Top 8 Benefits of Streaming Your Arts

There's been an extensive amount of discussion over the last year about whether or not performing arts companies should be recording their performances for digital audiences. Covid-19 has undoubtedly been a catalyst for this discussion, but these are conversations about more than just the next 12 months. Recently a study from Accenture reported that they expect there to be a long-term trend that will see 2 trillion dollars migrate from public spaces to home-focused industries due to changing consumer preferences as a result of Covid-19.

In parallel with this, both pre-lockdown and post-lockdown the growing popularity of real-time live streaming and video-on-demand is difficult to ignore. According is Statista, the global video streaming industry is set to quadruple in size, from £21 billion in 2017, to £84 billion by 2025. Globally the user base of video streaming is similarly expected to swell to over 1.4 billion by 2025, just about a fifth of world's population.

This growth represents opportunity across all industries, including the performing arts sector. Undoubtedly digital shows are not a replacement to live shows. However the consensus seems to be that digital show can actually satisfy a very different type of demand for content that audiences have.

Statistically, it seems there's still some room for debate over the exact breakdown on audiences that are interested in digital shows. But it's undeniable some organizations have been having truly massive success online. Take Creation Theatre in Oxford, who said on an episode of BBC Radio 4's Front Row that they had achieved "more online in the space of a couple of months than they'd achieved in 22 years of trying to attract regional audiences."

So the potential is there for performing arts companies to achieve huge success online and it's possible to do this without being offering a National Theatre level streaming service. Thus regardless if your pro-digital, anti-digital or somewhere in the middle, it's worth considering just how the benefits of live streaming and VoD are are for performing arts companies.

So for your convenience, we've curated a list of the top 8 benefits of streaming your content.

Wider Audience Reach

Not only you can connect with your existing audiences online, but digital content opens up the potential for your organization to have truly global reach. For UK organisations, this potential is heightened by the fact that the UK market is one of the most well-known performing arts industries in the world.

This means that with digital content you can start reaching new demographics for your organisation's content online. This could be younger audiences who are both the most likely to engage with digital arts content and are the most likely to pay, according to research by Indigo.

Improved Accessibility for Audiences

Most potential audiences simply don't live near where a show is occurring, nor are they able to travel to where it's occurring. This can be due to any number of personal limitations. For instance, consider the estimated 14 million disabled people in the UK or the roughly 15 million people aged over 60. For many people within these groups, their physical circumstances greatly inhibit their ability to travel and access live arts content.

Then there's also the financial costs, and not simply the cost of purchasing a ticket. Other costs need to be considered like travel, lodging, food and drinks associated with attended a live show. For the nearly 12 million UK citizens within the UK's bottom income bracket, these costs can quickly become prohibitively expensive.

This is what makes a digital show such an attractive alternative for so many people. Because content that was previously inaccessible to them is suddenly accessible from the comfort of their home and at a more reasonable price point.

In fact, surveys have shown that these types of accessibility issues are some of the most common motivations behind why audiences choose to watch digital shows over live shows.

In one Arts Council England study, of those who opted to watch a digital show, 67% reported doing so because it saved them travel, and 56% reported doing so because it was cheaper. When only rural respondents are considered, these statistics are even higher, with 80% reporting that it saved them travel, and 61% reported that it was cheaper. Further still, when only elderly respondents are considered, these statistics are even higher than this, with 84% reporting that it saved them travel and 69% reporting that it was cheaper.

So it seems that cost and geography can be two hugely limiting factors for audiences - both of which live video streaming and VoD content can help solve.

New In-Person Audiences

Contrary to what some people might think, audiences who watch a performance are not less likely to go see that same performance live. In fact, the inverse is actually true - audiences who watch a performance live are actually more likely to go see that same performance live. This means that any of your digital audiences are actually potential future live audiences, so by creating digital content, your organization can help improve the attendance of their live performances too.

