Paradiso Labs @ESNS17: How to innovate the live circuit

Paradiso Labs is present at Eurosonic Noorderslag, the prestigious international music and business festival being held this week in Groningen in the Netherlands. People representing clubs and festivals (Paradiso, 013, Down The Rabbit Hole, Innofest) will get together and talk about innovation in the live circuit in the conference panel we organise. If you are around, join us this Thursday from 3pm - 4pm in the Hampshire hotel, Groningen. Innovation specialist Bas Grasmayer will be there too.

Bas, who are you and what do you do?

I'm a serial expat and music lover who spends way too much time behind his computer. To combine my passions, I started a newsletter called MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE, which allows me to write about these topics every week to an engaged audience and lets me draw upon my experience building a music streaming service in Russia, as well as working with music tech startups and helping artists and labels.

Now it allows me to work with a variety of companies in the music biz ecosystem (and a group named Quibus) on topics like applied innovation, but also digital strategy and content.

As a specialist in music and innovation, according to you, what are the most important trends in music right now?

The most important trend is that music is becoming less static. We see this in the way remix-driven genres pop up on Soundcloud, the proliferation of stem formats for live DJ shows, but also to allow others to reconfigure your music. You see it in popular music too, for example Kanye West updating an already released album, or Brian Eno's with his new 'infinite outcome' album.

The recording created the music business as we know it today, with the vinyl record, then CD, then file, then stream, becoming the dominant way in which we consume music. It also meant music became static. Now that we have computers in our pockets more powerful than our desktop PCs a few years ago, as well as millennial expectations of interactivity and meme culture, music no longer needs to be static by default. Imagine adding artificial intelligence to the mix.

While it's not the most immediately useful trend for musicians or many existing players in the music business ecosystem, it's a very important long-term trend, because when the format of music changes, the industry changes.

What do the present trends mean for live music in clubs and at festivals?

There are a lot of trends I could highlight, but to stay on the theme of adaptivity and interactivity: clubs, but especially festivals, can create environments that really suck the audience in. This means you need to envision the visitors as participants and not just audience.

When it comes to electronic music, many DJs that are also producers are now doing live sets which allow them to recompose their tracks depending on how the audience reacts. This also gives them greater flexibility over how they transition. So they get to introduce their audience to a very exciting mix of novelty and familiarity.

Off-trend: it's important for musicians to be aware that you're not just playing for your audience, but also your audience's audience on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. In underground hiphop shows, you can see rappers taking phones from fans in front rows and filming from on stage: very shareworthy material.

What can the live music circuit learn from the world of tech?

Build, Measure, Learn. A standard motto for startups, which basically means that first you do something simple, measure the result, learn from it and then double down if it works, or move on to the next thing if it doesn't. To me it's stunning that most venues and festivals don't A/B test their websites, their calls-to-action (such as where you place the Buy Ticket button), their promotional material such as posters, flyers, etc. Yet they continue to invest money.

Also, often venues have strong communities around them. People go to shows or parties there and form lifelong friendships. Last September, I was at a wedding of a friend I made in Tivoli (Utrecht, NL) many years ago. It would be good to see venues do more to connect to their communities online -- to keep people connected to your brand, and to stay top of mind, even when they're not planning a visit.

How can tech help artists and therefore clubs and festivals get a bigger audience?

It comes down to two things: smart use of data and attention management. The most scarce thing in our connected reality is attention: everyone is competing for it. So you have to stand out. You have to be smart about your content and make people stop scrolling when they come across your content.

Now that you've got someone's attention, you need to hold it. This means engaging content, which implies understanding your audience. This is where the data comes in. Look for relations, overlaps of segments in your audience, etc. Test new ideas, see what happens, if it doesn't work, try something else. Just keep their attention: stay top of mind.

Also: own your data. Building up a Facebook audience is cool, but when they changed their algorithms, suddenly artists with a lot of fans could only reach about 2% of them. Plan for this. Collect email addresses or even phone numbers if you have to. Then your messages will have a visibility from 20-25% to about 98% respectively.

How can tech help fans better discover music?

  1. A more direct link to what your friends are seeing live, eg. through Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat, etc.
  2. Algorithms that learn from people's music behaviour and preferences. This can either connect you directly to better music, such as Spotify's Discover Weekly playlist, or connect you to good curators for your taste... which is something that YouTube's channel recommendations would ideally do.

I personally really like Soundcloud's Discover functionality also, which plays recommended tracks based off recent listens.

There's loads more that can be improved, but I don't think it's an important problem to focus on, because very few people actually believe they have a music discovery problem. Only the really hardcore music fans, like the people reading this, really feel that way.

One of the important trends is big data, how can data help clubs and festivals?

It can help in obvious places like energy management and inventory, but also in processes like marketing and promo, to bookings. For instance, if you can crawl a lot of data and see what artists have fanbases with at least 20% overlap, you may be able to produce a more consistent line-up.

If you compile large datasets over time about audience flows, you may get better at pricing tickets, predicting whether shows will sell out, or at what times people will come and go, so that you may be able to sell more tickets later in the night, if you're the type of club people go to for afterparties.

Another one is the rise of the blockchain. How can the blockchain help clubs and festivals?

I'm really interested in how blockchain could be used to get more control over secondary ticketing... but I'm not convinced you need a distributed database model for that. I must admit, I haven't thought enough about this topic in the context of live events.

If you could apply your knowledge to a club or festival, what would be the first thing you would do when it was up to you?

I would make sure that:

  1. We can measure or at least estimate the direct effect of all money spent on marketing. This is mostly a matter of mindset. Can be as simple as printing two different URLs on flyers with slightly different designs and putting stacks of the flyers in all the same places. Then seeing which URL gets more opens.

  2. Organise in a way that makes it possible to act on data. Book differently, change marketing tactics, reach out to audiences differently, etc.

  3. Make truly engaging content. There is so much that venues and festivals can do with content and community. Strategies will differ for venue or festival type, but as curators with sometimes decades of history, these places need to have a stronger voice. It's about figuring out how to sustain people's attention over long time periods as a brand.

  4. Organise events worth talking about. It's crucial to make a venue or festival more than a hall or a tent with a band playing in it. Every corner has to be interesting, Instagram-worthy. People have 4G-connected cameras with them at all times! Use this fact. Make your venue or festival look remarkable, change it around every now and then, make it easy for people to turn their experience into shareable 'content', and make things easy to share.

You can expect these people in our panel: Ide Koffeman (Down the Rabbit Hole), Bas Grasmayer (Music Tech Future), Govert Reeskamp (Innofest), Robert Schaeffer (de Effenaar), Mark Minkman (Paradiso, moderator).

What would you do to innovate live music in clubs or at festivals? Let us know in the comments below!