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YSA Event Scalability

Posted by admin on June 10, 2010 in Design, Execution |

In the last few years there has been a rise in the importance of the ‘live event’. This is an inevitable reaction to the pervasiveness of digital technologies. The internet has without doubt facilitated music, TV, films and radio being easily accessible and free. What many have reflected on, but which Kevin Kelly articulated so well in his essay titled Better Than Free, is that: “When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable. When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.” He continues:

From my study of the network economy I see roughly eight categories of intangible value that we buy when we pay for something that could be free. In a real sense, these are eight things that are better than free. Eight uncopyable values. I call them “generatives.” A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold.

These Eight Generatives are: Immediacy, Personalization, Interpretation, Authenticity, Accessibility, Embodiment, Patronage, and Findability. Brian Newman has since adapted these to films specifically:

Live events provide a compelling reason to buy. That is why musicians tour the world all the time, and why broadcasters and filmmakers are starting to fall over themselves trying to create compelling events. Event broadcasts are going well, especially with social media, but they have a long way to go when it comes to harnessing the power of global live events. Indie filmmakers (no, I’m not going to define indie) are certainly exploring the power of live events. I mentioned some early examples of cinema events on my old blog, and in my thesis I mention more of the history of cinema performances, and I’m currently consulting at Openindie — helping filmmakers (among other things) develop a compelling live event that compliments their film. (Got some more good links on live events for films? I’m hungover and sick of searching through stuff.) There is a compelling reason why filmmakers (any artforms) should think more about live events.

Indeed, I mentioned this during The Forum at Whistler Film Festival. I was on the panel with Tony Safford, EVP Worldwide Acquistions, 20th Century Fox; Dr. Greg Zeschuk, President & General Manager of BioWare & Vice President of Electronic Arts; Jonathan Simkin, Founder, Simkin Artist Management; and Daniel Cross, President, Co-founder, Eye Steel Film. Now, when I spoke about filmmakers creating cinema events to bring in audiences, Tony Safford nodded and said that is what they do. He said we build up a film to be the most important film you should attend (he referred to Avatar), and then do another one the next year. Now, I’m not quoting him word for word, but he was talking about creating an event around a film, not the actual cinema experience. We could easily quip about how he obviously missed the point. But did he?

Now I’m not putting down live events. Certainly not. They are crucially important, and I plan for them where possible in my own projects and when consulting on others. But the point I want to highlight here is how we suck at scalability. If you don’t know what scalability is and you wonder why you’re not reaching large audiences/players, then you suck. Wikipedia describes scalability as follows:

In telecommunications and software engineering, scalability is a desirable property of a system, a network, or a process, which indicates its ability to either handle growing amounts of work in a graceful manner or to be readily enlarged

Now, what it means in the ‘live event’ context is how you’re able to handle many live events or lots of people turning up to events. What I’m saying is this: yes, live events are important — for indies doing a tour they are great, and for alternate reality game creators they are often a great way for players move more fully into the performative — but these sorts of live events can only happen at certain times and places. Scarcity does facilitate a desire to purchase. But at this stage, it doesn’t seem you can easily rollout a live event across multiple locations. How many cast and crew can turn up to how many places? How can props be delivered in a replicatable manner to screens across continents? How can players in multiple locations spread globally participate in live events? Why does this matter?

It matters for two reasons. There is a demand for live events. If your live events are reliant on non-scalable factors, then you will never meet demand. This is a problem then because you lose precious chances of generating revenue, revenue from the increased amount of events being held, from people attending, and from the sales of merchandise etc at these events. So, here are a couple of ways live events can be scalable:

For films: music is already designed to be executed without the original creator present. You can easily hire musicians to play at cinemas around the world. This is already done, but not often. Perhaps there needs to be a live event agency that takes care of these things on behalf of filmmakers? They speak with the cinemas and arrange events that fit with the film.

For alternate reality games, pervasive games, etc: Jane McGonigal did a neat thing in The Lost Ring ARG for the Olympics. She created the rules for a Lost Sport of the Olympics, and then encouraged players worldwide to run their own lost sport events. This is a big shift from most live events in ARGs, where the creators host special events that only certain people in the world can attend, at a certain time. McGonigal simply created a generative system where players can execute a live event on demand.

What other ways are there to not suck at scalability?

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