Special Report: Brand Livestream
Kevin Best, Contributing Editor, BrandStorytelling.tv
Highlighting Impactful Live Streaming
Q and A with LiveXLive Global Head of Sales and Brand Partnerships Jason Miller
Brand Storyelling caught up with Jason Miller, LiveXLive’s Global Head of Sales and Brand Partnerships, about 2020, what’s to come for LiveXLive, and what he sees for the future of livestreaming itself:
First off, how would you describe your role, and what drew you to join the LiveXLive team?
As Global Head of Sales & Brand Partnerships, my team is responsible for driving sponsorship and advertising revenue across LiveXLive’s platform including on-demand video and audio, livestreaming of concerts, festivals, events and original series as well as working with blue chip companies to create branded content series and exclusive custom events. I was excited to join LiveXLive, as I felt there was a white space in the livestreaming music landscape and that brands would be super energized about what we are building. If you are a brand that wants to amplify your current music strategy or wants to partner with LiveXLive to develop one from the ground floor, we are uniquely positioned to help brands tap into the power of live music and artist partnerships to help reach their target consumers.
You became LiveXLive’s Global Head of Sales and Brand Partnerships right at the end of 2019. Obviously 2020 unfolded a lot differently than anyone expected, with music festivals like Coachella and SXSW getting cancelled. I’m sure a lot of what you game-planned for 2020 immediately went out the window, but what are you most proud of about how you and your team were able to pivot and react?
Since LiveXLive was already the leader in livestreaming music concerts, festivals and events, we quickly pivoted our content, talent relations, marketing and sales strategy. Starting with our 48 hour virtual music festival, Music Lives, in April, we were able to keep artists connected to their fans while creating unique ways to align brands with fans and bands. It also allowed us to accelerate our strategy of creating our own IP including developing original weekly series like Music Lives ON (which was launched off the success of Music Lives) and LiveZone, along with our LiveXLive Presents concert series and our first award show, The Lockdown Awards. Plus we created an end to end solution for pay-per-views (PPV) for artists and fans, where fans get the “best seat in the house”. Pepsi sponsored Pitbull's virtual concerts plus they also sponsored Pitbull’s newly launched podcast and vodcast series on PodcastOne and LiveXLive.
What do you look for when considering partnering a brand and an artist for a LiveXLive livestream event? What would the ideal brand partnership look like in your opinion?
We have partnered with major brands like Hyundai, White Claw Hard Seltzer, Chipotle, Corona, Pepsi and Porsche on customized music programs. We always look to align brands with artists that identify with the brand positioning and values of that brand, as well as resonate with their target consumer.
An ideal partnership is where we make the brand a star within the storyline of our content, whether it’s an original series, concert or festival. For example, we recently created an exclusive 3 part concert series with Porsche called “LiveXLive Presents: Stay Driven with Porsche” that not only partnered them with 3 emerging female artists that aligned with their target consumer, but also brought their “Stay Driven with Porsche” brand positioning to life through thematic questions with the artists along with interactivity with the vehicle.
What have been some of LiveXLive’s most successful livestream events to date, and what do you think made those such a success?
Our 48-hour Music Lives festival (April 2020) was incredibly successful, partnering with TikTok and Facebook Oculus from a sponsorship, marketing and distribution perspective and garnering over 50 million livestream views and 5 billion video views of the #MusicLives hashtag. Additionally, our first award show, The Lockdown Awards, presented exclusively by Hyundai, celebrated innovation and creativity in music since the pandemic started and delivered 10M+ livestream views in December. We see the greatest success when we combine the power of great content and storytelling, partnering with artists that have strong followings and fan bases while creating the right distribution channels and leaning in, not only to our livestreaming platforms but those in podcasting, vodcasting, digital radio and now, personalized merchandise. And when our brand partners promote the branded content across their digital and social channels, it helps elevate the overall platform to drive additional viewership and engagement.
What tips do you have for how best to market a livestream? How do you balance trying to attract users to both your social media platforms and your website/app? What are some common missteps you would caution against for brand activation on a global scale?
