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Rs 20 cr in ticket sales for Justin Bieber: Price no barrier for Indians?

Live music events are pulling in crowds and brands; despite ticket prices going up by 33%

Urvi Malvania  |  Mumbai 

justin bieber, coldplay
Justin Bieber (left) performed in Mumbai on Wednesday while British band Coldplay (right) came to India in November 2016

As swayed to shrieking and swooning fans at Mumbai’s DY Patil stadium on Wednesday, getting into paroxysms of delight backstage was a small group that had spent the past year getting the grand spectacle off the ground. Bieber’s show has brought in Rs 20 crore in ticket sales and at least double the amount in sponsorship from 11 brands. As get more popular and fill up stadia with capacities of 60,000 plus attendees, it has become a lucrative way to milk the business of music. 

According to a 2017 report on media and entertainment by FICCI-KPMG, live events as a category is growing by 20-25 per cent a year (this includes sports) and organisers say, return on investment in music is steadily on the rise as audiences and companies queue up for a slice of the concert experience. A Global Citizen concert that had performing in the city last year sold tickets between Rs 5,000-25,000. Bieber tickets were priced in the same range but a special set that came loaded with backstage passes and Bieber memorabilia went as high as Rs 76,000. An upcoming concert by singer Ed Sheeran in November this year is expected to take both ticket prices and sponsor involvement further up a notch. Hindi music artist Arijit Singh’s performances go for Rs 1,000-25,000 (as per his last concert in New Delhi in April) and he draws in an impressive list of sponsors. 

have turned big revenue earners in a country known for its penchant for song and dance. For singers, this helps offset the severe loss in income due to digital streaming and piracy; for the rest (event organisers, broadcasters), it is an opportunity to cash in on the growing desire to be a part of a live experience. This is the reason, analysts say, the live events business in music is growing at the industry average of 25 per cent and drawing in the brands with big bucks. 

The increased involvement and frequency with which international musicians are turning up on Indian shores has also helped. From headlining at Sunburn and SuperSonic festivals which involved a brief presence to individual concerts that call for at least a couple of hours on stage, there has been a marked increase in the time they put in, in the country.

Brands are particularly buoyed by the large crowds that such singers draw; see it as an opportunity to engage with a captive audience while building a more youthful profile for themselves. “With a celebrity like JB (Justin Bieber), sponsorships have to be dealt with carefully. There are certain global tie-ups that his brand has and we have to abide by those. But for India, they have made some exceptions. For example, they let us handle the merchandising bit with ‘Only’ since we understand the market better,” says Arjun Jain, MD, White Fox, the event management company that got Bieber to India. White Fox reportedly invested Rs 26 crore in the endeavour. 

Jain explains that given Bieber’s huge fan following, he had to be innovative with pricing too. “Certain tickets were kept aside for the fan club and these include backstage tours and exclusive Bieber merchandise. While there was a lot of social media chatter around the pricing of these tickets, we sold them out as well,” says Jain. Reliance Jio was the prime sponsor for the Bieber concert. Other partners included Bajaj Electricals, Only, Kingfisher, Pernod Ricard, Redbull, Skybags, Kwality Walls, Spicejet, Colors by Intercraft, and PVR. Brands are said to have spent between Rs 6-10 crore, depending on the category and terms of the deal. 

Arijit Singh’s concerts attract brands such as Paytm, Suzuki and e-commerce players and mobile handset makers. Brands are interested only when there is a match between singers’ fans and their customer base. Saugato Bhowmik, business head, consumer products and Integrated Network Solutions (INS), Viacom 18, the division responsible for live events business, says “Vh1 Supersonic being an international youth music brand has always attracted partner brands with a very similar target group overlap and a similar set of ethos. Music is a part of the culture that those partner brands are trying to influence the youth by. A lot of lifestyle, beverage, technology, apparel brands use similar cultural levers to target, influence, immerse and engage the youth.” Bhowmik and Jain both agree that the onus is on the organiser to come up with a plan that convinces a brand of the scale of engagement. 

According to the FICCI-KPMG report, around 25-30 per cent of the advertising budget for many brands is earmarked for sponsoring/creating live events. This could be because of the growing and international stature of the singers and also, the increasing presence of in tier-II cities. For instance, the NH7 Bacardi Weekender goes to several cities and even hosted an event in Shillong last year. Brands see such events as a lucrative engagement opportunity. 

Bhowmik believes organisers still face a few challenges when it comes to signing up sponsors. “You have to overcome the problem of reach. For sponsors you have to deliver unique and immersive engagement with their audiences as well as scalable and unique content that provides marketing opportunities well beyond just the live piece, therefore making it an ROI positive experience,” he says. Ultimately, it is the sound of money that keeps the music rolling.