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The Future of Live Events: Hybrid, Virtual, and Traditional Events

Guest Feature: Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer is a third-generation entrepreneur and musician. He knew from a young age that he would work in entertainment. Young Brian was not wrong.

After a job in radio and a stint at the Mastercard Priceless Experience in Los Angeles, Brian graduated from the University of Maryland and landed a job at Windup Records in New York City. He didn’t last long there as his band, Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears, was presented with an opportunity to go on tour. During the roughly three years he spent on tour, Brian began to dabble in digital marketing, helping “old school” clients break into social media.

Brian Bauer

That led him to Nashville in 2012 where he began working for Rockhouse Partners, a marketing agency owned by Etix where he was quickly thrust into a leadership role. Shortly after, Brian created Bauer Entertainment Marketing which now works with marquee music, sports, and entertainment properties across the world such as Country Jam USA, Lexington Center, the National Sports Forum, Emporium Presents, Dixiefrog Records, and TourGigs. Despite the pandemic, BEM experienced a year of significant growth, adding approximately 30 new clients and employing 16 people in 2020.

In March 2020, when the magnitude of Coronavirus first became a reality, Brian saw his business and that of his clients slow substantially. But he gathered his team, took stock of where they were, and formulated a plan. On the top of his list was to stay true to BEM’s mission of being value-forward while positioning the company to help its clients and industry colleagues. Brian knew he had to look at things long-term and focus on mitigating losses for live event industry professionals. Looking back on that list a few weeks ago, he proudly says he “checked all the boxes.”

Some of the ways Brian and BEM have helped their clients keep as much cash on hand as possible are:

  • Hosted livestream and drive-in events. BEM’s first livestream during the pandemic was on March 21, 2020 -- just two weeks after major event cancellations.

  • Shifted on-site sponsorship dollars into virtual activations.

  • Established merchandise stores online.

BEM also hosted and participated in several industry webinars. Brian’s “How to Avoid a “Fan Demic” During the Coronavirus Crisis'' webinar in partnership with the National Sports Forum was their most viewed event. Livestreams are here to stay, according to Brian. But in order for them to be successful, they need production value.

“The days of couch concerts are over. If the experience is the same as watching a YouTube video, it isn’t effective,” says Brian.

Instead, livestream events need to have more production value for fans, a feeling of exclusivity, and fans need control of the experience (the ability to choose the camera angle or to hop from “stage” to “stage”). Fans will pay for enhanced experiences. In fact, many already are.

Even after in-person events return, Brian thinks we’ll see more hybrid options than ever before, with virtual experience acting complementary to live experiences. Fans are more likely to attend a live show after watching a livestream, so these hybrid events should be viewed as marketing tools for future in-person events.

Looking forward, Brian believes that the return to live is dependent on geography, attendee demographics, and local and federal governments. When pressed, he said we will likely see EDM events in the South first, as they typically have a younger demographic. However, he thinks most big events won’t take place until July or later.

Brian Bauer

Until then, Brian and his team are excited that they have a longer runway to market upcoming events. Prior to the pandemic, marketing timelines were often compacted into just a few months, but now that they have been extended, he is encouraging clients not to wait and to get their events on sale now.

With some big-name events already moving to the fall, Brian anticipates oversaturation in Q3. This could potentially pose a problem with available talent, equipment, labor, and fan attendance. Therefore, events in September shouldn’t wait to go on sale. Organizers need to start marketing now and get fans to commit before they commit to competitors.

Event organizers need to combat fan expectations that events are still at risk for being cancelled. They need to build trust with their fans that the event will happen or they will get their money back. They need to balance educating fans about safety in a manner that doesn’t preclude them from attending. Above all, organizers need to remember that what works for one event in one location with one demographic, won’t necessarily work for another.

For Brian Bauer, 2020 was a whirlwind. Live events have evolved as a result of the pandemic, and the changes are likely here to stay.

“The awfulness of 2020 will generate some really positive new ventures for our industry,” says Brian.

Want to get a taste of what it’s like to work with Brian and the BEM team? Check out their offer of 3 FREE growth ideas.

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