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Entertainers Online: Top Strategies for Monetizing Virtual Content

Lex Brinkman - Mar 29 2021, 11:52:00 AM

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a period of unprecedented unemployment in recent history. Seemingly overnight, entire industries shifted. One that was the most swiftly hit was entertainment. For artists and entertainers that rely on an audience, live events halted with no roadmap to a return date. Everyone from stand-up comedians and magicians to murder mystery and trivia hosts quickly shifted to creating online content, forging new paths to provide their services virtually and generate income.

Both live and virtual events depend on ticket sales, and one of the biggest hurdles to monetizing online content is successfully capturing people's attention and getting them to pay for content. After all, the internet is flush with free content that is normally used as a teaser to get people in seats at small venues and concert halls. Without the option of live in-person performances, entertainers are finding new ways to monetize digital content and cultivate a virtual following.

You may have noticed the uptick in the value proposition of public, live-streamed ticketed events popping up all over Instagram, Eventbrite, and Airbnb. It’s both private and impermanent, but you don’t have to leave your house. Some have found, because it’s not a replica of an in-person experience, that it’s hard to command the same price, especially when there are so many free events. However, finding customers who value a virtual service enough to pay for it is a matter of marketing — the search for a captive audience remains the same.

One way entertainers are making performance profitable is with paywalls. Paid content or a subscription service has become increasingly necessary for entertainers to monetize. More industry professionals are becoming careful about how much they provide for free online now that all services and events are virtual. After all, while all content is work, not all content is created equally. People are taking a look at their portfolios and deciding what will be free and what can command a fair price. Additionally, new channels make this process simpler. For example, Patreon allows anyone to set up a stream of revenue for individual contributors' monthly subscriptions. A popular way to tier different membership prices is differentiating between having access to past, pre-produced content or granting access to special events that are not available to non-subscribers.

Subscriptions are geared toward the public, which is a great option for anyone looking to actively promote their entertainment offering or content. However, specialization for customers who have both a need and budget for virtual experiences already is worth equal attention. Marketing virtual events to corporate partners can provide income for entertainers, especially when they are highly experienced and skilled. Ben Whiting is one such specialist. He transitioned his entire corporate entertainment and mind-reading performance into a virtual offering with great success. Notably, moving online has provided relief for his own work-related costs.

“Virtual (corporate) events have been a game-changer in the best way for my business. I no longer have to factor in travel time when working in multiple locations for a client. I can perform for a company's New York office in the morning, then connect with their branch in Sydney, Australia, right after lunch. Also, with non-virtual events you rarely had access to the stage/venue more than an hour or two before an event. Now the stage is my studio, so clients and I can use Zoom to access it as often as we need to, and I can make sure everything in the show is 100% customized to their liking, and that all their event goals are achieved,” he said.

It requires adaptation, but streamed corporate events can provide business beyond this year. Many employers are now giving their workforce an opportunity to stay remote and adopting a remote-first mindset when hiring, increasing the need for virtual corporate events that keep your audience engaged. Entertainers can take advantage of this shift to expand their business and build client relationships regardless of location. Who wouldn’t benefit from being able to work with clients from anywhere? When you’re online, you can go anywhere on the globe instantly.

Mattias Leiter, professional illusionist, remarks on how his efforts boosted his business and made it global. “Even though I lost all my sources of income in March 2020, after a lot of hard work building up my virtual studio, by the end of December 2020, I did hundreds of virtual shows, averaging five to seven shows a day having a completely successful year! With virtual events, I don't need to reset. It's like having my own theater, and all I do is change the virtual audience each time, which happens automatically. Now I have access to a global audience with shows all over the world and in different time zones and different languages,” he said.

For any entertainer, like a mindreader or drag queen bingo host, a virtual corporate events business is attainable. It requires preparation and intention in order to be competitive in an ever-growing new sector of the industry. Entertainers can divert a new offering and marketing dollars through LinkedIn or partner with companies that provide links to corporate networks. There’s a range of partners that entertainers can work with rather than source clients alone. Some license content, while others provide a marketplace to list your offerings. These platforms source and manage clients, effectively relieving entertainers of a heavy sales and marketing burden, making a profitable corporate events business within reach.

A mutually beneficial market between entertainment experiences and B2B might not have been on anyone’s radar prior to the pandemic, but it will endure beyond a post-COVID-19 world precisely because businesses are shifting their expectations and priorities for remote work.

Originally published at Mar 29 2021, 11:52:00 AM. Updated on Apr 3 2023.

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