Prior to 2020, it seemed like most small businesses were either based entirely online or entirely in the real world. Touring musicians showed up in a city to take the stage around 8pm in front of fans who’d just bought a poster and a t-shirt from the merch stand. Therapists and social workers unlocked their office door and sat in comfy chairs facing their clients. Yoga instructors walked around the classroom, observing their students and offering gentle pose adjustments as needed.
But in a post-2020 world, where globalization, climate instability, and vast digital spaces are the norm, the line has never been more blurred between digital and physical spaces. Individually, we might find ourselves needing to quarantine to keep others safe. Collectively, though, we no longer have the luxury of — or, let’s be honest, the desire to — go into lockdown until the worst has passed. We have things to do! Goals to meet, art to create, ideas to spread! No one wants an external force, out of our control, to shut us down and push us back into our home workspace.
No matter what’s happening in the outside world, the best time to put plans in place so that you can nimbly move back and forth between the digital and the physical at a moment’s notice.
Platforms that cater to hosting live events online
Thanks to 2020, we’re now all-too familiar with tools like Zoom and Google Meet. But what if you want to scale up to have hundreds or even thousands of attendees? What if you want that event to be available for online viewing afterwards? What if you want to sell merch to attendees, or interact with them personally?
Prior to covid, tools for this kind of online event management and production existed (and plenty of people were making money using them), but lockdowns and business closures brought into sharp focus just how important online access to a performance or event can be. Artists, performers, and other entertainers took to YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Vimeo, and even Twitch to broadcast performances. At first, the unfamiliar territory we were collectively entering resulted in a lot of free concert performances. Some folks were dropping links to make donations or to their merch stores in the chat or livestream description, but for most creators who had never had to consider online monetization of their work, it was more about staying sane during an insane time.
Luckily for all of us looking to create digital revenue streams, it didn’t stay that way for long. We are living in a golden era of live streaming (check out for a deep dive). Live streaming is officially mainstream now.
Tools to consider for hosting and monetizing live events online
There are so many options out there now – Facebook Live has paid events so that users can purchase tickets to your online event directly via the platform. YouTube Live lets you add ads to your livestream and charge users for upgrades to chat. And for those among us who are looking to go big or go home, there are now lots of tools that can be used to turn your real-world events into an IRL/digital hybrid, and even continue to monetize that event digitally after it’s over IRL:
- Moment – created in 2019, Moment is an web-based platform that allows you to create ticketed live virtual events, sell merch, chat with fans via text/voice/video, and offer private VIP/M&G upgrades.
- StageIt – created in 2011, StageIt is a web-based platform for hosting a ticketed live performance via webcam, chat directly with fans, and accept tips.
- Mandolin – founded in 2020, Mandolin is primarily focused on collecting data from multiple platforms to unify your marketing analysis but also offers tools for livestreams, digital meet and greets, NFTs and more. Plus, their services are scalable to stick with you as you grow.
- LiveOne – founded in 2009, LiveOne is a platform where you can host live streams and recorded media that your fans can watch live or download to enjoy offline.
- Gigg – founded in 2013, Gigg isn’t specifically a live streaming platform; it bills itself as “your social media inbox”, helping you make data-based decisions about marketing your events via socials. It’s also got tools for building fan engagement (called “challenges”) and you can embed their tools in your website
Hardware & Equipment to have on hand to broadcast your event live
If you’re considering turning your live event into an online/real-world hybrid, you’re going to need some real-world equipment to do so. The specific hardware you’ll need will depend on the type of event you’re hosting, but if you’re starting from scratch, here’s some common equipment you’ll want to consider:
- A good quality camera: You’ll need a camera that can capture high-quality video and audio of your event;
- Lighting equipment: Proper lighting will make a big difference in the quality of your video;
- A Dedicated microphone: you’ll likely want need a good quality microphone to ensure that the audio is as clear and easy to hear for online viewers as it is for on-site attendees;
- Computer/laptop + streaming software: you’ll need a command center for managing the online components of your event with an encoder that converts your video into a digital format to stream, as well as software that can stream your event to the digital space;
- and, most importantly, a reliable internet connection: A good internet connection is essential for streaming a live event.
It’s also worth noting that some of the platforms that I mentioned earlier provide the necessary equipment if you are renting their virtual space. In other cases, the physical venue you’re using may already be set up for live streaming. You can check with them and see if they have the necessary equipment that you need. If you’re already operating at a professional level in a live performance space, you’ll want to keep in mind that the equipment you already have on hand might not be adequate. Make sure that you have the right audio/video cables and adapters, power supplies, encoders, and interfaces added to your standard Day of Show gear manifest.
