Hybrid events are a natural progression
Kevin Baker is founder and director of events and celebrity management specialists Concept Events. Since the company’s formation in 2019, Concept Events has hosted sporting dinners and celebrity meet and greet evenings across Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire with the likes of former WBC Heavyweight Champion of the World Frank Bruno, footballing legend Paul Gascoigne, and motorcycling sensation Carl Fogarty.
Ticket buyers pay between £20 and £90 to meet and listen to their sporting idols talk about their lives and careers at intimate venues. But business was halted in March when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the UK into lockdown. Six months later, Concept Events are still being forced to postpone their popular shows due to government restrictions on the number of people that can gather at an indoor venue.
Amid challenging times for Mr Baker and his business, TicketCo Media Services asked the former professional boxing manager about his COVID-19 experience and how he believes Concept Events and the live events industry can return.
The impact of COVID-19 has been significant across all sectors. But the live events industry is one that has been severely impacted.
When COVID-19 hit Concept Events were flying. It has staged numerous sell-out events with guests including Kevin Keegan, Jones Barnes, and Bryan Robson. And it had a star-studded line-up of acts booked throughout 2020.
“We had been building great momentum and had developed a strong reputation for delivering great shows,” said Mr Baker. “We had booked many exciting acts for 2020, but then COVID-19 hit and business ground to a halt. We have had to postpone all of our live shows and the rescheduled dates too.”
Some venues are hoping to reopen with strict social distancing measures in place. But for Concept Events, this is not an option.
“We’re not planning a return for any live shows until things return to normal,” said Mr Baker. “Hosting an event with no atmosphere isn’t viable for us and operating with social distancing measures in places takes away the atmosphere from a live event.”
Despite several postponements, Mr Baker has been encouraged by customers’ support to the live events industry – reporting that he has had to process fewer than a dozen full refunds since the UK’s lockdown was announced.
He added: “Refund numbers have been surprisingly small. Customers still have faith in the ticket they have purchased and would rather wait for the show to go ahead than see a small sum enter their bank account, even in these challenging times.
With the live events industry under enormous strain we asked Mr Baker about the wider impact on the sector.
“It is tough,” he said. “In the short term it is resulting in a significant loss of income and in turn the loss of jobs, which is challenging.”
But Mr Baker has every confidence that companies that remain afloat during the global pandemic will thrive once given the opportunity. But he admits that process is likely to be slow.
“The events industry will bounce back and there will be a surge of interest once members of the public are granted the opportunity to attend live events,” said Mr Baker. “But it will be a slow process.”
Concept Events have used the time to pivot to generate some short-term revenue, while planning for next year.
“We have adapted the business by selling signed memorabilia and received a bounce back loan from the Government, but that’s all we have managed to do regarding income,” said Mr Baker. “We are planning well into next year and have already secured five shows with legendary performing arts promoter Harvey Goldsmith for 2021 as we expand the company’s target audience into the music industry.”
Adapting to trends
With event organisers forward planning for a time when venues reopen and crowds can return, different approaches to the future are being adopted as the industry grapples with the impact of COVID-19.
Concept Events have been researching all opportunities, including live-streaming physical events.
“Like many businesses in our sector, we are exploring the option of streaming our shows online in the future so people can watch events at a reduced rate from the comfort of their own home,” said Mr Baker.
“Life and habits have changed, and it will be the new normal for customers to be presented with an option to stream the event rather than attend it themselves in person,” said Mr Baker. “At Concept Events, we are very much focused on returning to our former glory by selling out venues across Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. But we must consider the public’s demand for online access.”
The idea of hybrid events and using technology to gain additional revenue and exposure is not new to Mr Baker.
In 2015, he arranged for Frankie Gavin’s IBF Welterweight title fight to be the first world championship bout to be streamed live on Facebook. Although the fight did not go ahead because of injury, the concept has remained in Mr Baker’s plans for Concept Events. COVID-19 has now accelerated his thoughts on hybrid solutions for live events.
“There will be a big demand for hybrid events once the public can attend events in large numbers across all sectors,” said Mr Baker. “People are very comfortable with technology now and it has improved connectivity and engagement.”
Many event organisers have turned to live streaming during lockdown to maintain revenue and audience engagement. But what does the future hold? Will hybrid events become the new normal?
Mr Baker believes it is a natural progression that will lead to hybrid events becoming “second nature”.
Her said: “We’re in the very early stages of planning, but we expect to broadcast our events online in the future for a price that is a fraction of a ticket to attend the event physically.
“It’s important we get the pricing right to represent the value that the customer will receive. Our events are very personal, and that personal edge is taken away from the customer when they watch an evening talk show from the comfort of their own home. But there is still demand regardless, it’s a natural progression and on that basis hybrid events will become second nature.”
Photo above: Kevin Keegan and Kevin Baker.
At TicketCo we have built our business on providing an easy to use digital platform for event organisers, artists, and venues to sell tickets and market their events. We have always been at the forefront of developing our own technology to adapt and provide a service and platform that is relevant in the digital age.
When lockdown hit the industry the team at TicketCo soon realised it was an opportunity and the company invested in R&D to develop and launch TicketCo Media Services, a new pay per view live streaming and video on demand service. It is combined with our ticketing platform so organisers and artists can monetise digital content and events.