Airbnb's expansion into the live music business continue to grow with the roll out of its own platform dedicated to staging concerts around the world.
Launching today, Airbnb Concerts offers music fans a range of intimate, bespoke live music events in unconventional venues, ranging from recording studios to cathedrals to wine cellars.
Last year, the Silicon Valley hospitality company launched its 'Music Experiences' offering as part of its global Trips platform. Since then, music has quickly become one of Airbnb's most popular booking categories with around 100 concerts held worldwide every month, all with a deliberately small audience of around 50-100 people per show.
Airbnb, valued at around $30 billion, anticipates that number growing to 20,000 per month by the end of 2018, says head of music James Beshara.
"It's been really exciting to see it organically grow and take off," he tells Billboard. "I think music fans around the world are craving this type of format and intimate connection with artists. Five years from now, I think more people will experience music in intimate settings like this than they are experiencing in arenas, and stadiums and festivals. That's how big of an opportunity I think this is and hopefully we're a substantial part of that," Beshara states.
As of today, Airbnb Concerts will be available in 25 cities around the world, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, London, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Paris and Sydney. Airbnb is targeting that number climbing to between 50 and 100 by December.
Key to the format's appeal, is the personal connection with artists that Airbnb Concerts provide, says Beshara, pointing to previous gigs that the company has staged, including a recent run of small capacity shows by Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy that saw him perform a series of intimate concerts around the world, limited to just 70 guests per night. Tickets for the sold-out run, which include a meet and greet and Q&A, cost around $75.00. The typical ticket for Airbnb gigs costs around $20.00 to $35.00.
The Airbnb Concerts experience stands "in stark contrast to being at a music festival with 100,000 people and being 5,000ft back, just staring at a big 50ft screen," says the exec and former musician. "That's not a connection. That's not what attracted you or I to music and that's not what attracted the artist to music," he states.
Other established artists that have partnered with the company for live shows include Arizona, Grace Weber, Martin Luther McCoy and Stone Foxes, while the format has proved highly popular with upcoming and local artists that Airbnb says can earn between $150 to $1,000 per show.
For its part in the process, Airbnb charges a 20 percent fee from each booking, as per its experiences model. Similarly, all concerts are vetted in-house and have to be approved by Airbnb before they are listed on the website.
"There's significant value that we can provide in bringing audiences to local artist around the world," says Beshara, who notes that ticket buyers are often a 50/50 split between tourists visiting the host city and local residents.
"At the average Airbnb concert, there's over 10 different cities represented in a room, which is subtle, but really powerful for local artists that maybe don't have the following to start touring or take that financial risk. It's almost flipping touring on its head," he says.
"We want to build the platform tools for anyone to be able to put on these types of concerts. Whether that's an independent artist in San Francisco or Live Nation that wants to do 100 of these a week -- and anything and everything in-between -- we plan to be the agnostic platform that helps our millions of customers find these really cool experiences around the world."
The success of the format, not to mention strong pull of Airbnb's vast global customer base, also gives it an obvious appeal to established artists looking to step outside the traditional touring model, believes Beshara. He says the company is currently in talks with "one of the most recognized faces in music" who approached them about doing some shows and anticipates more coming on board as the platform grows its reach.
"Music fans are really craving this format, so who knows where the limit is," states the San Francisco-based exec, noting that Airbnb has, at present, no plans to grow its concerts business beyond those of 50-100 capacity shows.
"When you start to get 200 people or 500 people [attending] you get this level of anonymity in the room that starts to deteriorate from the connection between the artist and the audience. People are 10 rows back and they're on their phones or start talking. When it's less than 100 people everybody's eyes are locked down on the artist and it creates this amazing participatory and interactive environment."
As a music lover, it's not just a great way to experience live music," enthuses Beshara. "It's one of the best ways."