The executive producers behind one of the most streamed events in history are breaking the state of live entertainment.
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By now, you've probably seen the viral moment when NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal did what he did best when he played HORSE against three-time Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski: he ripped the damn rim off Backboard. Game over.
It was all part of the Shaqs Fun House vs. Gronk Beach livestream event, in which the larger-than-life personalities competed against each other in a series of silly challenges with performances by DaBaby, Snoop Dogg, Steve Aoki, Diplo and others.
The event, which raised money for NAACP and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and delivered 1.25 million meals to Feeding America, was produced by Medium Rare, a live event and brand activation company.
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The entrepreneur spoke to Medium Rare co-founders Joe Silberzweig and Adam Richman about what it takes to host such an event and what they see for the live event industry in the near future. Here are some of the highlights of this conversation.
Life in the live event business
Adam Richman: Not much has been said about it, and there are no Congress bills that really aim to help concert organizers or people in the live entertainment industry. We know a lot of our colleagues and friends who are really hurt. It was really hard for them to do anything during that time, and that's how we stood a few months ago. We sat there and said, "What are we going to do now?" And then the light bulb went out. "Let's go virtual!" It worked perfectly for the two special brands from Gronk and Shaq. We don't know exactly what the future will bring in terms of personal or hybrid events, but everything we plan for November and December will be 100 percent virtual.
Virtual events can be more than a glorified zoom call
Joe Silberzweig: There have been hundreds of live streams since the pandemic, but most of them are zoom calls or Instagram lives of pretty jerky quality. We really saw the opportunity to do something bigger, more polished, more produced, and there we see the future of streaming.
See also: 9 powerful quotes from NBA All-Star and Entrepreneur Shaq
AR: We really took the initiative to promote and market and this was one of our personal events. We didn't just post a link and say, "Hey, we're going to go live tomorrow at 10pm. Visit us on Instagram, Twitter, or whatever." We really did an extensive campaign. We had a national press conference, went through a major social campaign, email explosion – really treated them like we were going to do any of our big events, and we think that allowed us to shine through. This gave consumers the confidence that this wasn't just that would be another basic live stream.
JS: The musical talent we worked with is used to performing in an arena with a million dollar production. So you can't just say, "Hey, can you rap in front of your living room couch?" This challenged us to find ways to make it look like a music video, and not just something that is streamed from another's phone. We knew that we had to achieve the highest possible production values while ensuring the safety of employees and talent.
AR: And for big live events, it can be challenging to make sure that artists are on site and ready on time. It was a little shocking that it is similar for a virtual event! They know where we have one or two of the FaceTimed artists to put on the canvas, and they take off and they drive in their car. So some things never change!
Stay calm in the storm
JS: We had a technical problem during the HORSE game between Shaq and Gronk. So Adam and I freaked out. I think 5 million people were watching back then and it was all pretty crazy. But our team worked through the problem and got it going, and at that moment Shaq immediately ripped off the rim. And that was really the biggest and most viral moment of the entire live stream. Well, I say we freaked out, but that was inside. Outside, you need to stay calm and serene and lead your team through such difficulties.
Related: Gronk enters the CBD business
The viability of virtual events
AR: We are very happy that we have quickly reached this linchpin for streaming. We have lost hundreds and hundreds of live events due to the pandemic, but it's encouraging to see how many artists and personalities are taking advantage of the opportunities. And it is really nice to see how sponsors play in the room and change this model and believe in it.