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Executive of the Week: Driift Co-Founder Ric Salmon

Music manager Ric Salmon has established a partnership with Brian Message for Driift, a premier artistic and cultural force in streaming live music -- and is Billboard's executive of the week.

As a member of One Direction, Niall Horan has played some of the biggest concert venues and stadiums in the world, but now that he is touring as a solo artist, it’s back to theaters and clubs. At least it would have been, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, on Nov. 7, Horan played the U.K.’s most prestigious venue, Royal Albert Hall in London, to a virtual audience large enough to fill the 150-year-old venue — as well as London’s Wembley Stadium, 02 Arena and the Eventim Apollo combined to capacity.

At £16 a ticket (about $21.25 USD), the concert raised more than £2 million from ticket sales ($2.6 million USD), with all profits after expenses going to support touring crews hurt by the pandemic. The event was the biggest concert yet for Driift, a leading U.K.-based livestream promoter and producer founded by ATC Management’s Ric Salmon and Brian Message with investment from Beggars Group.

Salmon is a veteran of the music business, with a 50-roster client list and a live performance division that serves more than 200 artists. He founded Harvest Entertainment in 2007, where he managed Seal, Morrissey and Joss Stone, and has held senior roles at Sony Music, Ministry of Sound and Warner Music International, where he was VP A&R.


Since launching Driift in the summer of 2020, he’s been a key player shaping pay-per-view concerts as an artistic and commercial success, starting with a June 6 Laura Marling show at Union Chapel that grossed $90,000 with more than 6,000 tickets sold, according to Billboard Boxscore. Overall, Driift has sold more than 250,000 tickets to concerts that include a July 15 show by Lianne La Havas at The Roundhouse ($91,000 gross), a June 23 Nick Cave show at Alexandra Palace to 35,337 fans ($711,000 gross) and a concert by Irish singer Dermot Kennedy at the Natural History Museum on July 30 to 30,276 fans ($511,000 gross).

The same night that Horan’s show was taking place, Driift was also airing its pre-taped concert for Kylie Minogue’s Infinite Disco, a stunning center-stage performance by the Australian mega-star soaked in rich, high-contrast lighting reminiscent of Studio 54-era Manhattan, which sold 30,000 tickets and grossed $700,000. And this week, the company announced a special holiday concert with Andrea Bocelli at the Teatro Regio di Parma for Dec. 12. All of which helps make Salmon Billboard’s executive of the week.

Here, he talks the business of live streaming in a pandemic, the effect of not having a live audience and where the space goes in the future.


Dermot Kennedy’s manager Ed Millett said he didn’t think anyone would pay for a streaming concert until he saw Laura Marling sell almost $100,000 in tickets at her Union Chapel show. Why did you think this would be a good business venture?

Eight months ago, if someone said, “Let’s do a live streaming show and let’s not sell tickets for the venue,” we would’ve just thought you were absolutely bonkers. That sounds like economic suicide. It was only when it was forced upon us that we had to give it a go.

How does not having a live audience affect the performance?

This is the creation of a new genre where taking the audience out of the equation enables us to present the performance in an entirely different way. The artist performs differently. That presentation is different. You can have cameras wherever you want. You don’t have to worry about sight lines. After all, live audiences are major variables for any live production and even though they’re not the final intended audience, their interaction often drives the creative product. We talked to one of the directors and he said, from a film prospective, this is like the fucking Holy Grail. If you give a director the chance to shoot a live show without having an audience in the room, they’ll say, “Where do i sign up?” Because the audience is just such a variable.

But doesn’t not having an audience affect the energy of the performance? So many artists feed off the energy of their fans in a live environment.

The weird thing is, here we are five months since the Laura Marling show, and it hasn’t come up in conversation with a single artist we’ve worked with. It’s not an issue. And we have spent a lot of time thinking about how we ensure this feels like a concert and not a really long music video, or just someone playing in an empty venue, because that’s the danger. This is still a performance that connects with the audience, it’s just that the audience experiences the performance in a more direct way.


In the livestreaming space, how do you deal with issues of transparency regarding whether performances are actually taped live and whether a show can really sell out when there is an infinite capacity?

Authenticity is utterly crucial. We’ve gone into battle about this, a fair bit to be frank. We will never do anything where there’s any sort of concept of hoodwinking a fan. If something is not truly live, you can not present it as live. In terms of scarcity of tickets, scarcity exists in different dimensions, not just in the concept of limited tickets, but it also exists in the concept of limited performance. So if a fan knows that there is going to be a limited amount of time that they can see an artist, then it’s scarce. That’s completely different from limited tickets. But you have to create a sense of being in the moment. That, like a show, the performance begins and ends and won’t happen again.

What happens at the end of the pandemic? Does livestreaming continue to grow or do people go back to live concerts?

There’s a groundswell of support around this format from labels, agents, managers and all aspects of the industry, seeing this as a new format and something that doesn’t cannibalize other parts of the business. This is a new revenue stream and fundamentally a new promotional opportunity to establish a relationship with fans in parts of the world you can never get to with a live show.