Do Virtual Events Mean Lower Pay for Artistes? Is Pay Per Views the Solution?

Entertainment | July 22, 2020 | Feature

BTOS Productions ShowCase Events Chaitanya Rathi Sachin Kumbhar Sanchalli Arora

The current rise in virtual events and corporate gigs amidst Covid-19 has raised various questions in the live entertainment industry. Are virtual events proving to be a boon for discovering talent? Is the allegation of lower pay true? Will virtual events mean lower pay for performers? Will we go into a pay-per-views model? Is that prevalent anywhere in the world?

EVENTFAQS Media reached out to artistes, their managers and event planners in search for these answers.

“Artistes are trying to rediscover the way they operate”
-Nazeef Mohammed, Director, BToS

Virtual events are a great platform for younger, emerging talent to showcase their art form without having to worry about scale or limited opportunities. It’s a leveling ground now. Anyone who has good talent can now grab a slot and shine! Look at it, that’s what YouTube did years ago, putting you on a plane without charging you for uploading content. And stars were made.

On the other side, it’s by no means a substitute or a replacement to the actual experience. Well established artistes thrive on the love and energy bestowed on them by their audiences, while a digital screen cannot enthrall audiences the way an on-ground event can.

Artistes are trying to rediscover the way they operate through these times. They are focussing on newer ideas, collaborations; audio streaming revenues are slowly building. When normalcy resumes, we will be back on the road again.

However, audiences across the globe react and spend differently. While there is a demand for absolute premium content, there is, contrarily, a lot of content available at their disposal, which makes it very hard to gauge if pay per view could work in our market or not.

Constant innovation can lead to new results that could probably excite Indian audiences. Usually, games attract a great audience because the sport itself is most exciting when viewed live, so PPV works.

“We all are battling the same storm.”
-Sachin Kumbhar, Artiste

I won't call it an allegation, it's a reality that virtual events mean lower pay for artistes. Right now we all are battling the same storm; cost-cutting has been the case across the world in several sectors.

It's already put into practice. We are requested to cut costs by up to 30 to 40 percent or more. To be honest, some of the artistes have gone down to working at a 25 percent cost and that will eventually spoil the market. If one has worked on his/her craft for years, one should always request for a respectable figure.

It’s important to stay relevant on social media platforms but in the greed for quantum of work, one will compromise on quality. It’s a difficult phase but we all shall bounce back stronger and as they say ‘this too shall pass’.

“The lower fee, unfortunately, is true.”
-Nanni Singh, CEO, Showcase Events

Yes, virtual events are proving to be a boon for discovering talent in many ways. It is bringing out a lot of the inherent and natural talent that an artiste has, which in many ways got suppressed due to studio effects. It is also helping bring out a lot of unknown talent.

 A lot of innovation in music is happening and a lot of collaborative sounds are emerging. Maybe, we may just have a new genre of music, The Pandemic (special)!

The lower fee, unfortunately, is true. Not an allegation, but a reality, and in a situation like the current, can we blame anyone for anything? The fact is that an online event saves a lot of time for the artiste, who can then take on more shows, unlike being in the live space where there is travel time, etc. So artistes need to up their game too, better their quality of sound and better the performance quality in terms of bandwidth, as virtual is going to be the norm, at least for the next few months. Slowly, the fee structure will improve too, am sure of that. 

The consumers have been spoilt by so much free content that it will take some time for it to change.

The Pay-per-view model, unfortunately, doesn’t exist as a norm, though paid online concerts have started happening. Unfortunately very limited, but at least something… Pay per view will be very helpful to streamline a system of monetization for the artistes, for their only source of income is their performance. It would be a good thing if it can be implemented. The consumer mindset will change slowly and adapt to it.

“An artiste still needs the same amount of preparation.”
-Chaitanya Rathi, Artiste

I'm not sure if virtual events are proving to be a boon for discovering talent yet. The existing talent that's already there in the market is also finding it difficult to keep up. It's not easy for a live artiste to feel the same amount of adrenaline and energy while performing in front of the camera to an imaginary audience.

Yes, virtual events are the norm for the day right now. And it also means lesser pay for the artiste. Firstly, at the client end, most are not making profits which automatically lower their event budgets. The agencies also need to earn because of the same reasons and so what budget the artiste finally gets is lesser than before.

On an average, I have been working at fees that are 50 to 60 percent of what I used to charge. Clients feel a lower fee for the artiste is justified because the logistics cost is lesser. But they forget that an artiste still needs the same amount of preparation, has to still dress up, needs to invest in high-speed internet, green screen, lighting, etc. And that for most artistes, that's their only source of income.

I doubt we'll be moving towards a pay-per-view model yet. Not unless we're talking of the likes of AR Rahman, Arijit Singh and that league where people wouldn't mind paying.

“Artistes have no choice than to drop their prices.”
-Subramanian Iyer, CEO, Believe Entertainment

True talent will always stand out in my opinion. The time spent on Digital media has increased manifold, so yes you might end up watching different kinds of content and exploring more. But the environments in which artistes are currently working may not be helpful from a long term perspective.

There is no sponsorship/ticket sale model for virtual events yet so artistes have no choice than to drop their prices. Artistes are also performing solo gigs most of the time without bands, so the cost has to be subsidized (largely for corporate gigs). Pay per view has already started on platforms like BMS and Insider. As a model, it is being experimented with in various international markets as well (including Europe and US).

Till a year back, we wouldn’t have imagined that many consumers would have four or five different OTT services and two or three audio platforms on their phones and pay for them as well. So, I am optimistic! Only time will tell whether this will pick up. Needless to mention, nothing can substitute an on-ground experience.

"Our desperation works in their favour."
-Sanchalli Arora, Artiste

It is a tricky situation at the moment. Most of the clients don't have the money to spend. There is one segment of clients, who are either not doing events altogether or are spending the least possible amount. They might have the finances, but their spends are regulated by the terms set by their global offices.

The second segment, which are your financial service providers and a few FMCG companies, are doing more than the usual number of shows. These are the people who have the money. We all know their profits have increased.

The production/ streaming cost of a digital event is way less than a regular event. Now since the demand is less than the supply of artistes/event companies, they obviously don't want to pay. The same person is available at 50 percent or even lesser than what s/he was before. Our desperation works in their favor. We all need money right now and want to be visible and relevant.

The hybrid events, on the other hand, are like regular events. People are being paid their pre-COVID prices.

There is no fixed professional rate right now. People are just trying to survive and work. I hope the situation gets better and more organized soon. It definitely has improved from the time the pandemic started, as more and more event companies and clients are pivoting and going virtual.

The concept of pay per view or digital tipping is not new. It's just that it has taken precedence and prominence in present times.

Having said that, Pay per view might work well for IPs, musicians, individual artists catering to masses or public events. However, for professionals working in the corporate and wedding event space, the money still needs to come in from the client.

EVENTFAQS Media reached out to artistes, their managers, and event planners in search for these answers.

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