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We recently held the first ever Music Ally Japan Digital Summit, with more than 1,100 people registering for the event that took place online on 20-22 April.

We’re now publishing the video from one of its sessions, exploring the opportunities in livestreaming for musicians and the wider music industry.

The panel was chaired by MQA CEO Mike Jbara, and included Claire Mas, COO of Driift; Tim Westergren, CEO of Sessions; and Julian Mitelberg, managing partner at Bandsintown Group. You can watch the full panel below, or continue to read some of the highlights.

YouTube video

Mas suggested that one challenge in the livestreaming sector is the use of the word itself. “It’s being used as such a catch-all phrase… for anyone in their bedroom with a webcam and a half-decent mic, to the five-camera, really expensive production that we put in, with anything from five-to-six figures of production and marketing costs,” she said.

“That all is a ‘livestream’. This whole industry that’s now being called livestreaming… this whole format, is actually several formats in one, and it’s a mistake to say that we’re all doing the same thing.”

Mitelburg, whose company has built the biggest directory of livestreaming concerts, suggested that this is not a simple divide between amateurs playing from home and professional artists from expensive stage sets.

“Surprisingly for the fans, some are extremely satisfied with a very simple show for their favourite artist,” he said. “That’s actually what they’re looking for, because they’ve been to big concerts and they’ve seen this artist before, but not in a more intimate sort of context.”

(You can read more on Bandsintown’s latest livestreaming survey of artists and fans here.)

Westergren suggested that there are two key principles to what makes a good livestream that stretch across the full spectrum of settings and production budgets.

“One of them is a really good form of monetisation of course. What is the mechanism for monetisation? What is the value prop, and how do you get somebody to part with money? A beautiful show is not worth anything if you can’t get people to pay for it,” he said.

“The other one is exposure. Getting people to come. And a lot of these events have been like trees falling in the forest. I’d say that livestreaming writ large has been characterised by low audience attendance, and I include some of these giant artists in there.”

“There are global superstars that pulled 30,000 people to an event that was global! And people call it a success. I’m ‘oh, what? 30,000 people? That’s a big problem!”

Westergren suggested that “livestreaming has not been a growth category: it’s been an exploitation category. Artists come to it with an existing audience and a mailing list and a social network and whatnot, and they do an event, they do largely free, organic marketing, and they peel off some small percentage and convert them to viewers. And they can do that a few times, and then it runs out of gas. That’s not really changing anything.”

Sessions is operating in a different part of the livestreaming market: the end focusing on brand new artists who are trying to build their audience, and who perhaps have not even had the opportunity to perform to audiences at physical concerts yet.

Westergren and Mas both also had strong views on how labels have been involved in the livestreaming space thus far, although neither has been hugely impressed.

“Frankly, the music industry, the label side, doesn’t care about this stuff. They don’t get paid for live music in general, it’s not been a big successful category. It’s not a content-focused thing, so labels haven’t been focused on it,” said Westergren, although Mas disagreed slightly.

“I think labels, strangely, have been interested in it from what we’ve seen. But they’ve messed it up a lot of the time when they’ve done it themselves! I come from the label side, so I speak that with all due respects,” she said.

“A lot of the labels at the start were trying to do it themselves, had a go, it didn’t really work out and they’re not so interested in it any more. But they have become very interested in working with us, and I’m sure all of you as well, in terms of how do we integrate that as part of the campaign?”

Mas offered her view on what labels had gotten wrong when trying to run livestreams with their artists.

“The way that this is communicated, both in terms of the words you use and the visuals, but just in terms of cadence and how you present it and what timing you present it, it’s really important that it doesn’t feel like an album promo event,” she said.

“Because album promo events, which labels are brilliant at… you’d never pay for. The user expectation is you do not pay for that. So when you start presenting something that feels like an album promo, and then you go ‘Oh, and then you have to pay for it’, people are like ‘what’s going on here?’”

“It’s really important that it has its own life, it has its own visual identity… not use the catch-all same press photo that all fans have seen 1,700 times, and that’s also the poster, or let’s use an old music video that everyone’s seen 100 times and put some text over it and say that’s a live show… so really building its own moment and its own visual look.”

Later in the session, Westergren offered a final tip for artists to make the most of livestreams, whatever their budget or chosen platform.

“For this to really thrive, I think artists need to see this as an interactive experience. That is where in the long term… there’s a healthy opportunity. I don’t think you can view this as a broadcast,” he said.

“What works is engaging and actually seeing this as not a one-way experience, and if you do that and do that well, and you establish consistency, and you’re good at what you do, there’s a lot of opportunity.”

You can watch the full panel session in the embedded video higher up this article, or directly on YouTube. The Music Ally Japan Digital Summit was held in association with Linkfire and The Orchard, and was supported by MQA, NexTone & Chartmetric.

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