Chart Beat

The Year in Livestreams 2020: Driift Took British Stars Around the World

Niall Horan
Dean Martindale

Niall Horan

As previously reported, Elton John topped Billboard’s year-end Top Tours ranking, while Radio City Music Hall and Live Nation crowned the annual Top Venues and Top Promoters lists. But in 2020, traditional touring did not account for the full landscape of the live music industry.

Amidst an indefinite COVID-19 shutdown, artists took to the internet, broadcasting live from empty theaters, outdoor landmarks and their own living rooms.

This week, Billboard is remembering the year in livestreams, with highlights from some of the major digital companies that connected fans to their favorite artists. Here, we dive into some notable events from Driift Live Limited.

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While not a livestream platform per se, Driift is a promoter, producing live concerts with artists in empty iconic venues and selling tickets around the world (to be streamed on YouTube and other online destinations). And as opposed to entities like YouTube and Instagram adjusting to the newly urgent sector of the industry, Driift was born in 2020 to cater to a gap in the market.

Their first event was Laura Marling’s June 6 performance from London’s Union Chapel, selling 5,957 tickets. Tickets were set at $12 and $15 and Marling sold 5,957 tickets, amounting to a $90,000 gross.

London-based streams from Lianne La Havas, Nick Cave, and Dermot Kennedy all followed, surpassing 30,000 tickets sold for both Cave and Kennedy. Cave’s $740,000 gross was the biggest among Driift’s early successes, easily surpassing these artists’ nightly grosses on their most recent tours, reaching a global audience in one performance.

Cave was soon outdone by Niall Horan with a Nov. 7 performance broadcast from Royal Albert Hall, offering fans a glimpse on what might have been in an alternate 2020. The Irish singer-songwriter was poised to tour throughout the year on the Nice to Meet Ya Tour, hitting arenas around the globe with help from supporting acts Lewis Capaldi, Fletcher, and Maisie Peters.

Horan notched Driift’s biggest triumph yet, grossing $2.2 million from 126,163 tickets sold. Those figures are seven times Horan’s average nightly gross ($319,000) on his 2018 Flicker World Tour and more than 19x that tour’s average attendance (6,457), per figures reported to Billboard Boxscore.

Of course, it’s an odd comparison – as previously stated, these global broadcasts have an inherently greater reach than one in-person concert, but then again, a full tour’s gross and attendance are representative of months, or more, of performing. Multi-million-dollar earnings for an early test case among contemporary pop acts is certainly a sign of good things to come for artists like Horan and for Driift and the business of livestreaming itself.

Kylie Minogue went live the same day as Horan with Infinite Disco, grossing $486,000 off 27,775 tickets sold, similarly stretching far past her nightly-average of 7,874 tickets on tour throughout the 2010s.

In all, Driift has produced 10 livestreams that have collectively sold 257,151 tickets and grossed $4.7 million – kind of like an actual tour! Still, there are more 2020 streams from Andrea Bocelli (Dec. 12), Courtney Barnett (Dec. 17), and Katie Melua (Dec. 17), as well as a New Year’s Eve replay of Minogue’s concert. And in 2021, there are plans to expand further internationally with more shows in Europe, the U.S., and Australia.  With proof that livestreams reach farther and wider than one single concert, the sky may be the limit for Driift’s global growth.