Better Audience Data

Digital content gives an organization the opportunity to learn about audiences using online data such as user data, usage data, and user surveys. The specific data that's leveraged depends on the software services that are used to collect the data, and the data that's chosen for collection. But ultimately when they're used effectively these online data sources can provide any organization with a vast amount of gamechanging qualitative and quantitative insights into their audiences.

Take an organisation's strategic decisions, such as what content they'll create next, or how they'll market their content. These decisions are incrediblely important because they directly impact an organisations cost and success. Insightful audience data can help inform these types of decisions, allowing organisations to better plan for their own futures and better connect with what their audiences most want from them.

Moreover, the type of insight you can get from digital content is actually more detailed in nature than what you can get from a live audience. Boredom, for instance, is difficult to quantify at a live event. But at a digital performance, it's much easier to quantify because an audience member's attention span can be measured. This can be done by reviewing the viewership drop-off points across your digital performance's runtime. So in many ways, digital audience data is more useful for organisations that live audience data.

New Revenue Streams

Digital content opens up an avenue to new digital revenue streams that can help the performing arts industry supplement more traditional ones. When it comes to monetising digital shows there's infact a huge number of different models to be explored here. Some of these are: fixed price tickets, pay-what-you-can tickets, season passes, subscriptions, patronage, and donations. Organisations can even combine these methods along with others to find what works best for them.

What's more, many more audiences than people think are in fact willing to pay for digital content. A report by Baker Richards Consulting suggested that:

However this doesn't mean that audiences will pay, it only means that they're willing to pay. In order to make this jump to becoming paying customers, these audiences must first show provided with experiences that match their expectations. These expectations are for digital content that provides both convenience and quality. If performing arts companies can meet these expectations, then the potential of these new revenue streams could be gianormous.

And these digital revenue streams don't simply have to be one-off payments either. In fact, live streamed events have been shown to provide better sales conversions than other types of events. This means that if an organisation implements promotional offers (such as tickets to live performances) into their digital shows, audiences are highly likely to respond well to those offerings.

Long Lasting Value

There certainly is something priceless about the ephemeral quality of a live show. This quality was described by Andrew Keenan-Bolger as "an amorphous art, constantly shifting and evolving with every performance." Unfortunately, this is not a quality a recorded performance inately possesses, but it is one that recordings can momentarily capture. This way a performance's best moments can be enjoyed by audiences repeatedly, after the curtains close.

Financially, this means that an organisation can leverage the value of the recording over time with digital VoD releases and re-releases of the same digital show. Organisations can also repurpose a recording into other types of social media content, such as infographics, or blog stills - all of which helps feed back aesthetic of your brand. All of this feeds back into the value of the recording, and many of these long-term considerations are currently being overlooked by many performing arts companies.

Better Brand Awareness

Video content can help improve the connection that audiences have with an organisation. When audiences watch a digital performance, that audience member is effectively letting that organisation into their home. This is the place where they relax, where they spend their alone time, and where they spend time with their family and friends. There is an element of trust in letting an organisation into this space. When audiences do this, they open themselves up to recieving your brand in a different way than when they go to see a performance live.

Effectively, using video content organisations now have an entirely different way to spread their brand identity. In fact many marketers would argue that video content is now essential for building a brand. This is primarily due to the changing expectations of audiences who are growing increasingly accustomed to having videos of any content they want right at their fingertips. By providing this type of content, organisations are creating new touchpoints through which audiences can discover their brand.

How Much Does Video Production Cost?

As a performing arts company in the UK, you may have considered live streaming or offering your performances on Demand.

Maybe videography is uncharted territory for your organisation, or maybe you're experienced with it already. Either way, videography can be difficult to get right.

This is because building an interactive and engaging experience for a digital audience requires tackling unique challenges. To create a successful digital production, high video and sound quality are needed. This can be achieved on different budgets depending on how much a business is able to spend. A small production may cost £700-£1500 to record, whereas a sophisticated production may cost upwards of £30K-£65K.

