The Insta-Generation: Live through a lens
Chair: Jackie Wilgar, Live Nation Entertainment (UK)
Panellists: Tom Bilsen, Stageco Group (BE) | Jon Drape, Engine No. 4 (UK) | Rina Gill, RGM Productions (UK) | Rafael Giménez-Amaya, Sold Out (ES) | John Rhodes, HOK (UK)
Jackie Wilgar, senior vice-president, head of marketing – International at Live Nation introduced the session, asking how social media can be used to the advantage of the industry.
Panellists discussed the different areas of their businesses that are affected by Instagram – be it through marketing, stage design, architecture or the wider live space, with all keeping in mind the challenges posed by the platform.
Jon Drape, director of event production specialist Engine No. 4, referenced the rise of the experiential economy and stated how many features geared towards giving fans that “Instagrammable moment” are centred around creating a new experience too.
Rina Gill, co-founder of RGM Productions, referred to the complexities of the platform but said, once mastered, people never look back. Gill added that the theatre world, within which RGM Productions operates, is maybe lagging behind the music world on this front.
Tom Bilsen, operations director at staging specialist Stageco, and John Rhodes, design principal at HOK, talked about how Instagram has influenced design and created a desire for more visual shows.
Bilsen referred to the influx of colour we see in festival stages nowadays, which has led to increased build time and greater material costs. “Every photograph that goes on the Internet has to look good for the promoter,” said Bilsen. “It’s all about look.”
Rhodes said architects face a lot of the same challenges. “Creating content that is dynamic with the architecture is more important than it used to be,” he said. “It’s about attracting people.” Looking to the future, Rhodes said the challenge is going to be designing spaces that serve as a backdrop for augmented reality.
Even though the focus on Instagram can take away from the experience, panellists agreed it has become a “must” part of our world now.
Rafael Giménez-Amaya, director of Spanish promoter Sold Out, spoke of the promotional potential of Instagram. “It is easier to reach more people than ever before,” he said, describing the platform as “a window of content to the world” when harnessed properly.
From a marketing point of view, Wilgar stated that “changing content is key to continue driving engagement.”
Drape spoke of the changes of audience engagement, which “has massive benefits from a commercial point of view.” He added there is increasing pressure to make festival sites completely unique, noting the lack of traditional big tops at Parklife festival last year.
“If things don't go to plan, it’s very easy for activity to get shared,” warned Drape, “and not in the right context.”
Social media has also changed the way fans and organisers communicate, allowing quick and effective sharing of security issues and logistical changes.
“As we empower fans to create stories, it empowers them to share issues or problems with us,” said Drape.
Wilgar asked what comes next. Rhodes stressed that it’s all about understanding the experiential economy, saying “diversity of experience is key.” He added that technology is driving where everything is going too, with augmented reality being the next big step.
Gill spoke of how social media is allowing fans to access a new world – that behind the curtain – and said that the binary relationship between activity on stage and off will continue to break down.
Giménez said platforms will evolve to integrate better functionality, such as merging with streaming platforms and ticketing sites. “Transactions have to be there if we are to profit,” he said.