The show must go on, even during a pandemic

October 6, 2020By Craig NoldenAMEC, Burrelles, Communications, Content Marketing, General Information, Industry Events, Marketing, Media Industry, Media Measurement, Media Monitoring, Media Outreach, Media Pitch, Media Relations, Mobile Media, Productivity, PRSA, PRSSA, Public Relations, Social Media, Technology No Comments

As we’ve all noticed (and probably experienced), the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on almost every industry. From travel & leisure to auto sales to commercial real estate and everything in between, virtually all business has been impacted in one way or another. One of my favorites, the entertainment industry, is no exception. How these businesses pivot and continue to adjust will be crucial to their survival.

This feels like forever ago, but March 11, 2020 is the day that coronavirus really hit home for many people. I was stunned when actor Tom Hanks announced he had contracted coronavirus to the world via Twitter from a movie set, the National Basketball Association suspended all games after a player tested positive for COVID-19 and the president of the United States announced a European travel ban.

The shockwaves sent across media and entertainment led to the shutdown of TV and film productions throughout the United States and the world. State and local governments ordered cinemas, live entertainment venues, and theme parks to close. Those few allowed to remain open found themselves with very few or no customers.

My focus here is on the two parts of the entertainment industry that I miss the most; music and TV/movies.

Music Industry:
For my entertainment dollar, there’s nothing more exciting than attending a live concert from one of my favorite bands. Unfortunately, the global live music industry (worth about $27 billion), has been effectively shut down since March. Some musicians have had the opportunity to earn income from streaming services, however, revenue margins are low and many artists are struggling. Most musicians make the vast majority of their income from live performances. According to Forbes, an average artist generates 75% of their income to live shows.

Musicians have been forced to rethink how they can bring their musical talents to millions of people stuck at home, with a mobile or computer screen as one of their only ways to interact. Musicians around the world have been using the membership platform Patreon, which can serve as a virtual “tip jar” where the audience can donate for live-stream performances.

Ben Folds was in the middle of a symphony tour in Australia at the start of the pandemic and was forced to quarantine. Unable to play live shows, he turned to this service to help make ends meet. Folds says that in a month he makes about half of what he’d earn from a single gig, but it’s sufficient to keep the lights on while he works on his next album. “For now, all I know is, it’s my way of being useful,” said Folds, who rose to music prominence in the 1990s with his band Ben Folds Five. “It’s part of my job.”

Some musicians are even offering private lessons and tutoring through Patreon, which is a great way for the performer and students to stay engaged.

Other artists are taking this downtime to completely think outside the box and reimagine what a concert experience can be. In April, the massively popular, online video game Fortnite hosted a virtual performance of Astronomical by Travis Scott. Over 12.3 million players logged in across the world to catch the performance. While the financial details haven’t been revealed, Rolling Stone has estimated that Spotify streams for Scott’s tracks rose by 26 percent.

Another cool music experience alternative is the drive-in concert phenomenon. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Instead of watching a movie from your car, you enjoy a concert. And they’re gaining in popularity as this current schedule from Billboard demonstrates.

TV & Movie Industry:
Along with concerts, I’m really missing going to the movies with my family and watching our favorite TV shows. The pandemic has kept us home most of the spring and summer, spending most of our time outside. But as fall turns to winter and Americans are back inside, what will our entertainment options be?

That all depends; the effects of Hollywood’s shutdown in March continue to ripple through the TV & movie world, delaying all sorts of projects until next year and creating a schedule that is most definitely subject to change. But like every facet of American life, broadcast TV is going to look quite different when the 2020 season kicks off in October as production of scripted television remains shut down in most of the country. Facing the reality that they will not have new live-action sitcoms or dramas to air until at November at the earliest, the major networks are finding ways to get creative this fall. Until widespread production can safely resume, the networks are filling gaps as they have in the past, with quickly produced reality TV and game shows. They’re also relying on rerun content acquired from streaming services, cable networks and overseas broadcasters.

These shifts that are changing how Hollywood is working now, and in a post-coronavirus world:

  • New video storytelling forms are continuing to emerge. People are already getting creative with video, whether it’s virtual concerts or episodes of Saturday Night Live filmed completely at home. Even top TV shows are adopting videoconferencing.
  • Virtual production may aid in getting the cameras up and rolling again in the movie industry, allowing production teams to work simultaneously from across the globe. The matching of computer images and live action images (a concept that is not completely new) is emerging as a long-term solution to creating content safely. ″Long-term, the idea is that virtual production and physical production will merge in a way that you cannot tell them apart,” said Guy Williams, an Academy Award-nominated visual effects supervisor.
  • The model for seeing movies may change, as demand surges for new content. Even before COVID-19, the industry was having heated conversations about video on demand and its impact on theatrical distribution. This will continue as Hollywood seeks more flexible solutions to adapt to increasing stay-at-home consumption.

As you can imagine, the pandemic is posing significant challenges for Hollywood, but the opportunity for creative innovation is there for the taking. While technology will solve broader challenges, it’s also exciting to see other brands trying their hand at this type of innovation, especially those you wouldn’t expect. Case in point, Wal-Mart, recognizing people’s hunger for reconnection, transformed 160 of its stores’ parking lots into free drive-in movie theaters this summer.

Looking forward, there will be lingering pandemic effects to the industry and consumer behaviors into the future. Those who are able to innovate their services and offerings, will be better positioned for success. Just like every other business model, the pandemic is exposing the attitudes and traditional structures that are outdated and require change. Those who are willing to push the boundaries and force a reinvention stand the best chance for success.

As Bill O’Dowd, an Emmy-nominated producer said recently regarding the global impact on the industry: “Our country has built up some of the most powerful brands in the business and our entertainment is being sold globally. Billions of dollars are constantly flowing back into the U.S., so it’s important we keep the flow happening for our economy. Also, for the sake of people, I do believe entertainment has a role to play in helping them cope during difficult times like these.”

As a marketer in the entertainment industry, it is critical to stay on top of, and monitor, this ever-changing landscape of information. Burrelles has a wide variety of options within its portfolio to help professionals do just that. Feel free to contact us for more information or to answer any questions!

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