Rick Salmon gears up for its most ambitious live-streaming project yet with its team at Driift producing and promoting a three-part performance series for The Smile, a new side project from Radiohead legends Thomas Yorke and Jonny Greenwood.
The Smile will perform three separate live shows in London, starting Saturday, January 29 at 8:00 p.m. BST (2:00 p.m. Eastern), 1:00 a.m. BST January 30 (5:00 p.m. Eastern January 29) and 11:00 a.m. BST (7:00 a.m. Eastern Time). ) on January 30. Performances will be broadcast live worldwide and will include a live studio audience. Fans can watch The Smile performances from anywhere in the world via dream stage.
The concert series will preview music from The Smile’s debut album, soon to be released on XL Recordings, and is conducted by Paul Dugdale. Salmon is a longtime music executive and head of ATC Management who propelled himself into the livestream business in June 2020 with one of the first paid livestreams during the pandemic for artist Laura Marling at Union Chappel in London and has produced successful live stream performances for Kylie Minogue, Niall Horan, Dermot Kennedy, Madness, Black Keys and more. He manages Driift with his long-time business partner in ATC management Message from Brian.
While many live concert companies have built their brand around their technology, Driift’s strategy has been to develop a signature aesthetic for its carefully crafted, brightly colored live film projects. Billboard recently caught up with Salmon to discuss the concert series he’s producing for The Smile and his vision for a post-pandemic golden age of live streaming.
18 months have passed since your first project with Driift and you haven’t stopped since. Can you give us an overview of what Driift looks like in January 2022.
So far we’ve done over 30 shows in total, around 600,000 tickets, which is $17-18 million in gross revenue for all of those shows, including Glastonbury, which was a huge, massive undertaking. We closed a Series A funding round including an investment from Deezer late last year, which was great. We just feel like we’re in a really good position as a company as most of the world opens up and the traditional touring industry has been focused on getting back on the road.
In the past, we’ve talked about a large-scale live performance as another highlight event in an artist’s release strategy. How does this apply to The Smile before the release of their debut album?
When it comes to how managers pitch and rotate artists, live streaming is already part of the standard lexicon. With The Smile, essentially a brand new band launched from scratch, launch options had been limited – release new music, record multiple videos, release them for free, then probably go on tour and show up occasionally for a few tracks. Now we are thrilled that live streams are coming and, if planned and delivered in the right way with creativity and artistry, they represent a beautiful new medium through which artists can communicate and tell their story and create a amazing experience.
This series of three concerts will take place in the round before a small studio audience. How do you serve both audiences – in person and at home – in a way that feels authentic and keeps one from getting in the way of the other?
This is the question we’ve all been asking ourselves too since June 2020, 18 months ago (for Marling) and there’s a lot of water under the bridge and we’ve learned a lot and understood what Driift is and where we are we sit in the landscape. I think we delivered some great shows with amazing artists and felt very privileged to be part of that process. It’s been an incredible learning curve. What we’ve realized is that having learned so much in this process, we’re basically doing what we set out to do at the very beginning, which is serving as a promoter and producer of amazing live events. Now, in the first stage of our life, these events were digital only for a live audience, as we weren’t allowed to have an audience in the room. And now it’s very easy for us to do events with an audience in the room. But we’re not just going to throw cameras around a venue and film a normal touring show in the hopes of being able to sell streaming tickets on top of the physical tickets that have already been sold out by tour organizers. We are almost unique in our approach to live events specifically designed for the digital age. We are incredibly specific about designing an experience for both audiences that happens simultaneously. It sounds like a small tweak, but the two experiences are different in every way – the production, marketing, and curatorial aspects are entirely different. We try to balance the two very carefully and hopefully the experiment will work.
Traditionally, concert tickets derive much of their value from scarcity. What does this mean for The Smile now that they’ve embarked on this live-streaming project that effectively has no real cap on supply or barriers to demand?
The concept of scarcity is a crucial factor in any campaign, but I think scarcity can be created by a number of different devices. Maybe you’re doing a limited number of fan items that can only be purchased if you buy a live stream ticket, or maybe you’re creating a shortage by doing a digital meetup or Q&A- answers before or after the show. There is no shortage of options in the digital realm.
What can you tell us about the stage space?
It’s completely bespoke – everything was built from scratch, shaped into a circular auditorium with the audience on all sides of the space, about 15 rows in total. It is a nine-camera shoot and LEDs will display truly immersive and amazing content. Due to the way it’s set up, the camera will be positioned very discreetly – fans probably won’t even notice to be honest. You definitely won’t feel like you’re watching a TV shoot. You’ll feel like you’re at a concert. And I think that’s the key. This is not a live streaming addon for a concert. It’s really about hosting an event where the two concepts operate independently, and that’s how you create value. This is how you create an experience worth paying for a home. We believe this is the first time a live experience has been specifically designed and curated for both audiences in parallel.