First we market through the LiveXLive platform- through our emails, in-app messages, push notifications and social media channels. One of our biggest differentiators is that we have over 1 million paid subscribers, and over 38 million customers. This allows us to use our internal marketing channels to reach the core audience of the brands and the artists. Our Slacker radio platform has a proprietary data platform in which we can target those subscribers who recently listened to the genre and or the exact artist. This also informs which artists are the next superstar and upcoming talent to pair with the brand. In addition, we focus on earned and owned media, meaning, we lean-in heavily on placing digital ads, not only on our site and its verticals, but we create a media buying strategy that targets audiences based on 1st and 3rd party data. In addition, we depend on earned media to organically tell our stories to drive people to view, purchase a show or event or to tune-in. The balance struck between advertising and public relations works for us too. Lastly, the artists themselves reach out to their fans through their channels - emails, fan groups and social media.
Some common missteps are to 100% depend on the artists to bring in the audience. It must be a combination of the artist, the brand and the platform. Also too often, the platforms that artists perform on do not have a subscriber base so pulling in the audience is double the work.
Livestream shopping has become a booming global market. Obviously LiveXLive is first and foremost about music, but do you see the company expanding into other live events besides concerts?
We are a nimble company who looks at opportunities in all areas of entertainment. We are more than music, we are an entertainment platform that includes music, comedy, pop culture, sports and more--- we are about original programming. We are launching 9 new unscripted series in 2021. We have hosted sporting events to comedy festivals and everything else in between. We ran over 20 different charity livestream events since April 2020. Most recently we acquired PodcastOne with one of the largest libraries of A+ podcast and vodcast content, and acquired a personalized merchandise business to enhance the full product offering of livestreams- “Get the tour t-shirt with your PPV ticket!.” We have a strong digital radio platform through Slacker and we will continue to grow our corporate flywheel in new verticals, not just livestreaming.
How would you say the livestreaming industry has changed just in the past year? Is the current demand because there aren't in-person events, or is it here to stay? Any predictions for the future of livestream?
It’s a question that could go on for days. Each day is unique and so are the ideas that we bring to the table as a progressive, forward facing company that is deeply rooted in bringing the best creative content to the table. Livestreaming used to be known in many circles as couch-touring, where you can’t make it to a show of your favorite band. In many instances they had an alliance with us or others in the field to livestream or post-stream a show or an event. This year we saw a boom and a huge growth from OTT to livestreaming different kinds of events. We were the center for the superfans and artists to connect and come together. First it was all free content, then moved to PPV and now it’s a hybrid of different models.
Fans love their artists or sports heroes and we have created ultimate VIP packages allowing fans to be closer to artists than ever before. We have created merch packages that extend the relationship even further and provide fans forums for conversations with themselves and artists. So what has changed for us is we have really become a 360 company, not only creating content for our verticals, but being value added to platforms who don’t create original IP. We are constantly looking at ways to stay true to our ‘Artists First’ philosophy and that includes doing as much as we can to create a great creative experience for the artist as well as for fans. We create and curate, produce (full in house production team), distribute (on our owned and operated platform plus to over 300 million worldwide with our linear channel), market (through our platform and networks), and finally, help monetize for the artists and their teams.
Livestreaming is here to stay. This year alone we saw over 118 million livestreams with over 1800 artists performing on our platform. We saw some of what will be huge when we get out of the pandemic in terms of ticketing alignment to create pre and post concert listening and viewing options, to exclusive and on-demand merchandise to supportive marketing through our audio channels and podcast and vodcasting. Livestreaming will continue on a journey of growth. Will everyone succeed? That is an unclear question. But will LiveXLive succeed in the future? For sure...Why? Because we have a terrific team of hardworking, creative people who are dedicated to bringing amazing entertainment experiences to super fans and beyond on one of the greatest and innovative global entertainment platforms.
