As fans spend more time on their digital devices, they feel more personally connected to their favourite artists, stars, athletes, and fellow fans — so much so that they crave more live, direct interactions with them. A great deal of evidence supports this. Touring and festivals are now the lifeblood of the music industry. And video gaming (aka “e-sports”) has become a live event phenomenon where fans pack arenas to watch others play competitively.
Live events are critical to building and strengthening fandom. They also representing the most direct way for monetizing a digital entertainment or media relationship in the physical world through ticket sales, merchandise, sponsorships, and advertising. Often, social media — connections and conversation between talent and fans as well as among fans — is at the centre of the virtuous circle that drives the value of live events, such as games, concerts, conferences, theme parks, conventions, and musicals. For example, fans fill Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook feeds with @event selfies, that is, photos, videos, and posts showcasing their favourite moments. These activities stimulate more interest from other fans, driving more ticket and product sales as well as advertising opportunities. Live events could be re-monetized as content on digital or traditional media. To illustrate, look no further than Taylor Swift’s decision to release her 1989 World Tour LIVE film on Apple Music, where it is available exclusively to Apple Music subscribers.
The attractive dynamics of live experiences explain why companies such as Pandora, which started out as a 100 percent digital service, have launched new event franchises like Women in Country. It is the rationale for other big strategic moves. Traditional publishers such as Time Inc., Conde Nast, and the New York Times Company have announced plans to expand their participation in live events — viewing these efforts as essential to developing new offerings for users and well as marketing partners and sponsors. Video brands such as CNBC are also pursuing live event opportunities. In 2015, CNBC in partnership with Inc. Media, the publisher of Inc. magazine, launched iCONIC, a multicity event series focused on small business, entrepreneurship, and start-up innovation. As “paid content,” live events are becoming more critical for E&M companies as they seek to unlock new sources of revenue growth from their brands and fan bases beyond traditional advertising and subscriptions.