Delivering one-off events, gigs or festivals online

On 16th July, alongside Bristol Festivals Network, we held our interactive session on all aspects of creating online events, gigs, festivals and engaging your communities with Liz Harkman from Bristol Festivals; Latoyah McAllister-Jones, Executive Director of St Paul’s Carnival; Chris Barker from Bandlab; Kenda Macdonald from Automation Ninjas; Thomas Heiser from Focal Point Event Management; Kerryn Hill from PRS Music, Harry Metcalf from DXW Cyber and Matt Morrison from Stephenson Law

Our speakers took us through aspects of planning, digital platforms, security, digital marketing, software and hardware, as well as licensing issues. We wrapped it up with breakout rooms dedicated to each aspect of delivering live gigs and large events online, where we asked questions, networked and picked up tips. 

This session was facilitated by I Am We Are. Jamie, Liane and Niki design and host online events, creating inclusive and accessible sessions. Take a look at upcoming training and support sessions on the I Am We Are website.

Learning from the first digital St. Paul’s Carnival

With a quick word from Bristol Festivals Director Liz Harkman, outlining the ways the festivals and gig world has taken a hit but the ongoing impact has only highlighted how sorely missed and central to many people’s lives large events – big and small – are. 

LaToya McAllister-Jones, Director of Bristol institution St. Paul’s Carnival, kicked things off with reflections on the recent large-scale organisation of the Carnival online, through Facebook, Zoom and Twitch. The main starting point for an online event this size is getting clear on the narrative, and that was or LaToyah to double down on the importance of the Carnival, so each person in the organising team 

The St. Paul’s organising team chose the platforms that were intuitive and easy to reach, and where the most engagement would be found. For Carnival, this was Facebook, but copyright issues meant that in order to put on the show they wanted, the Carnival had to use other platforms too. Following questions of how to set up Twitch, manage the Facebook stream, as well as Zoom, LaToyah mentioned that it is always worth investing in a tech team for larger festivals. 

For St. Pauls, branding and the visuals of the online event were important as this created a tangible look and a feel to the online, remote event. The branding, content strategy and promotion all cohered around a virtual moodboard the team created before they began. For a two week long programme of events, it was important to keep this strong. On social media, it was important for the St. Paul’s to get it right; this was the primary way people could get in touch, tell others, and share stories and engagement. You need to start this early, and build momentum, and remember to come up with your own FAQs in order to answer quick messages at any time. 

Privacy and Security: How to ensure people’s privacy and security 

Matt Morrison from Stephenson Law took us through the law and the small print surrounding collecting personal data. GDPR has been at the forefront of many organisations’ own privacy terms and conditions for a few years now, but the move to online doesn’t mean we can be lax about collecting personal data. For running online events, you’re relying on legitimate interest. The information surrounding privacy that you send out to audiences needs to still tell people about their rights during and after the event. The best practice is to build this into the marketing, at the sign-up stage. 

Harry Metcalfe, co-founder and CEO of DXW Cyber, went on to delve into the ways in which not to get caught out when it comes to security. The only tried and tested way is to build into your communications a shared password only those who have signed up can access. Horror stories of Zoom bombing abound, but password protection is the most effective way to ensure it doesn’t happen at your event. Harry’s top tips for a secure online event were simple but effective: choose a good password; enable security features on your platform; use a downloadable client; don’t share magic links on public chats; draw up and communicate a code of conduct; respect privacy when it comes to images and names. 

Audio Hardware and Software for online events, gigs and festivals 

Our resident audio nerd (his own words!) for the evening was Chris Barker from Band Lab, who took us through the many hardware and streaming platforms out there. Stocking up on a mid-range mic can transform the sound and overall effect of a live performance, especially when taking into account unreliable internet connections.

The resounding message from Chris was that simple is effective: headphones and USB mics are easy to get hold of, and with an audio interface performers can connect different mics and instruments and transmit to multiple streams through one computer. On this, a top tip from Chris when deciding whether to splurge on video or audio, always go with audio; it’s generally cheaper to get good quality audio than high quality film. 

With live and recorded performance such as DJing, online sets present a few issues around copyright. Choosing streaming platforms that are open to DJ streaming, such as and Mixcloud, will make sure you stay out of any copyright issues. Mixcloud will manage any licence issues and while using it you can link to any platforms and streams, such as Facebook or Twitch – it’s like the licensing laws covered when DJing at a club. 

Digital Marketing and Content: How to engage your audience and make sure they join you 

Our marketing specialist was Kenda MacDonald from Automating Ninjas, who got right down to the important issue of making sure you know what you want to deliver before you set up your online event. Begin by focusing on the added value that you’re providing with your event, and the marketing that adds value will also follow. Using hype, before and after the event, ensures it’s noticed and remembered. 

Following on from this, a key issue Kenda noted is that many bars, venues and performance spaces haven’t had to grow an audience from scratch, and many of these venues have never had the chance to create an online version of what they do so well in their physical spaces. Creating a new audience starts by understanding the likely audience for your event. 

Using a tool such as Facebook ads can help with this research. Famously, Facebook tracks a lot of data on people, and creating a paid ad that will find ‘women, aged 35-65, who like hardcore metal’ can yield results. You can then create marketing content specifically for your demographic, building up your presence where those people visit online, such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. 

Designing online events, gigs and performances

We also had Thomas Heiser from Focal Point Event Management  taking us through designing online events. The event tech industry is getting bigger, but Thomas recommended to first work out the level of interaction you want to create before you pay for the tech and specific platforms – you may not need to splurge. 

While online events are now becoming more like TV production, most of us who want to engage with gigs or performances want to move from passivity to engagement. For Thomas, this means getting back to 3 main points: content creation, content capture and content consumption. 

For all three of these, Thomas advises, don’t get hung up on the platform. Instead, figure out what you would need, and the kinds of interaction you want to achieve – from polls, chat and live conversations to break out rooms. Base the level of interaction you want and need off of the nature of the event: content for a children’s book festival will be delivered in a different way to a DJ set. In turn, this will impact the design process, starting with the platform you choose to use.

Getting the performing licences you need for your online event 

Our final expert with some quickfire tips was Kerryn Hill from PRS for Music. When it comes to licences for your performance or set, start by checking the T&Cs of the platform you want to use in order to see what licenses are covered. In the music licensing world, different licenses depend on whether the event is paid or not paid for. The PRS website can prodivde more information on the Low End Music License if you find out the platform you’re using isn’t covered. 

When moving events online, you might look to stream on different social media platforms for a range of engagement and audiences. Social media platforms have secured multi-territory licences, but you will need to have in writing clarification that the content you’re going to share is covered in those platforms’ T&Cs. 

The best way to take care of licensing dangers is to limit your performance’s geographical reach. Free or non-ticketed events can use one year licenses for content, but this only covers the country’s audience. 

Breakout Rooms 

After the brief summaries of each area of putting on large-scale events such as gigs and festivals, we selected the expert we wanted more information and answers from and headed into their breakout room. This was a great way to delve into the aspect of delivering online events that resonated with us – there was an interactivity that resembled being among others in a physical space, a great testament to the future of online events!

Take a look at our website and Youtube channel to re-watch some of our past online events.

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