Here are the top 9 questions you should consider before budgeting for recording or streaming your first performance:

1. Should you live stream or record your performance?

(It depends.)

Your decision to release your performance as a live stream or as a pre-recorded stream will impact your budget differently. Typically videography will cost 10% - 15% more to live stream than to pre-record. This increased cost is due to the additional planning involved in live streaming.

Typically, a live stream of a theatre performance may take three days to a week of preparations with a camera crew. A show's director will often work alongside a director of photography to plan the shoot before filming. This pre-shoot involves organizing camera placements and movements so that the film crew can capture the performers from the ideal angles and at the right moments on the day.

You only get one chance to record a live stream, so the camera crew may need to be larger than for a pre-recorded show. Live streams typically include at least two moving camera operators and another 2-3 static cameras placed around the production to capture the performance.

For pre-recorded performances, you do still need to plan in advance, but there's more scope for re-shoots and iterative adjustments to camera settings if needed. A recording of a small performance usually includes 2-3 cameras with one camera operator recording the feed from all of the cameras. One of these cameras will be moving at all times to capture different angles within the performance. The other cameras are likely to be stationary.

A recorded performance also has longevity, meaning it can be repeatedly monetized as long as it's being offered online.

2. Will you record in-house or use third-party film production/ freelance videographers?

(Hiring a third-party videography production company is a viable, cost-effective alternative to upskilling internally.)

Handling videography in-house is a cost-effective long-term solution. But to do this, your company must be able to afford the costs of upskilling staff and purchasing equipment. But beyond shooting video, there are other post-production skills required to create a finished recording. This post-production could be tackled in-house or could be outsourced to specialist companies.

Alternatively, companies can outsource the entire creation of a recording to experienced film production companies or professional freelance videographers. A typical budget for live streaming or recording may vary depending upon the size and ambition of the video production. Professional video production for a mid-sized production could cost anywhere between £12K and £30K.

3. What is the length of your digital stream?

(On average video budget is directly proportional to the length of a live stream or a recorded video)

The length of production will determine the amount of time the camera crew spends on your location. Longer productions typically require a more elaborate plan with more varied camera shots. A combination of conventional close-ups, medium, and long shots should be used to create more spatial awareness. Across these different ranges, you should also use different camera angles to affect the mood and narrative.

The longer the length of a production, the longer and more expensive the planning and execution process will be.

4. How big should the camera crew be?

(The bigger the crew, the higher the costs)

The cost of the camera crew and their time is the biggest cost in video production. The size of your camera crew may depend on the size and type (orchestral, theatre, musical, dance...) of your production.

Generally, for productions that involve an abundance of performer movement, using more than two camera operators is recommended. This is because more camera operators will allow you to better capture all the key angles of the performers.

For smaller productions typically one camera person with a 2-3 camera setup will be sufficient. For medium productions, 3-4 camera operators with 5-6 cameras (both static and moving) will typically work well. The more camera operators that are required, the more expensive the recording is likely to be.

Additionally, a camera crew's cost will also depend on their location, experience, and the type of equipment, they need to use. To help businesses estimate the costs they can expect, we’ve estimated the day rates charged by each type of crew member below:

5. How many professional cameras would you need?

(Much like the size of the camera crew, the costs here can escalate with the addition of each extra piece of equipment)

This depends on the size of your production. A two-three professional video camera setup is generally considered sufficient for small production. A professional video camera can be hired for roughly £80 to £150 per day.

If your company intends to do recording in-house, hiring professional cameras may be more cost-effective than buying the equipment.

6. How many hours would the camera crew need to spend on your facility?

(Camera crews typically charge for either half-days or full-days)

The size of your production will typically dictate the time a camera crew would need to spend on site. Before recording the show, a director of photography may spend time on-site to plan the camera placements alongside the show's director. The time spent during the pre-shoot adds to the total cost of the shoot.

