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The Social Mobile Concertgoer – Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em? – The Connect Music Series

Part 1 of The Connected Music Series, “Music Sponsorships: The Golden Ticket for Brands That Get It,” covered the benefits, data, and examples of sponsored live events done well by brands, as discussed in the SXSW Music session, “Does Social Media Make Concerts Better?”

Photo: International Business Times
Photo: International Businesss Times

The session featured findings from the report, “We Know Music Fans,” by AEG and Momentum, plus insights from panelists Hugh McIntyre, Music Writer, Forbes; Glenn Minerley, VP Group Director, Music & Entertainment, Momentum Worldwide; Scott Carlis, VP Digital Social Media & Marketing, AEG Global Partnerships; Craig Goodfriend, Industry Manager, Facebook; and Jean-Philip Grobler, St. Lucia.

In the report’s survey of music fans, 75 percent of which were millennials, 90 percent claim that music is the most important thing in their life. That’s quite a statement.

The immense love of music by this generation is shown to drive the growth in concert and festival ticket sales, with 50 percent of ticket purchases being made by millennials with their mobile device. The report also shows that the average millennial spends 5.4 hours a day on social media. 54 percent of them are most likely to use their mobile phones at a live event versus other age groups. It’s no wonder that 70 percent of them feel social actually improves the live music experience.

The Contentious State of Social Media and the Mobile Concertgoer

There are many magical moments that take place during SXSW. This year it was being a few feet away from Iggy Pop’s performance at Austin City Limits. It was also the one SXSW show where I didn’t take any photos with my phone (also had to check in my DSLR at the hotel next door), because I, unlike some others (ahem, Damon, cough), abided by the rule announced prior to the show: the use of mobile phones was strictly prohibited.

Iggy Pop isn’t the only artist putting the thumbs down on phones. Mumford & Sons, Annie Clarke of St. Vincent, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Eagles, Jack White and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have also been known to ask fans to refrain from smartphone frenzy. Some venues have even throttled cellular signals, which cuts off mobile communication altogether, prevents social sharing, texting, and even calls. If concertgoers do happen to break the rule, they do so at the risk of being thrown out of the show. And I thought Alamo Drafthouse was tough.

On one hand, those photos and video clips music fans are eager to share on social media have proven to benefit the bands on stage, the venue and promoter, and associated brand activations. They’ve shown to improve ticket sales, which is a big, big priority for all involved.

Scott Carlis in his role at AEG (earlier this month he became the new Senior Vice President of Digital Media at Learfield), acted as a conduit between successful brand activations and the promoter’s live events, developing strategies that often included elements of mobile and social. According to Carlis, 98% of people who attend shows have a smartphone. “Music is emotional. It’s instant gratification,” he stated, “The ability to capture it and share it across all your social channels is hugely invaluable.”

On the other hand, we’ve all been at a show and have ended up behind some asswipe who wants to watch and record the entire concert from their mobile. Video, questionable in quality, that may never see the light of the screen. But is banning cell phones altogether, something that does happen on occasion, the answer?
“When I go to a concert I want to enjoy it and take in the experience, but there are also parts of it that I do want to share with my friends,” said Jean-Philip Grobler of St. Lucia, sharing his own concert-going experiences with the session’s audience. But in the role of performer, “When we’re playing on stage, and then play a song that’s a general favorite of the audience, they’ll all take their phones out and there’s this energy that they project back to you. Even though they’re sharing your show with all their friends, and that’s a great thing because it gets you exposure in some kind of way, it almost stops this kind of esoteric flow of energy within the show. So that can sometimes take away from the experience.”

Three years ago, a time when the glow of mobile phone screens may have been less so versus today, Johnny Marr had a blunt opinion on mobile usage for NME readers, “You know, I don’t mean to be unkind but I think you should put your phone down because you’re just being a dick.”

Being the social media company at the Sx session table, Craig Goodfriend from Facebook chimed in, “The game changer is this,” he said, holding up his phone. “Now you’re bringing your entire world with you to the show. You’re still with your buddies, having a great time, but you’re still sharing that with all your friends. ‘I love St. Lucia. You guys should check it out, and here’s why.’ It’s helping fans discover [music]. It’s creating memories. And when that memory shows up a year later on your Facebook feed, you can say, ‘That was a great day in my life.’ To me, that makes it all better.”

That desire to capture and share live music experiences on mobile shows no signs of slowing down. According to Ericsson’s mobility report from last year, which was featured in the International Business Times, “We ain’t see nothing yet,” when it come to smartphone ownership and data usage. “By 2021, there will be 3 billion more smartphone subscriptions in the world — nearly doubling today’s figure of 3.4 billion — to reach 6.4 billion.”

In Part 1 of this series, I highlighted the momentum behind brand sponsorships in the music space, which is mutually beneficial for all — the promoter, band or artist, the brand, and the fans. Music lovers and their phones are going to be a part of the mix and central to those activations. So when it comes to how we all behave at concerts, let’s all agree not to be that guy/girl who watches the whole damn show through the small screen…okay?

Next up in Part 3 of The Connected Music Series, I’ll dive into how social media has changed the music discovery and purchasing model, and how one fan got his favorite band to come to him using social, sweat and a lot of love.


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