How Do You Plan a World Tour During COVID-19?

Veteran artist manager le'Roy Benros pens a guest editorial, breaking down how he and his team created an 11-country virtual world tour in three weeks.
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As an artist manager and A&R, I’d be lying if I wrote the music industry isn’t deeply concerned about its future. But while the current circumstances of COVID-19 have made things difficult for artists both signed and independent, I do find a glimmer of excitement in the present landscape. We’re all being forced to reimagine how we conduct and grow our businesses. Being challenged creatively can spawn the greatest of ideas. The same way Napster and LimeWire forced the music industry to change its business practices, COVID-19 is changing the way artists entertain their audiences.

Over the past six weeks, I’ve observed how DJ D-Nice’s Club Quarantine, the Verzuz battle series, and Tory Lanez’ Quarantine Radio have brought people together from around the world over Instagram Live. It inspired me to think outside the box and come up with something original and multi-dimensional. 

Before COVID-19 put the world on pause, my team and I were in the early stages of planning a headlining summer/fall tour for my act LION BABE, which was completely rooted in our existing music rollout strategy. Life had other plans. While the group’s new single, “Can’t Get Enough,” is set for release on May 1, we had to cancel the accompanying tour with no foreseeable rescheduling. We had to adjust and react quickly with a new strategy.

Since we are in isolation, I wanted to cover a lot of ground with our next strategy. I started by asking my team—and myself—a set of critical questions: 

How can we give fans a thoughtful, unique experience? 

How can we use this time to grow our fanbase? 

How do we plant seeds for the future for when this is all over? 

How can we generate some revenue to support our clients? 

What other industries are impacted by COVID-19, and how can we align ourselves? 

How can we build relationships with people and influencers around the world? 

How do we stay active and sharp in times of isolation? 

How can we be memorable and innovative by giving the world an experience that simultaneously answers all of these questions?

In the end, we came up with the “Around The World, At Home: Virtual World Tour.” Alongside my other act, Kwamie Liv, LION BABE will be playing 11 shows in 11 countries in six days. To put ourselves in the best position possible to be successful, it was essential to treat this like a REAL tour from a logistical sense: soundchecks and rehearsals, virtual meet and greets, and virtual press runs in each market.

Each show is intended to be localized by market. We wanted to give fans in each country their own unique show. Each venue agreed for us to take over their IG channels. Cancelations have significantly impacted venues around the world, so this was also a cool way to keep them active during the shutdown.

To help create and enhance the localized element of this tour, we brought on Vydia, led by their VP of Marketing, Karla Ortiz, to create a customized landing page that incorporates an IP address detection function. Fans will be routed to the www.lionbabe.com landing page and can only RSVP to the show for the country they reside in. To RSVP, you will be prompted to follow both the venue and talent IG page, along with the talent’s Spotify page. Once completed, you will receive a show reminder in your calendar.

“To effectively engage fans in six continents, it was key to create a fluid fan experience that we customized and made available in seven languages.” —Karla Ortiz VP Marketing, Vydia

The virtual meet and greets will be broadcast on the venue’s channel a week before each show. The M&G encourages fans to take selfies on IG, suggest setlist songs, and engage with the artists, giving them a similar experience of an actual show in their city.

A popular influencer will moderate each meet and greet in each country, such as Kim Jayde of MTV Africa and Eliabe of Brazil’s Batekoo. Due to the economic hardships that COVID-19 has caused, the concerts will be free of charge. Venues will be utilizing in-house and independent promoters to help market the events and generate awareness for each show via local press, social media, and email marketing.

While masterminding this tour, it was vital for me to identify and build relationships with the right promoters to help cultivate and grow our potential ticket buyers for the future. These 11 countries are the top 11 listenership audiences on Spotify, so there’s already a foundation to build on. We now effectively have 11 different street teams globally promoting LION BABE and Kwamie Liv. This type of support is invaluable for unsigned and independent acts.

As with any cool tour comes cool merch. We brought on the super talented Baby Duka out of Copenhagen to design the artwork and limited-edition tour merchandise.

Never in a million years would I have thought we’d be putting together an 11-country world tour in three weeks. I’m proud of our team, and without their dedication, we couldn’t have been pulled it off. Special thanks to Josh DeAngelis [First Access Ent] who has been incredible with organizing the logistical details of the tour for a smooth process; Karla Ortiz [Vydia] with marketing strategy and helping create an intricate, awesome user-friendly experience with the landing page; and Andy Clayton [Paradigm], our booking agent who assisted with connecting the dots with the venues.

Around The World, At Home Dates:

May 2 - South Africa
May 2 - United Kingdom
May 3 - Germany
May 3 - Brazil
May 4 - Australia
May 4 - Japan
May 5 - United States
May 5 - Canada
May 6 - France
May 6 - Denmark
May 7 - Netherlands 

This process has served as a good reminder of how quickly things can change. It taught me you always have to be prepared for any scenario. No one expected us to be in this current situation. You either sink or swim. My advice? Focus on what you can control and utilize every tool around you. The post-COVID-19 era will forever change many of the ways we operate, but nothing will ever replace the excitement of going to see your favorite artist perform live.

Hopefully, this concept sparks and inspires a new slew of ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing the evolution. Observe, adjust, innovate, stay safe, and use this isolation to spark your imagination. 

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