Digital Concerts Livestreaming

The Business Behind the Dua Lipa Studio 2054 Livestream

Not long ago you probably noticed Dua Lipa’s video show that originally aired on November 27th on LIVENow. In this article we talk about some business aspects of it to see whether this concept will be the future of livestreaming.

The past few weeks you probably didn’t get around noticing the talk about Dua Lipa’s video show that originally aired on November 27th on LIVENow. The Rolling Stone even postulated: “Dua Lipa’s Very Expensive Concert Is the Future of Livestreaming”. Absolute, universal statements in the area of livestreaming like this always bring me into the arena. So, I was wondering: is The Rolling Stone right?

The Product

As The Rolling Stone reports, for the team behind all of this it had been clear from the beginning that the show needed to be something special. The goal was to differentiate the show from previous livestreams: “If we didn’t go maxed out on production value, guests, locations or whatever that added value may be… [it wouldn’t] convince fans to buy in and tune in. Otherwise, they’re just watching a normal music video at home,” commented Wendy Ong, the president of Dua Lipa’s management firm TaP in the music magazine. Eventually, the production costs amounted to 1.5 million USD.

I won’t go into detail about the content and aesthetics of the show. This has been well documented already in Variety for example. Author Chris Willman called it “a dopamine rush” and next to that, Dua’s fans cherished it, too:

Consequently, I couldn’t find major criticism on any part of the product. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering the preparation undertaken months beforehand.

The Revenues

So, how did Dua Lipa’s team plan to cover 1.5 million USD of costs? They went for five different revenue streams:

  1. Regular livestream tickets around 18.50 USD
  2. VIP livestream tickets around 25.00 USD
  3. VOD tickets around 10.00 USD
  4. Licensing to Tencent and Gaana: popular streaming platforms in China and India, respectively, which in turn offered their users to watch the show for free. It drew in approx. 2 million and 95,000 viewers, respectively.
  5. Brand partnerships: Johnnie Walker, PUMA, Évian, and American Express were mentioned in the press in relation to Studio 2054.

“This is a huge production for a one-off show, and we wanted to make it accessible to everybody around the world, and our marketing, ticketing, and partnerships reflect that goal,” says Wendy Ong, TaP Music’s president. Pricing and price discrimination are one of the most sensitive parts when it comes to livestreaming as a business model. It went smooth in this case compared to a previous livestream provided by Billie Eilish. The singer had set the tickets prices at 30 USD and was bashed for this policy by her young fans. Notably, in 2019 her live concert tickets were sold for 22 to 28 USD. The willingness to pay for cultural products depends, just as for any other product, on the disposable budget of the target group, on the price of available substitutes (think of all the Dua Lipa content on YouTube alone), and last but not least on the price anchors people have in mind. If a real life concert used to be 28 USD, most people won’t suddenly spend 30 USD on a livestream. Dua Lipa also leveraged price discrimination apart from different video/content packages by offering early bird tickets.

Audience Development

Personally, I really can’t say that Dua Lipa has ever sparked interest in me and generally, Pop counts into my least favourite genres. Nevertheless, I felt growing sympathy watching the video. Maybe, it was due to the mere-exposure effect. This is how psychology calls it when you start to perceive something as positive after being neutral about it just because you’ve been exposed to it for some time. People, for example, will then appear more sympathic and attractive. Exposure also pushes taste formation. Viewers slowly acquire consumption capital which then helps to develop taste for something, and a show like this seems to do just that.

After all, I feel like a have a relationship now with Dua, as if we shared some meaningful moments.

Moments, that an estimated other 5 million people shared with Dua on Friday night, when the performance aired. It needs to be emphasised that the show was broadcasted for the free in China on Tencent, which attracted 2 million spectators alone. It is not unprobable that she managed to gain one or two new fans through this happening. That video content can spark interest in further products of an artist has also been observable when ticket sales for Dua’s Future Nostalgia tour went up 70% after the Studio 2054 livestream.

