals.
Tokyo-based platform Zaiko is known as a white-label ticketing platform but quickly built a ticketed concert live stream solution in response to the pandemic in order to help bring monetised live entertainment online.
Zaiko was established in early 2019 and has since worked with around 400 clients and 20k events, notably the major Japanese festivals Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic. The platform says that with its newly introduced technology, artists can find “a new source of revenue and a new way to engage with fans”.
Despite having been live for around three weeks, the platform is currently doing between three and five streams a day, all ticketed and all paid for.
Not only does Zaiko enable artists to play virtual shows for their fans and monetise them, but it also has built-in marketing tools for them to use. When a fan purchases a ticket for an artist’s show, they will be captured in an audience section on the platform, with Zaiko providing data analytics to help artists better plan their next shows. On top of this, acts retain all their fan data.
If the analytics reveal that the majority of an act’s ticket purchasers are located in a specific territory, this can help in deciding the best time to broadcast, for example. On top of this, Zaiko offers a built-in CRM tool, which allows artists to reach out to their audience directly.
For those fans who have previously bought a ticket, artists can also offer things such as access to an online fan club or a monthly paid subscription, making it akin to platforms like Patreon or Veeps by enabling recurring income off the back of their online shows.
The first artist making use of this new opportunity on the platform was the Japanese indie act Cero. After one of their March shows was cancelled, they decided to put it online. The band had two days to promote the show and managed to draw over 4k viewers within 33 hours.
Even with lockdowns and social isolation, is there a market for paid live stream shows? Zaiko’s Kriss Baird says there is. “The demand is real, fans want to support artists whether they’re small indies or heritage acts and providing a tokenised tipping feature has been a game-changer for the artists that have benefited so far,” he says.
That said, Lauren Kocher, the company’s COO, admits that each market is different in terms of their fan expectations. For now, Zaiko mainly works with Japanese artists, such as legacy band CKB, but it also did a show with New York rapper and TikTokpowered star BigKlit recently.
Zaiko currently supports six languages and four currencies – Japanese yen, Singapore dollars, Taiwanese dollars and US dollars. That said, fans from any country can easily buy tickets with their credit card or through the platform’s PayPal integration, with the company saying it has already seen fans from over 30 countries tuning in for shows.
Chinese fans can buy tickets via Alipay or WeChat Pay, and Zaiko has just announced it is partnering with Tencentowned QQ Music to deliver paid-for live streams in China. The only requirement here is that there’s enough lead-up time for the artist to apply at government level to perform (which still has to happen in the country for any performance – whether live or streamed) and for QQ Music to approve it.
The live streaming of shows on the platform is a multi-step process. First, the artist records a “live” performance that they can edit and afterwards share with Zaiko. The artist should try to sell as many tickets in advance as possible by promoting the show via their key channels. Zaiko then uploads the live recording and streams the event at the scheduled date and time. The live show will then be archived for seven days so that fans can still buy tickets for on-demand streaming.
In terms of the revenue share, Zaiko usually pays out 70% to the artist. However, there is some flexibility here as the platform splits its 30% with the promoter or agent. Therefore, if the relationship is only between the artist and Zaiko, the cut the platform takes can be anywhere between 10% and 30% depending on how much localisation and workload needs to happen.
For the percentages that go to the platform, Zaiko handles the ticketing, streaming, customer support and payments. When a fan buys a ticket for a streaming gig, artists can choose to offer checkout add-ons such as merchandise to further increase their income. During the live stream, artists have more upsell opportunities via a tip jar that can circulate before, during and after the show.
While artists can also do a real-time live stream of a show, Kocher highlights that what works best is a pre-recorded show. This enables artists to edit the footage and make it more like an album listening party or music documentary – adding Q&As or backstage footage to further enhance and embellish it.
There are, of course, a few similar solutions in the market, with StageIt being the most prominent example. One key differentiator is that there are no re-broadcasts of past concerts, whereas artists on Zaiko can continue to monetise shows for seven days after the initial performance. Crowdcast, on the other hand, works on a subscription basis rather than sharing a percentage of the revenue, while Moment House takes a 10% cut but restricts ticket prices to $5. Zaiko also seems to be the only platform allowing for both real-time live streams and recorded live streams.
As a white-label solution, artists are completely free in how they choose to brand their appearance on the platform. And it is not only artists who are using the platform – venues are too. In the last three weeks, 30k people have paid for ticketed streams on Zaiko for around 20-30 events, with online audiences ranging from 100 to 6k fans.
How could this form of streaming live entertainment exist in the future when festivals and touring eventually return to normal?
“Do we think that streaming will replace live events?” asks Josh Barry, CBDO at Zaiko. “No. And they shouldn’t. We believe that, as the world recovers from COVID-19, we will see live streaming tickets selling alongside live events as another way for fans to stay close to the artists they love and the artists will be able to reach new fans and create new important revenue streams”.
Kocher adds that there are a number of labels and management companies talking to them about the subscription model and she compares it to having an artist-owned video platform. “Because no one knows how long the situation is going to go on, some artists are looking into putting together content packages; the idea would be that fans pay $3, $5 or $10 a month to get access to exclusive things,” she says. “What if artists could make their own Netflix? When a fan buys a ticket, do they also want to subscribe to a premium video service that’s giving them content from the artists they love, which is a new content mode?”
Cover image by I_#39_m friday / Shutterstock.com