Rick Salmon is preparing with his team at Driift for his most ambitious live streaming project yet, producing and promoting a three part performance series for The Smile, a new side project from the Radiohead legends Thomas Yorke and Johnny Greenwood.
The Smile will be performing three separate live shows in London beginning on Saturday (29 January) at 8pm BST (2pm East), 1am BST on 30 January (5pm East on 29 January) and 11am BST (7 p.m. East). ) on January 30th. Performances are streamed live worldwide and include a live studio audience. Fans can watch The Smile’s performance from anywhere in the world via Dreamstage.
The concert series will feature music from The Smile’s debut album, due out soon on XL Recordings, and will be hosted by Paul Dugdale. Salmon is a long-time music executive and director at ATC Management, who broke into the live streaming business in June 2020 with one of the first ticketed live streams during the pandemic for artist Laura Marling at Union Chappel in London and achieved successful live Streams has produced performances for Kylie Minogue, Niall Horan, Dermot Kennedy, Madness, Black Keys and more. He manages Driift with his longtime ATC management business partner Brian message.
While many livestream concert companies have built their brand around their technology, Driift’s strategy has been to create a distinctive aesthetic for its carefully crafted and colorful live film projects. billboard recently sat down with Salmon to discuss the concert series he is producing for The Smile and his vision for a post-pandemic golden age of live streaming.
It’s been 18 months since your first project with Driift and you’ve been non-stop ever since. Can you show us a bird’s eye view of what Driift looks like in January 2022?
So far we’ve done over 30 shows in total, about 600,000 tickets, which is worth $17-18 million in gross on all these shows, including Glastonbury, which has been a huge and massive undertaking. We closed a Series A funding round with investments from Deezer late last year, which was great. We just feel like we’re in a really good place as a company as most of the world is opening up and the traditional touring industry has been very focused on getting back on the road.
In the past we’ve talked about how a large-scale livestream performance is another tent-poling event in an artist’s release strategy. How does that apply to The Smile ahead of the release of their debut album?
When it comes to how managers launch and tour artists, live streaming has already become part of the standard lexicon. With The Smile essentially a brand new band formed from scratch, the options for launch were limited – releasing new music, recording several videos, releasing it for free and then probably touring and popping in occasionally for a few bits and bobs . Now we’re excited that live streams are coming and when planned and delivered in the right way with creativity and artistry, provide a beautiful new medium through which artists can communicate and tell their story and create an amazing experience.
This three-concert series takes place in front of a small studio audience. How do you serve both audiences – in person and at home – in a way that feels authentic and avoids one getting in the way of the other?
That’s the question we’ve all been asking ourselves 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 come to terms with what drift is and where we are sit in the landscape. I think we delivered some beautiful shows with some incredible artists and felt very privileged to be a part of that process. It was an amazing learning curve. We’ve found that we’ve learned so much in the process that we’re essentially doing what we set out to do from the start, which is to serve as a promoter and producer of great live events. Now, in the first phase of our lives, these events were exclusively digital for a livestream audience because 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 going to just throw cameras into a venue and film a normal tour show in hopes that we might be able to sell some streaming tickets on top of the physical tickets already being sold by tour promoters. We’re almost unique in our approach to live events specifically designed for the digital age. We’re incredibly accurate at designing an experience for both audiences that happens at the same time. It sounds like a minor tweak, but the two experiences are different in every way — the production, marketing, and curation aspects are entirely different. We’re trying to balance the two very carefully and hope the experience works.
Traditionally, concert tickets derive much of their value from scarcity. Now what does it mean for The Smile that they have started this livestreaming project that effectively has no real cap on supply or demand barriers?
The concept of scarcity is a crucial factor in any campaign, but I think scarcity can be created through a number of different means. Maybe you’re making a limited amount of merchandise that can only be purchased if you buy a livestream ticket, or maybe you’re creating scarcity by doing a digital meet and greet or Q&A before or after the show. There is no shortage of opportunities in the digital realm.
What can you tell us about the Performance Space?
It’s completely bespoke – everything was built from the ground up and shaped into a circular auditorium with the audience on all sides of the room, about 15 rows in all. It’s a nine-camera shoot and will have LEDs showing truly immersive, amazing content. Because of the way it’s set up, the camera is positioned very discreetly – fans probably won’t even notice, to be honest. It certainly wouldn’t feel like you’re watching a TV shoot. It will feel like you are at a concert. And I think that’s the key. It is not a live stream addon for a concert. It’s really about delivering an event where both concepts are completely self-contained and that’s how you add value. This is how you create an experience that is worth paying for a home. We think this is the first time that a live experience has been developed and curated specifically for both audiences in parallel.