When Run the Jewels announced they would be touring with Rage Against the Machine, more than a few music industry eyebrows were raised. It seemed like an odd pairing to have the hottest hip-hop act teaming up with a hard rock band that hadn’t released an album of original material since 1999. Then a global pandemic hit, and the tour was scrapped.
That did not stop Run the Jewels from moving forward. The result was Holy Calamavote, a streaming event that allowed Run the Jewels to finally debut their new material live. The event also brought in a diverse group of musicians to support Run the Jewels. Artists like Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, Pharrell Williams and even octogenarian soul singer Mavis Staples participated. Instead of just the headliner’s group of fans, a broad group of viewers enjoyed seeing their favorites perform while being exposed to a whole new set of artists. On the surface, this might seem like a crazy idea, but what ended up happening was each artist’s brand was strengthened while simultaneously developing new fans.
As we slowly come out of the economic crisis created by the pandemic, artists and venues will have to scrap the traditional model of touring and booking and instead look for creative ways to draw large and diverse audiences. Another example of this shift to virtual events was the Save Our Stages Festival, a virtual three-day fundraiser for the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) Emergency Relief Fund. Participants ranged from Reba McEntire to the Foo Fighters. Not only did the festival raise nearly $2 million, but it exposed many of the performers to audiences they had never have reached before.
Moving forward, artists and venues would benefit significantly from combining resources and creating collaborations to generate more revenue and expand their audiences. Instead of one artist playing to a half-full venue on a Tuesday night, why not bring in multiple performers from varying genres, thereby giving the audience more for their hard-earned dollar while simultaneously introducing new fans to artists they may have never been exposed to?
Tom Petty was one of the first artists to realize the benefit of thinking in this manner. In 1997, Petty opted to have a multiday run at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium rather than string together a series of one-night stadium shows. Petty benefited by avoiding a brutal touring schedule and created a sense of home for himself and his band. The Fillmore benefitted with a string of 20 sold-out shows. Petty took the opportunity to introduce his fans to many of his musical heroes. John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley and Roger McGuinn were among the artists Petty chose to open the show. Petty enjoyed the experience so much he returned to the Fillmore in 1999 for another residency.
When the day comes that venues can reopen, they are going to have to get creative. Collaboration, innovation and diversity seem like the logical way to go. The music industry, venues and audiences will all come out as the winners.