Skills your crew or staff will need to broadcast your event live
If you’re lucky enough to be working with a venue already set up for live streaming, your team may not need to do much other than man an online command center. If you’re looking to DIY, you’ll want someone — or several someones — on your crew with the following skills:
- For managing your internet connection: network administration, management, and security experience, including setting up and maintaining networks, troubleshooting network issues, configuring network equipment, and protecting the network from unauthorized access;
- To keep the stream going: familiarity with streaming protocols to ensure that the live event is delivered to viewers in a high-quality, stable manner;
- Community management experience: strong and nimble communication skills plus a solid understanding of your brand voice for managing online chat/interactivity with attendees;
- Technical troubleshooting skills: you’ll need your entire team to be prepared to quickly identify and resolve any technical issues with the audio or video that’s going into the livestream and be able to prioritize in-person versus online issues;
- Buy-in:if you’re going to take the leap into pushing your event into a digital space, you’ll need your whole crew to be on board with the initiative.
This might mean that you need to change up your staff or bring on new or additional folks. Don’t just assume that your front of house audio tech can handle managing the audio feed to the livestream… and don’t assume that your one instructor who’s YouTube savvy can handle the physical hardware setup.
Moving merch sales and VIP events online
This is where things get really interesting, from our perspective, because ticket prices for the digital component of your event won’t be priced as high as the in-person tickets… but you’ll still have a ton of overhead to consider (be it in the form of platform fees, venue fees, equipment costs, or staffing costs).
Very often, it’s merch and VIP access that can be the tipping point for an in-person event being profitable, and it’s no different for digital events. Some of the resources mentioned above, like Mandolin and Moment, have tools for merch and VIP sales and fulfillment built right in. In other cases, you might choose to use your own website to sell upgrades alongside the live stream tickets. The most important thing to remember is to not neglect those revenue streams even though your event is online.
For events that are both in-person and live streamed, here are some tips for adapting your merch and VIP offerings to the dual experience:
- Offer new or different merch options that are online-only: it’s a lot easier to offer a wider variety of items when you’re taking orders ahead of time, so consider print-on-demand tools (we’ve used printful’s shopify app and been really pleased) to create unique, extended-size/color, or event-specific goods that wouldn’t be feasible for a print-in-advance, stock-available-on-site situation;
- Offer some VIP experiences outside of the day of the event: for online offerings, direct creator/fan interaction is likely going to be your go-to for a VIP offering, but for a hybrid event, the star(s) of the show are already going to be super busy. You might offer show-exclusive meet’n’greet packages that occur the day before the event so that you’re not eating into the schedule the day-of (or taking up time that could have been spent running a pricier, in-person meet’n’greet);
- Get creative with non-meet’n’greet VIP offerings: things like back-stage tours led by your community manager, sneak peeks at the set-list, fan interaction and live giveaways, or a pre-show hangout with a VIP host/curator can all add to your revenue even if the star(s) aren’t directly involved;
- Take orders ahead of time: mailing merch packs ahead of time will allow those folks to enjoy their goodies in a way that’s similar to grabbing them from your merch display onsite;
- Market to ticket holders repeatedly: you’ve got their email address from purchasing the ticket, so don’t waste opportunities for drip-style upsells (VIP Nation is amazing at this approach, btw).
Get inspired by BIPi clients
One of the ways we helped take LeAnn Rimes’ merch sales to the next level was by considering how digital tools could improve her shows. We added an online component to her in-person merch stand using Shopify and Printful, and offered a tour-specific merch pack available only online.
Novo Fitness Studio
In March 2020, Novo had to close their studio doors due to covid. Thanks to BIPi, they were able to continue operating and keep their community of students connected and inspired by using Vimeo to live stream classes and build an On Demand Library that is still profitable today.
This post was inspired by our January Touring Professional Mastermind, “What’s your backup plan? Being flexible in the face of future pandemics, lockdowns, and climate-related cancellations.”. To explore future mastermind topics or to register, visit our registration page. If you’re curious about how Berry Interesting Productions can support your business over the long-term, Drop us a line or book a consultation directly with our fearless leader, D’nelle. You can also sign up to get emails from Berry Interesting, and we’ll keep you in the loop.