The live event industry in Nigeria like a lot of other industries has been affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. While others have been able to restart in some shape or form, this has not been the case for the industry. For people, who may not understand what the live event industry is and its composition, I’ll briefly clarify.
Events that have audience presence like conferences, concerts, festivals, parties, Theatre performances, live television show recordings are classified as live events. Live events are defined by one singular factor: Audience presence. So, as you can imagine, during a pandemic, the usually very defining, profitable and valuable factor has become the riskiest component. The joy & practice of physically gathering an audience has become a dangerous activity.
Thankfully, with creativity, technology and our persevering desire to connect, moving events online has been a solution/beacon of hope. Creating a virtual world similar to what the audience will experience in person. Fortunately, there are a number of web applications that have been designed to get you as close as possible to the live experience. To be fair, most of them concentrate on conference events for corporate organisations. Examples of such web applications include Hopin, Socio and Hubb Virtual Event Platform.
My focus, however, is on the music and theatrical events which are where event organisers and Live event practitioners are able to make more money and impact due to volume. Live events already had their challenges pre covid with respect to funding and how expensive they are to execute especially considering how relatively slim the profit margins are. For anyone who, having seen the adverts for 1million per table events, believes that live events are a generously lucrative/profit intensive venture, allow me to share some details with you. The ticket sales barely cover audience costs such as security, wristbands, tickets etc. Those tables mainly fall under the ONLY viable means of funding events: CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP.
This usually dependable funding avenue however is being stifled by the fact that brands and corporations are reluctant to fund or participate in any gathering of people at this time.
If you also consider these corporations’ hesitation/slowness/reluctance/inability to see the potential for non-physical events in gathering data, innovating service provision and interacting with their audience, you will clearly see live event organisers’ monumental obstacle.
That seeming impossible obstacle has proved surmountable thanks to the various innovative web applications tailored to delivering concerts & theatre productions virtually while specifically catering to the goals and objectives of brands/corporations. Stageit, Hopin and LiveXLive for concerts and Stageplayafrica.tv for theatre performances. Hopin for instance has facilities for one-on-one interaction between audience members and brands as well as a virtual exhibition area for brands within the event setup. Stageit also allows for ‘audience to artiste’ and ‘audience to sponsor’ interaction during the event. There are also other virtual ways by which brands can interact with the audience such as ticket sales on brand websites, adverts of brands being shown during the event etc. These platforms allow clients to ticket events in various flexible ways.
While some may question the value and vitality of virtual events, all we need to do is observe the successfully executed virtual events around the world and prepare to challenge ourselves to be innovative. Events are now being curated specifically for a virtual audience. Hosts can interact with the audience via chat or comment. Artists and performers can even have a virtual meet and greet area for a few extra Naira.
Technology in Music production; Multitrack recording, has made it possible to transmit crisp and clear sound on Livestream. It is possible to pick out the distinct sound of a Snare drum on a live stream nowadays. The technology is here and there are people who can run it. Lighting for Livestream similar to lighting for TV or camera is also very doable. Venues for concerts can be bigger or smaller now since there will be no audience. Producers along with their Production Managers can find ways for crew members to work safely and effectively. Certainly not as quickly as pre covid but safety is more important at this time.
The questions to ask now are as follows
1. Are Industry practitioners such as Producers, Marketing Personnel, Suppliers and Production Managers aware of these technologies?
2. Is anyone telling the sponsors that there are many more ways even beyond the few examples written here that all parties can get what they want from Live events going virtual without compromising safety and Covid 19 protocols?
3. Will Nigerians pay to watch Live events virtually knowing that high-quality events are possible?
4. Which Event Production Companies, Sponsors and Suppliers are willing to bell this cat?
We need to answer these questions quickly so that the live event industry in Nigeria can get back to some semblance of the ‘new normal’. I know that it is easier on paper than in practical terms, but I can assure you that it is possible. The number of people affected by this seemly unending ‘break in transmission’ is significant. Drivers, riggers (Sound, light, screens, structures), loaders, Stage runners, Producers, Production Managers, Equipment suppliers, Site, Stage managers, Sound and light operators and engineers are all affected. Not forgetting their families and dependents. We need to get on with work.
Oladotun is an Event Project/ Production Manager, technical equipment supplier, aspiring writer & music enthusiast living in Lagos, Nigeria.