Know High-Level Production Can Be Produced On A Tight Budget — In a market over-saturated with a surplus of live content, a high-quality production can help your live experience stand out to viewers. So how do you produce high-quality live streams from home? First, invest in things like an iRig to create a seamless flow of audio from an interface directly to your phone. Second, experiment and test out your lighting and create a unique background to really bring fans into a universe all its own. Lastly, be consistent. High-quality content can really hit if it is fed at a high enough volume to fans.
As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Clayton Durant.
Clayton Durant is the founder and CEO of CAD Management, an entertainment consulting company that focuses on event, tour, and strategic management for indie artists and brands. With over 7 years of leading the firm, Clayton has worked across industries such as beauty, technology, consumer goods, music, and fashion working with brands such as Hershey, Sour Patch Kids, Ulta Beauty, Equity Residential, Zappos, Lovesac, Olympus Camera’s, MAC Cosmetics, Red Light Management, Cricket Wireless, HyperX, iBuyPower, Live.Me app, Treble FM app, and more.
Clayton currently contributes to Entrepreneur and EDM.com and has written for Hypebot, SynchTank, CelebrityAccess, and The Hype Magazine. Additionally, Clayton has been featured in publications like CNBC, Business Insider, DigiDay, Footwear News, Fortune, Nasdaq Trade Talks, USA Today, The Recording Academy, Mashable, and Reuters. Clayton is also currently attending New York University where he will be earning his Masters in Music Business (22′).
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in New Jersey and spent almost my entire life there. I am an East Coaster by heart and never left the tri-state area. I went to college in Rhode Island at Roger Williams University but moved back to New York City right after graduation to start my career in the agent training program at United Talent Agency. Then, after working there for a while I started my consulting firm CAD Management to bridge the gap between brands and music. Today, we have extended those services to not only service brands navigating the music industry, but also service artists, labels, and publishing companies building their go-to-market strategies.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
I got started in the music business in my sophomore year of college while attending Roger Williams University. I set up my LLC and signed my first band, Tyler & Ryan in 2015. From there, I expanded CAD Management to be more of an entertainment consulting firm. We won RISD as a client, and I led a team in building out their fashion show marketing strategy. Within a few years, we were able to work with artists like MK xyz, labels like Rz3 Recordings and Epic Records, and brands like Live.Me and Equity Residential.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One mistake that always sticks in my mind was when I started independently booking shows and made a major error in setting the capacity for the tickets available in the market. For background, I booked a show with a local NYC venue and we set up our own ticketing through Eventbrite. I accidentally added 100 more tickets than what the venue capacity could hold. The issue was, we noticed this error 2 days before the show was supposed to take place. So within 48 hours, I had to figure out how to move spaces to accommodate 100 more people because I had a typo in the total number of allotted tickets. The stressful process of having to rebook a venue taught me one important lesson — always double-check your work!
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The podcast that impacted me the most this year was Aliza Licht’s Leave Your Mark. We have had the honor as a firm of representing her, and personally, I found the interviews and content she is providing to the market invaluable no matter if you are a college student or seasoned CEO. I think this podcast is going to explode in 2021 so everyone keep an eye out for this one!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote comes from my sports idol Michael Jordan where he said, “I always believe if you put in the work, the results will come”. I think this quote really emulates my life because I have always believed that if I put in the work the goals that I personally want my business to hit will naturally happen.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?
As a consulting firm, a big part of our business was routing and booking shows for independent artists around the US. Prior to covid, we were doing north of 70 plus shows a year, but after COVID-19 we had to transition our touring department to focus on building virtual concerts. Since March, we have booked and built dozens of virtual tours and festivals. Some of these include The Dance Music Gives Back Festival with our partner Hit Command and MK xyz’s virtual tour where we partnered with brands like Baublebar and platforms like Triller, Bandsintown, and MTV.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?
We really started organizing and building virtual concerts and festivals in March at the height of COVID. I think the most interesting story was us partnering with Hit Command to build and bring to market the Dance Music Gives Back Festival. It was very early in the process of building these events at scale while doing it all from different artists’ homes. I think the interesting part about it was setting up over 30 artists’ homes as virtual stages and setting up the technology and run-of-show to all be remote. It was certainly a challenge because shows like this had never been tested at the festival-like scale prior to COVID-19. Luckily, the show, which was meant to raise money for the Recording Academy’s MusiCares Foundation, drew in over 70,000 dollars of funds for their non-profit program, which helped musicians and other music industry professionals weather the storm of COVID. It was incredible to see the power of virtual events and capture audiences around the world without any limitation on capacity.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job of creating live virtual events? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
I think there are two companies that have really shifted everyone’s thought process around virtual events: Fortnite with their gaming and music activations, and Bandsintown. From the superstar side of things, Fortnite’s concerts with Travis Scott and J Balvin have certainly elevated the scale to which virtual concerts could be. For instance, according to Epic (the parent company of Fortnite), 12.3 million players participated in the April 23rd concert, and 27.7 million experienced it 45.8 million times across the five events. On the other side of the coin, Bandsintown has shown that successful live events aren’t only reserved for the superstars of music. Their platform hosted various live streams with emerging acts that did quite well on the viewership side of things. Between those two companies, I would say they really reshaped the possibilities for live streaming this year.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I think the most common mistake is choosing the wrong platform for their live streams. Each platform, including Instagram, Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook, offers various features for their live streams. Whenever someone wants to build a virtual event or concert, they must really understand their key performance indicators and what they are trying to achieve. Once you define those and how you want your audience to interact with the live content, then you have to pick the appropriate platforms. For instance, for concerts I usually recommend artists highly consider YouTube Live or Twitch as their main platforms because of the audience interaction features and the various ways to monetize that fanbase on those platforms.
Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?
As I mentioned prior, there is no one “best” platform. I will say that one of our client’s favorites has been Twitch. It’s not only the tools on the platform which allow for high interaction with fans, but the quality of video that can be viewed on Twitch live is second to none. You can run very high-level production live concerts via Twitch. It is no wonder why many of the biggest festivals have chosen it as their main platform.
Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?
I think the biggest piece of software any live event organizer should know about is Streamyard. For many live events, streaming to multiple platforms at once is critical to scale an event. Therefore, software like Streamyard allows one to easily broadcast and edit on the spot, high-quality content. It is certainly a tool I would recommend to any live event producer.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes? What are the “Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Here are my five tips for creating high-quality virtual events and concerts:
- Choose The Right Platform(s) For Your Live Stream — As previously mentioned, the platform you choose can make or break your live stream. There are a plethora of live streaming services available for musicians, including popular ones such as Instagram, Twitch, Facebook, Zoom, and YouTube. It is important to do your research and select the one that best serves your needs and interests. Before you start your search, have clear goals in mind and know what you want to get out of the experience. Are you trying to earn money? Find a platform that has monetization features. Do you want to grow your following? Choose one that allows collaborative live streams, and then find a fellow creator to stream with so you are reaching both you and your collaborator’s audiences. Do you have high-quality audio or video set-up? Make sure your chosen platform accommodates this and allows you to stream from devices other than your cell phone. Different platforms have different features, including monetization tools, ticketing, differing levels of audience interaction, and collaborations, so it’s important to consider all aspects of your live stream experience.
- Create A Call To Action After Each Live Event — One of the most important things you can do when building a live event is to ensure there is some call to action to turn them from viewers into superfans. One of the best ways to do this is to offer some exclusive record or merch opportunity in exchange for the viewer providing something like their email address or phone number. Collecting your fan’s information is a powerful way to build a long term relationship with them that goes beyond feeding them content through social media. For instance, think about building a high-level newsletter strategy or using tools like Superphone to connect with fans via text. The goal needs to be to create a call to action to join the superfan tribe.
- Ensure Your Live Event Has Properly Coded Its Metadata — Why do live event producers need to pay attention to the metadata when building their virtual concerts? Well, this process is so fragmented that a PwC 2020 report titled A New Video World Order” noted that only 12% of streaming video viewers found it easy to discover the kind of content that interested them on streaming platforms since March 2020. Why isn’t there normalization? The way in which Livestream metadata is coded from a platform like YouTube to Instagram Live is significantly different, which makes it difficult for search engines like Google or concert aggregators like Bandsintown to correctly source and scrape for all the information. Secondly, the non-normalization of metadata is a lost opportunity for live streamed events to capture a bigger piece of the programmatic advertising pie. For context, video streaming services like Hulu saw massive ad-spend growth throughout the height of the pandemic in 2020, so much so that spending between January 1 and June 30 exploded past 1 billion dollars, up 205% from the same period in 2019. Yet, due to live streaming metadata issues, concerts were not able to partake in that pie and earn a piece of the ad revenue, even when many live streaming shows like Verses or Club Quarantine from DJ D-Nice were attracting millions of viewers across the US. Case in point, to get ahead of the curve, ensure your live event metadata is aligned for maximum discoverability and SEO searchability.
- Pre Market Your Event With At Least 30 Days Ahead — Live streaming is an important opportunity to take advantage of. You can reach a broader, international audience with absolutely no limit on capacity. But to have a successful live stream, people have to know about it. Even though it’s virtual, it is still a legitimate event, so make sure to treat it like one. Use the same level of marketing and promotion that you would for an in-person performance and your viewers will take it as seriously as you do. Announce your event at least 30 days beforehand, and have marketing materials ready such as a poster and promotional pictures/videos. If you’re selling tickets, make sure people are aware of that and have easy access to buying them. Don’t forget to share the event on your mailing lists, by word of mouth, and cross-promote it across all of your social media platforms (not just the one you’re live streaming from). You can also make an event page for it on FaceBook, Bandsintown, and even your own website. Be wary of investing money in social media advertising, and if you do make sure to do your research and narrow down your targeted audience very carefully. Collaboration will be your best friend. Similarly to how in-person concerts have an opening act, when you host a collaborative live stream you are reaching two audiences instead of just your own and are more likely to gain fans. Before you announce your live stream, have a marketing plan set in stone.
- Know High-Level Production Can Be Produced On A Tight Budget — In a market over-saturated with a surplus of live content, a high-quality production can help your live experience stand out to viewers. So how do you produce high-quality live streams from home? First, invest in things like an iRig to create a seamless flow of audio from an interface directly to your phone. Second, experiment and test out your lighting and create a unique background to really bring fans into a universe all its own. Lastly, be consistent. High-quality content can really hit if it is fed at a high enough volume to fans.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
The first step is to make sure you have a marketing plan to complement the live stream. A successful live stream needs an audience, and like any physical live event where you may need to sell hard tickets, selling virtual tickets takes just as much effort and work. So make sure your virtual event doesn’t slack on the marketing just because it is on a screen rather than in a physical room.
Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I think the biggest movement I would like to inspire right now given the COVID-19 pandemic is to continue this beautiful trend of giving and kindness that has been displayed during the pandemic. I hope that even once this virus passes, we keep on taking care of each other and continue to give generously.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
If I could have a private breakfast with anyone, it would be Jimmy Lovine. He is one of my business idols, and it would be an honor to even get to sit and talk shop with him over a coffee.