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Live Entertainment experts and executives unpacked the cultural success of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour and Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour — both of which dominate the zeitgeist and will likely soon do the same at the box office — at TheGrill 2023.
At the panel, titled “Redefining Live Entertainment: Presented by Gerber Kawasaki” fostered a conversation between Co-Owner and Chief Development Officer of Mycotoo Fri Forjindam, President and CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Ross Gerber, Head of Music Marketing at WME Levi Jackson and President and Chief Distribution Officer of Kevin Hart’s multi-platform media company Hartbeat Jeff Clanagan moderated by TheWrap’s co-executive editor Adam Chitwood. Forjindam dove deep into the live performance transitions into concert documentaries for Swift and Beyoncé, which will be distributed by AMC in October and December, respectively.
She traced the drive to show up and show out for the concerts come from the desire for “a shared emotional experience, to align with a brand and artists that reflects who they are in their ideology in their consumer spending in their way of life in their sexuality.”
Forjindam also pointed out that the level of commitment to the pastel, sparkly and silver outfit trends and the investment in the concerts put on by the veteran female performers stemmed from more than just the desire to see the performances themselves.
“It can’t just be about seeing the artists, there needs to be something deeper, and it needs to be a shared experience that allows you to feel authentic and have agency. A lot of what we’re seeing right now is these major studios saying ‘It isn’t just about engaging with our audiences, it is about having repeat engagement,’” she said. “It’s about translating into consumer spending that leverages our IPs or worlds into something that’s an ecosystem, that has a loyalty base. So how do you make it a physical destination? Whether it’s a concert, or a museum or theme park? How do you take all of those principles and turn it into a revenue-based experience or entertainment destination? Beyonce and Taylor Swift highlighted that it is possible and women can be at the helm of that.”
Ross Gerber praised Forjindam’s work as some of foresight and a great prediction of where live entertainment is headed. At one point mentioned how some are blaming Swift for inflation and the Fed raising price rates in response to when either Levi or Clanagan brought up the potential recession that loomed at the beginning of the year.
“You can’t quantify impact, you can’t quantify an emotional connection that resonates, and if people are choosing to give the value or sort of support the value that you’ve presented, that means there’s a promise that’s being made. You’re saying you’re going to get all of me you’re gonna get my full catalog, you’re gonna get performance showmanship, tech, all the things VIP, there’s an experiential sort of overlay that is delivering on that promise as opposed to just gouging,” Forjindam said.”People are changing their behavior. They’re extremely more discerning. They don’t want bullshit. They want to come and have a compelling, profound experience that allows them to have agency and authenticity and to see that in the things that they’re engaging with.”
When asked if the concert documentaries affect initial concert sales, or in the case of comedians like Kevin Hart, initial standup shows before the specials land on streamers like Netflix, Clanagan relayed the importance of repeating the experience, which does not detract from sales either way.
“This is the next piece where people have sat at home and watched live streams on their computers. We were talking about this — now they want to share the experience. Maybe they can’t go to Taylor Swift, and they can’t physically get there. They can’t afford to be there. But it’s a lot cheaper in theaters,” Clanagan said. “Why not spend 30 or 40 bucks to go in a theater with friends and watch it and you’d have to worry about missing out on tickets, you still get a decent event and if you did manage to go you get the chance to relive it again.”
“[There’s] absolutely zero chance it’s going to impact ticket sales. It’s one of those things we started — we released a number of Kevin Hart specials in the theaters. What happens is that [people go to] theaters at the end of the tour,” Clanagan added. “What happens is that as much as we’re talking about the live experience. there’s still a huge audience that might not have went to a stadium to see Taylor or Beyoncé because of the ticket prices or whatever, but also people who went to the shows, want to really have that experience in a theater. It’s just another touch point for the consumer to share that experience in that theater, but it had zero impact in terms of negative ticket sales.”
Jackson chalked repeat viewing or attendance of both concerts and then docuseries up to supply and demand.
“I think to your point on the demand, we’re dealing and talking about artists where the demand is just so high, they actually aren’t meeting the supply with the number of shows the tickets are happening,” Jackson concluded. “You look at Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Beyonce Taylor Swift. There are millions of people that are missing out on those shows and tickets so if this can come in and fill some of that void for just the people that missed out, let alone the ones that want to go again, I think it’s only a good thing.”
This meeting of minds also explained why the problems with Ticketmaster are so difficult to solve, especially by just one musician alone. They also discussed live entertainment in the context of The Sphere, the new venue at which U2 just performed in Las Vegas.
Watch the full panel below.
About TheGrill: For more than a decade, TheGrill event series has led the conversation on the convergence of entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges of and opportunities for making content in the digital age. TheGrill delivers a unique series of curated discussions, industry panels and networking activations that explore the ever-changing media landscape.
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