Universal Music Group has partnered with South Korean labels YG Entertainment and Big Hit Entertainment to invest in a livestreaming platform, Big Hit announced on Tuesday, putting the world’s largest music company directly into the livestreaming space.
UMG and YG have invested an undisclosed sum in KBYK Live, a joint venture between Big Hit and livestreaming platform Kiswe established last year. Kiswe, which has had partnerships with live entertainment companies such as England’s Premier League soccer league and the PGA Tour, aired multiple record-breaking livestreams last year for BTS, Big Hit’s marquee group. Kiswe and Big Hit launched livestreaming platform VenewLive through KBYK Live soon after the venture launched, and YG and UMG will be working to expand that platform by bringing their own roster of global superstars for livestreams. YG has several prominent Korean acts, including Blackpink, while UMG’s extensive roster across its labels includes Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Drake, among many others.
“We are delighted to join Big Hit, YG and Kiswe as partners in KBYK as we look to help further evolve the opportunities and livestreaming experiences for UMG artists and their fans today, and into the future,” Boyd Muir, UMG executive vice president, chief financial officer and president of operations, said in a statement. “This past year has shown that the need for reliable and innovative livestreaming has never been greater. VenewLive offers some of the most creative and memorable opportunities for today’s artists to globalize their art and performances, tailored to enhance the community and fan experience.”
YG COO Sung Jun Choi added: “We are excited about this investment as our company with many artists competitive on a global stage has secured a high-quality platform with leading technologies. We will continue to do our best to provide more interactive experiences and new services to global fans.”
The news is just the latest affirmation for the burgeoning livestreaming ecosystem, which has quickly matured into a competitive and promising revenue stream for artists while touring and in-person concerts have been shelved amid the ongoing pandemic. In January, concert promotion and ticketing giant Live Nation Entertainment announced it bought a majority stake in Veeps, the livestreaming platform created by Good Charlotte founders Joel and Benji Madden.
While concert livestreaming’s newfound relevance can be heavily attributed to the health crisis, many artists, managers and booking agents have said that the concept will remain in artists’ plans well past the pandemic, either as standalone shows or to stream some of their concerts while on tour. As livestreaming has become much more ubiquitous in the quarantine era, artists have shifted from cheaper, phone-shot concerts in their living rooms to higher quality paid performances shot from professional studios. Kiswe offers features like multi-view and promises a stable viewing experience that can support a high volume of viewers global acts can bring. All the labels cited Kiswe’s tech as a factor in their involvement in KBYK and VenewLive.
“Big Hit’s attempts to maximize fan experience are not limited to entertainment, but also implementing various technologies. KBYK is also part of this effort.” Big Hit CEO Lenzo Yoon said in a statement. “Our dream and goal is to provide the most advanced technology currently available so that fans can experience the artist’s content in the best way possible under any circumstances. We will continue to study how new technologies and attempts in various fields can have a positive impact on strengthening our fan experience and actively introduce them.”