A lead camera operator can cost between £200 - £600 for a half-day and £400 - £1000 for a whole day. These prices vary depending on the location of the crew. Full-time camera operators in London, for instance, are more expensive than elsewhere in the UK. This cost will increase with the scale and demands of your production.

For industry rate cards we recommend reviewing the BECTU website. They publish rates by the hour, half-day, and full-day for their associated freelance videographers across the country.

7. Do you require post-production?

(The cost of post-production depends on the level of sophistication you want to achieve for your video production)

Post-production includes tasks associated with cutting raw footage, assembling that footage, adding music, dubbing, and sound effects. The cost of post-production is not included in the video recording cost.

Often video production companies will only handle the filming process. When this happens, it may be up to you to find separate post-production specialists to transform the raw footage. These separate specialists have pro studios filled with specialist editing software and equipment that helps them edit footage. Other times, the video production company will both record and edit the entire show.

If your company requires post-production, the costs can vary depending on the complexity of your requirements. For small productions, the post-production crew could just include an offline editor and a sound designer/supervisor. A 10-hour day for an editor could cost between £350 - £500 depending on their level of experience and location.

8. Where are you located?

(Cities cost more, and in particular London)

The cost of live-streaming and video recording will vary based on your geographical location. If you're a performing arts company based in London, the starting cost of recording will be over £1100 (excluding post-production). Those costs can be 30% - 40% lower outside London.

9. Would you film indoors or outdoors?

(Mostly indoor locations are more convenient, and well equipped to live stream professional performances than outdoors.)

Indoor locations cost lower than outdoor locations because there's less control over the environment, space, and size for outdoor locations. Outdoors, the production company may need to bring wire extensions for cameras, or shotgun mics windshields for sound recording.

Indoor locations in that regard are much more controlled in terms of noise, space, and size. Another reason to prefer indoors (specifically for live-streaming) is the availability of good quality broadband. Outdoor locations are most likely to be constrained in that regard.

Six Ways to Promote and Monetise Your Livestreams

Arts audiences have watched more live-streamed and on-demand performances in the last two years than ever.

And those who had engaged with performances online were also more likely to pay for them. This trend is very positive for the industry. As an arts company, you can now reach new audiences with your archived performances catalogue and create a stable stream of alternative income.

Typically, arts companies earn revenue from ticket and gift shop sales for performances showcased in physical venues. However, this revenue stream is limited. As soon as the curtain comes down on a show on the final day, the revenue stream ends with it. In contrast, a digital performance can be monetised continuously during its lifetime on the internet. And if it turns out to be a classic, then it may become your golden goose.

So, how should you monetise your digital performances?

Before you think about monetisation, it is important to think about factors that make a performance revenue-generating. Similar to an in-person performance, a digital performance also has to pass several quality tests before the audience even considers buying a ticket to watch it. Apart from an engaging narrative and performance of the actors on-stage, the video and sound quality are of paramount importance. Any compromise on the factors could push your audience away.

Next, you have to think of how to get the attention span of your digital audience. You can grab their attention with a teaser video or engaging trailers to build anticipation leading up to the premiere date. Plug and drop caste interviews, behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage to keep audiences updated. And, once you’ve got your audiences engaged, video promotion and monetisation could become less challenging.

Among ways to promote and make money from your streams – from audience subscriptions, pay-per-view, and on-demand services to all the way up to tipping, donations, and merch sales, you can make use of any or all of these strategies to build a consistent stream of revenue.

Without further delay, let's explore these strategies in detail.

1. Paywalls

You can consider adding a paywall to charge your audiences for access to your performances. This can be done in two ways - either offer your digital content on a pay-per-view basis or offer it at a subscription model. And to begin with it, you can choose a streaming platform that gives options to create a video paywall with the monthly subscription fee, and one-time purchase options. Your choice of payment model could be dictated by the nature of your performance. A pay-per-view model is generally suitable for live streams given their ephemeral nature. And it can be very lucrative depending upon how you price per view or a digital ticket. On the other hand, if you have a large library of archived digital shows and performances, you can use a subscription model to get started with video monetisation. The best part of the subscription model is that once you have the content created, you can keep adding to your library, and build a recurring source of revenue from the same content over a period of time. And as you reach new audiences and widen your reach, your earnings will grow along with it. Even a small and dedicated set of audiences can help build a substantial income over time.

