559.271.7900 live-info@pollstar.com

Real-Time Fan Engagement At Live Events

Moderator: Stephen Prendergast | Turnstile Live
Ben Conway | VNTANA
Brian Furano | Deluxe VR
Jeremy Gocke | Ampsy
Eric Jones | Sidestep
Nick Lippman | Lippman Entetainment

This wasn’t the panel dedicated to holograms, although the panelists definitely spent time talking about holograms, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), along with other ways to engage fans with technology such as social geofencing and mobile commerce.

Nick Lippman of Lippman Entertainment noted that utilizing this technology to better service fans is a win-win as it results in a “deeper relationship between fans and artists, [as well as] making artists more money.”

He speaks from personal ex-perience, having worked with four of the other panelists’ companies on the most recent tour he did with Rob Thomas and Counting Crows.

“Jeremy [Gocke] and I came together because I realized my artists were going to have a hard time competing with younger artists” who are more active on social media, Lippman said.

“We came up with a way for fans to create content for fans.”

Ampsy’s Gocke explained that fans at concerts are often not thinking about using hashtags, especially after they’ve had a few beers. His company figured out a way to utilize the posts fans were sharing on social media using latitude and longitude. “We help artists capture photos taken by fans at shows,” Gocke said. “We can draw a virtual fence around the venue and capture awesome content that’s being shared.”

The tour also offered fans who purchased VIP packages the chance to sing one of Thomas’ songs with a hologram of the Matchbox Twenty frontman.

Later in the conversation moderator Stephen Prendergast of Turnstile asked VNTANA’s Conway about what he thinks fans want. Conway replied, “With us, a lot of our engagements are around brand activations, The most powerful engagement generally leverage some form of celebrity. People love selfies and selfies with celebrities even more.”

Lippman noted that VR can give fans experiences they don’t usually have access to, like taking a look around an artist’s tour bus or dressing room.

“It’s important to be innovative and embrace where everything is going rather than steer away from it,” Lippman said. He added, “I’m really proud I can take my artists and elevate them into the future.”

The Thomas/Counting Crows tour also partnered with Sidestep, which allows fans to buy tour merchandise ahead of the show and then pick it up at the venue, skipping long lines.

Eric Jones of Sidestep explained that merch hasn’t changed much over the years – “You point at a T-shirt, you get it.” But Sidestep identifies the super fans and brings the merch table to them.

Then again, maybe merch has changed in some ways.

Lippman talked about how VR made a “T-shirt come to life.” On the back of the merch was a QR code that allowed fans to get
a message from the band that you couldn’t get unless you had the shirt, like a “little Easter egg inside of a T-shirt.” In addition to being fun, it also encouraged fans to purchase more shirts.

Prendergast remarked that it was about “not being afraid to fail. These are risks. We all need that to get to the next point. We know it’s going to be wonderful, from a practical stance, utilizing VR. Album sales have fallen off. So what are we spending money on as fans of music, beyond ticket and merch? VIP experience and im-mersive products. Its five to 10 per-cent of the audience in an arena will want to engage. … But it’s not every-one in the room. They’d rather spend their $50 on beer, parking. I think creating great content for those super fans is going to evolve as what we think of the VIP experience.”

Lippman noted that while some people might think AR/VR stuff is a gimmick, it depends how you look at it. “I totally thought it was not a gimmick. … People were all of the sudden talking about, ‘Oh, have you seen this Matchbox VR stuff?’ … Matchbox Twenty has a new album? They have a tour?’ All of a sudden it went from, ‘Oh, this is a cool part of it,’ to me selling more tickets.”

Furano talked about how VR can help make experiences for fans special and exclusive again.

“If Nick finds a piece of great content online, I have him text it to me and I’m watching it within 30 seconds,” Furano said. “I probably only watch 30 seconds of it. … What’s really special about a VR experience, if you went to a location and ex-perienced a VR song or a VP album, you can’t rip that yet and so you can keep it exclusive for a period of time. If Nick is like, ‘Tell me about the Jay-Z VR album that you heard last night,’ I’d say, ‘I can’t send it to you, man. You have to go to this pizza parlor in Brooklyn into their basement and wait in line and then you can experience it.’ That kind of excitement like we see in fashion where people line up for days to buy a pair of shoes, we’ve missed that in music a little bit here because of how accessible our current media is. I hope that’s something that’s going to come back with some of this VR technology.”

During the Q&A portion of the panel an audience member asked about how you go about converting fans into super fans.
Lippman said, “I think one thing is you need to put on a great fucking show. Put money into production. … At the end of the day it really comes down to what you deliver on stage. Leaving the show as a believer of what you’re selling.”

Furano chimed in, “It’s about creating a great experience for that fan. As soon as it’s become a hassle, you’ve lost that fan.”

– Sarah Pittman