Recent Live Streams from Top Brands
CES 2021 Goes All-Digital
Brand: Consumer Technology Association
Platform: CES website, Microsoft Teams
Time: January 11-14
The Consumer Electronics Show begins its annual three day trade show today, and for the first time in its 50 plus year history it will be an entirely digital event. CES was one of the few shows that happened early enough in 2020 to not have to be canceled. That gave the team almost a full year to plan out how to go about pivoting the show that usually draws around 170,000 people to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Microsoft was announced as the technology partner back in October that would help reimagine the event. Microsoft has had success the past year with pivoting to livestream, and posted a short video on its Youtube channel with some helpful tips for those looking to make an event digital. There will be over a 1,000 exhibitors and brands at the event, which is lower than most years. And the Consumer Technology Association, the company that puts on CES, still expects around 150,000 guests, but given the success of past Microsoft digital events, that number could be much higher due to people being able to attend from anywhere in the world.
Samsung Reveals New Galaxy Smartphones
Event: Unpacked 2021
Time: January 14
Samsung will unveil their latest Galaxy smartphone during a livestream on their website at 10am EST on January 14th. Samsung held its Unpacked event last year in person in San Francisco on February 11th, which was also livestreamed on Youtube for those that could not attend. The South Korean company released a 10 second teaser video promoting the digital event on it’s Samsung Newsroom Youtube channel, which has 280k subscribers. It quickly showed what appeared to be a blurred-out phone inside of a box. Samsung began doing their annual Unpacked event back in 2009, with the reveal of the first Galaxy smartphone. Now, over a decade later, the S-21 series is rumored to include a stylus for its Ultra model, which had previously only been included with the Galaxy Note models.
Nintendo's Virtual Theme Park Tour
Event: Live Virtual Tour of the Super Nintendo Theme Park
Views: 2.85 million
Time: December 18
Nintendo recently gave fans a live virtual tour of their new theme park, Super Nintendo World, which is located at Universal Studios in Japan. The fifteen minute video was shown on Nintendo’s Youtube page, which has 7.44 million subscribers. Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s longtime game director who created Mario, guided the tour of the park, which is somehow still scheduled to open next month on February 4th. Miyamoto showed off the Power-Up band functionality around the park, an interactive bracelet that allows visitors to collect virtual coins by completing tasks. And while he didn’t fully show the Mario Kart ride and other surprises about the immersive world, commenters agreed that what was shown was a quite impressive recreation of scenes from different Mario video games. The livestream ended with Miyamoto admitting that he understood not everyone will be able to visit the park this year due to Covid-19, and reminded viewers that Super Nintendo World will also be coming soon to Universal Studios in Hollywood, Orlando, and Singapore.
ON THE RADAR
Opportunities for Brands
Livestream Auction App Whatnot Raises Seed Funding
Livestream shopping continues to expand into the US market, and is now moving into the world of collectables. Whatnot, the livestream auction app, which mostly deals with collectables like Funko Pops and trading cards, has secured $4 million in seed funding. The money will be used to expand the app’s small team and also build out the types of products available for sale, including video games and vintage clothing.
While sellers on eBay usually list something that will end in a week or a month, slowly building bids until the clock hits zero, Whatnot is quite different. While the app started out last year as simply an authenticated reseller who would act as the middle man between buyers and sellers, they have now moved into hosting livestream auctioning. Verified sellers host their livestreams on Whatnot much like an in-person auction, announcing who has the current highest bid and earnestly congratulating the winner. For something like sealed mystery packs of Pokemon cards, which can go for over $20 each, the seller will open the pack live for everyone to see right after the auction has ended.
It’s not hard to see the appeal of the communal experience of Whatnot, which includes a live-scrolling comment section, compared to that of eBay, where there is no interaction with other bidders or the seller beyond emailed questions. Even if you could interact with sellers more on eBay, chances are most of them are not actually fans of the collectables they are flipping. The livestream aspect allows you to immediately see the product you are buying and the verified person you are buying from. They have also countered the last-second “sniping” problem of eBay by adding an additional 10 seconds to the auction every time a new bid is entered.
Whatnot is recreating the feeling of going to a booth at a convention and buying from a seller who is knowledgeable about what they are selling and is offering a fair price. It will be interesting to see how they are able to slowly build out their business and expand with more and more sellers, and perhaps one day partner with the official brands behind these collectables, while still keeping the authentic and personal touch that elevates them from eBay.
About Kevin Best
Kevin Best is a writer and film critic who lives in Los Angeles, California. He is the host of the podcast Sequel Rewrite, and is working on his first novel.