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Driift’s Concert For Thom Yorke Side Project The Smile Launches – Billboard


Ric Salmon is preparing for his most ambitious live-streaming project yet with his team at Driift producing and promoting a three-part performance series for The Smile, a new side project from Radiohead legends Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood.

The Smile will perform three separate live shows in London, beginning Saturday (Jan. 29) at 8 p.m. BST (2 p.m. eastern), 1 a.m. BST on Jan 30 (5 p.m. eastern on Jan 29) and 11 a.m. BST (7 a.m. eastern) on Jan. 30. The performances will be live-streamed globally and include an in-studio live audience. Fans can watch The Smile performance from anywhere in the world via Dreamstage.

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The concert series will preview music from the The Smile’s debut album, out soon on XL Recordings, and is directed by Paul Dugdale. Salmon is a longtime music manager and principal at ATC Management who propelled himself into the live-streaming business in June 2020 with one of the first ticketed live streams during the pandemic for artist Laura Marling at Union Chappel in London and has produced successful live-streamed performances for Kylie Minogue, Niall Horan, Dermot Kennedy, Madness, Black Keys and more. He manages Driift with his long time ATC management business partner Brian Message.

While many livestream concert companies have built their brand around their technology and ticketed consumer experiences, Driift’s strategy has been to develop a signature aesthetic for its carefully crafted and vibrantly colorful live films projects. Billboard recently sat down with Salmon to discuss the concert series he’s producing for The Smile and his vision for a post-pandemic golden age of live streaming.

It’s been 18 months since your first project with Driift and you’ve been nonstop ever since. Can you give us the bird’s eye view of what Driift looks like in January 2022.

So far we’ve done over 30 shows total now, about 600,000 tickets, which is worth $17-18 million in gross revenue across all those shows including Glastonbury, which was a huge and massive undertaking. We have closed a Series A round of funding including investment from Deezer at the end of last year, which was great. We just feel like we’re in a really good place as a business as most of the world opens up and the traditional touring industry has been very focused on getting back out on the road.

In the past we’ve talked about a large-scale livestream performance being another tent pole event in an artist’s release strategy. How does that apply to The Smile ahead of the release of their debut record?

When it comes to how managers launch and tour artists, live-streaming has already become part of the standard lexicon. With The Smile, essentially a brand-new band launching from scratch, options for launch had been limited — release new music, record several videos, release them for free and then probably go on tour and show up occasionally for a few bits and bobs. Now, we’re excited that live streams would come along and if planned and delivered in the right way with creativity and artistry, represent a beautiful new medium through which artists can communicate and tell their story and create an amazing experience.

This three-concert series will take place in the round in front of a small studio audience. How do you serve both audiences — in person and at home — in a way that feels authentic and keeps one from getting in the way of the other?

That is the question we all have been asking ourselves as well dating back to June 2020, 18 months ago (for Marling) and there’s a lot of water under the bridge and we’ve learned a huge amount and come to terms with what Driift is and where we sit in the landscape. I think we delivered some beautiful shows with some incredible artists and felt very privileged to be a part of that process. It has been an amazing learning curve. What we realized is having learnt so much over that process, we are essentially doing what we set out to do at the very beginning, which was serve as a promoter and producer of amazing live events. Now in the first stage of our life, those events were solely digital for a livestream audience, because we weren’t allowed an audience in the room. And now It’s very easy for us to do events with an audience in the room. But we’re not going to just throw cameras into a venue and film a normal tour show in the hope that we might be able to sell some streaming tickets on top of physical tickets that have already been sold by tour promoters. We are almost singular in approaching live events specifically designed for the digital era. We’re incredibly specific about designing an experience for both audiences that happen simultaneously. It sounds like a small tweak, but the two experiences are different in every way — the production, the marketing and the curation aspects are entirely different. We’re trying to very carefully balance the two and hopefully the experience will work.

Traditionally, concert tickets have derived a large part of their value from scarcity. What does it mean for The Smile now that they’ve embarked on this livestream project that effectively has no real cap on supply or barriers to demand?

The concept of scarcity is a crucial factor in any campaign, but I think scarcity can be created through a number of different devices. Maybe you do a limited number of fan items that can only be purchased if you buy a livestream ticket, or maybe you create scarcity by doing a digital meet and greet, or a Q&A before or after the show. There are no shortage of options in the digital realm.

What can you tell us about the performance space?

It’s completely bespoke — everything has been built from scratch, shaped into a circular auditorium with the audience on all sides of space, about 15 rows total. It is a nine camera shoot and will have LEDs showing really immersive, amazing content. Because of the way that it is set up, the camera’s going to be positioned really discreetly — fans probably will not even notice to be honest. It certainly wouldn’t feel like you’re watching a TV shoot. It’s going to feel like you’re at a concert. And I think that’s the key. It’s not a live stream add on for a concert. It’s very much genuinely a case of delivering an event where both concepts run completely empowered, and that’s how you create value. That’s how you create an experience that’s worth paying for a home. We think this is the first time that a live experience has been specifically designed and curated for both audiences in parallel.





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