2. Tap Into Customer Data

More often companies fail to make money from their livestreams either because they don’t know who their customers are or what their audiences are watching. This can be somewhat like shooting in the dark. You’re creating amazing content, but not targeting it to the right audiences. And that can limit your monetisation potential. So, when you choose to livestream, select a platform that gives you access to your audience's viewing and buying trends along with their contact information such as name and email addresses. Such data can help you in identifying target segments and develop tailored engagement strategies and marketing campaigns around them. Alternatively, if you do not have access to your audience data on the streaming platform, you can also use to gain broad audience insights. Audience Finder is the national audience data and development tool that brings together data on all UK households gathered from over 170 million tickets, 59 million transactions, approximately 750,000 surveys, and web analytics from all the UK's major arts and cultural organisations.

3. Make Use of Online Tipping, and Donations

Online givings are fast becoming a considerable source of revenue for companies. As per digital agency WPNC, individual giving to charities in the UK grew in volume by 26% year on year in 2019. Several streaming platforms now offer donations feature that makes it easy for organisations to accept donations and tips from their audiences. Platforms like Livestream and YouTube embed a built-in “donate” button on their live players so the audiences can donate without moving away from your livestreams. Also, the choice of payment platform also impacts the way people donate online. According to WPNC survey, more people donated via PayPal and Apple Pay than credit or debit cards. According to WPNC, a number of leading UK charities received “over 40% of their donations via PayPal with one seeing more than half of their donations coming via this payment method”. It’s worth checking that the websites you choose to seek donations from offer multi-platform payments.

4. Sell Your Merchandise Online

Audiences always love a nice souvenir to remember their favourite performances by. It’s not just about going to see a show – it’s all the memorabilia one can buy before, during, and after the show. Show merchandise could include a range of clothing, posters, wall arts, CD’s, DVD’s, stationery items, bags and you name it. For your shows, you can select video streaming platforms such as YouTube that enable merch sales while you’re streaming. Or you can also create your own merch store online on platforms like Shopify or Squarespace and plug its link in the description section of your chosen streaming platform.

5. Market Your Performances Far and Wide

One of the in-venue performance’s biggest drawbacks is its inability to reach a wider audience base. At a time, a theatre can accommodate only a few hundred people. But, by livestreaming or offering your videos on demand for a prolonged period of time, your performances have the capacity to reach audiences across the globe. With such potential for distribution, consider video streaming apps that enable easy sharing of performances on different social media platforms and organisation websites, deliver streams across multiple platforms, including smartphones, tablets, computers, and OTT devices, and lastly sends reminders and notifications to your audiences when you upload new content or premiere new shows. The likelihood of your audiences purchasing the ticket to your show also depends on the frequency with which they have been reminded about it.

6. Make use of Affiliate Marketing and Sponsored Tie-Ups

Another popular way to monetise livestreams is to use a sponsorship model. It’s called Advertising Video on Demand (AVOD) in marketing speak. It’s a method of monetisation where other brands pay you to advertise their products in front of your audience during your livestream. In this model, the larger your audience, the more revenue your livestream can generate. The most commonly known platform that offers AVOD is YouTube. For your performances, if you’re thinking to offer them for free to your audiences, you can pick this monetization format as it is easy to set up and most online audiences are already accustomed to it.

If you’ve already used one or all of these methods to monetise your performances, do tell us about your experiences in the comments below. At StageUp, we’re working tirelessly to enhance the monetisation potential of your performances by integrating all the above-mentioned monetisation strategies onto a single platform, so you don’t have to waste time and money to sign up on multiple websites to realise the revenue potential of your shows.