Since COVID began, artists have widely experimented with the livestreaming formula, trying to get their shows to stand out in an oversaturated ecosystem. Travis Scott, The Weeknd, and John Legend have gone the augmented reality route, taking to platforms like Fortnite and Wave to give gamified animated concerts, while shows like Verzuz are airing song battles. Now, EDM DJ and record producer Michael Brun is trying yet another new tactic — by limiting who can tune into his upcoming shows to specific cities.
For the first paid shows Brun is putting on since the pandemic started, the DJ will geofence three “Bayo” concert performances so that only people within 100 miles of Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago can tune in for the $5 stream. Unlike Brun’s previous shows which were held from his home, the new paid shows — set for August 14th and 15th — will take place from New York’s Le Poisson Rouge, offering a higher-quality production.
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Geofencing has so far been a rare strategy. In mid-July, Chris Daughtry announced a geofenced “tour” from his home to help support local venues across the country, and artists like Laura Marling have experimented with geolocking shows for UK versus US audiences. But Brun’s approach is one of the first targeted location-based livestreaming plays. “There’ve been so many different makeshift solutions that have come out during this time, Brun tells Rolling Stone, adding that the more bare-bones shows at the beginning of quarantine felt like just “keeping your audience sustained” rather than offering economically viable options.
“But it’s been five months since this started, and people across many industries have felt the economic shift without having a stable source of income,” Brun says. “This was [me] thinking about the opposite of just trying to reach as many people as possible. Instead, I want to cater to a specific group of people, create a unique experience for them, and find a way to make it worth the value if they’re paying for it.”
Brun will give each show a unique treatment, from set design to setlist to special guests. He says he’ll premiere new music during the streams too. Brun is airing the concert through ticketing company Tixr, which launched a pay-per-view livestreaming platform in June following high demand from artists and industry clients.
The pitfall of geofencing is, of course, that shows aren’t able to have broad reach. Scale has proven particularly effective in paid streams — with BTS selling over 750,000 tickets for its Bang Bang Con livestream in June and Waxhatchee making enough money via five shows on NoonChorus to replace lost touring revenue for the band’s axed tour.
Brun’s series, sponsored by Bacardi, is further limited by 21+ admission, since the ticket comes with options to purchase Bacardi products via Drizly and Instacart. AWAL, which partnered in producing the series, said the shows are capped at 500 tickets per show to maintain a sense of community. But with the added cash from the corporate sponsorship, ticket gross may not be as crucial.
Brun says he doesn’t see the model — or any livestreaming model — consistently matching tour revenue, but without stating specifics, he said he has been happy with ticket sales so far, adding that he’s considering expanding the geofenced shows to more dates and cities. Past the pandemic, Brun says he can see the model working to give exclusive shows to regions that aren’t getting as many tour dates, like his home country Haiti.
“This is a chance to experiment for me, to look at ways to make a concert or tour and go into these specific markets to see how they’re reacting, to see how they’re interested,” Brun says. “I hope this model, if it works the way I think it can, I hope it can give artists and teams at least another opportunity to find sustainable income in this situation. It doesn’t mean this can work for everyone, you need a fanbase already, I think this would work for touring artists.”
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