Numbers on how many people watched the gig on demand later are not yet disclosed. Anyway, it has been titled the most successful PPV music livestream in history. Superlatives like this always make me think of the Liveaid and Live 8 spectacles.

Liveaid, which happened in 1985, drew in an estimated TV audience of 1.5 billion. Live8, which took place in 2005, attracted 3 billion viewers, respectively. Both of them had an unparalleled reach compared to the Studio 2054 show. However, all three events have in common that they brought together a number of superstars of highly popular genres. Actually, since Elton John was in on it in all three cases, the recipe to success seems to have him onboard 😉

The Promotion

Jokes aside, it actually makes sense to pair some artists that have never before performed together. On one hand, having various acts creates a USP over (free) substitute videos of single acts and on the other hand, it fosters cross-promotion and attracts interest of fans from different artists for one single product.

Dua Lipa’s success was furthermore probably driven heavily by her accomplishments throughout the year. For example, Billboard reported: “To recap, in Q1 2020, 57% of all Hot 100 top 10s were primarily pop songs, including hits by Dua Lipa, Maroon 5 and Harry Styles.” Furthermore, she has been in the mentions everywhere during November and December due to her award nominations and wins this year (in total so many that you can actually browse a whole Wikipedia article about it), among them several Grammy nominations for 2021.

Dua, of course, also took advantage of her huge (online) fanbase. “The show’s marketing was helped no end by Lipa herself, Mawson says, who was tireless in her promotional efforts in the run-up to Studio 2054. ‘She kept putting trailers up, announcing guests… It was a very good marketing roll-out that helped to get the word out there,'” we can read in IQ Mag.

It is also questionable if Dua’s Tiny Desk Concert, which premiered on December 4th, might have created increased demand for her show. I mean, it arrived just in time before the planned termination of Studio 2054. It could have been a clever PR strategy to appeal to “normal” people who could enter the Dua world for free and then purchase the VOD, if they got hooked.

Demand Uncertainty

Still, the audience size was hard to predict, according to Ben Mawson, a TaP manager. He pins it on live streaming being a new market, but concert livestreams have been around for so long if you think about it (YouTube alone realised a full length livestream of U2 back in 2009, not to speak of the much earlier “webcasts” on other platforms). People new in the business just seem to not be willing to see that it’s not an evolving market, it’s just highly volatile. Consequently, it was also reported that the stream underperformed in some areas.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I can’t deny how sceptical I was beforehand. Especially the fact that this happening got quite hyped up in every corner of the music web got me being repelled. Thus, I’d expect that only fans of Dua Lipa and some music industry nerds like me tuned in. By that, Juliane Kindermann would end up being right. She critized that livestreaming artists only reached their existing fanbase and no new audiences. It stays blurry what paid-for livestreams can do for audience development.

Coming back to our initial question whether this livestream sets the bar for future ones, we can merely affirm that for the top of the pops with enough bucks to put up such an iridescent show, to bring in top notch support acts and with enough publicity to appeal to streaming services, brand partners, and audiences alike. However, any artist/manager will have a good case in point on how to successfully leverage PPV livestreaming as everything was well thought through, even if you take only one or two points for your own strategy.

Good if you haven’t seen it yet: it is still available on demand. Get your own idea of it:

  • Where? LIVENow
  • Costs? £7.50 / 8.50 Euro / $10.00 USD
  • Playtime? 1 hour 10 minutes

Some frequent observers of this happening might be as confused about the availability as I was. Initially, Dua and her management communicated that it would stay online until December 6th 23:59 pm (so, roughly 7 days in total). However, it has still not been taken down. Considering that 284,000 tickets got sold for the initial live show, the video turned out being a cash cow, so perhaps the management decided to prolong its availability.

By Sophia Schmelz

Sophia Schmelz holds a master's degree in Cultural Economics & Entrepreneurship from Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her specialisation lies in music and mediated cultural experiences. She is the iniator of HollyWhat?.