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Interview with Omnilive’s Cyril Zajac

When I wrote my “How to Livestream Music” I wanted to talk and listen to experts in this field. Cyril Zajac is the Founder of Omnilive, an innovative technology that enables multi-camera shoots from an event. It further heightens fan’s engagement by offering chat, links and a marketplace.

Cyril says he is a huge music fan who needs music like people need food. However, it was while attending gigs that his background in TV and post-production made him want to experience the show from different perspectives.

I want to be up close to the stage. Then to be at to back. Now, to be by the console. And on the stage! I want to have all the different points of view at the same time. But the reality is, you find a good spot then you don’t want to leave it so you stay in the same place for the whole gig.

Cyril Zajac

This central idea, of being able to bring the different perspectives to the audience, was shared by a developer friend and so together they built Omnilive.

Cyril thinks TV producers still have a lot to learn about live streaming on the Internet. In many cases, when a TV Producer is asked to work on a live stream they’re still thinking of it like a TV production.

The content ‘rules’ they use for TV are the same ones they apply to the web. For them, the device is just a second screen. When in fact, it’s a totally different media. It has new rules for interaction, new rules of engagement, new rules for creating content and what angle to choose. TV is a very top-down media, while internet is very bottom up media. That dynamic of being able to listen to your audience and create content with them is something that differentiates a digital livestream to content based on TV.

Cyril Zajac

Cyril has advice for anyone wanting to learn more about interactive TV.

Go to Twitch. Twitch has been doing interactive live streaming and engaging content for the past 10 years. They pretty much define the rules of, what is interactivity. Listening to your audience, operating your channel, having a conversation. I’m talking, a real conversation, not just talking to an audience, but listening to what the audience is saying. And then modifying the content as you go along.

Cyril Zajac

He also suggest ‘quality’ isn’t a guarantee of success.

If I recorded myself in 4K with 12 cameras, I’m not going to get a big audience. But If Madonna filmed herself on a single iPone, she’s going to get fans tuning in. The quality of the content doesn’t guarantee your reach. Your fanbase guarantees your reach. You need to be creative and know how to engage your audience.

Cyril Zajac

Cyril has worked with several artists on shows not held in traditional venues. He cites a show by Polish Black Metal band, Behemoth, as an example of how live streaming can open up exciting creative possibilities.

They played in a secret church in Poland. So, if it was a video, it wouldn’t be unique – it’s a Black Metal band in a church, right? But as a live setting it was brilliant. You can’t put a church on stage. You can build a set of a church, but it’s not a real church. And at the same time, you can’t bring your whole fan base into a church because it’s too small. But, using live streaming, they could have an interactive gig from inside a real church.

Cyril Zajac

Coming from a TV background, Cyril says he is not intimate with the inner workings of the music industry. However, he feels there is an opportunity for entrepreneurs in this space.

Live streaming is not currently a place controlled by anybody. Promoters are doing shows, but they’re doing live shows in the physical world. Which makes me wonder, if at some point, we will see digital promoters? So, people signing artists to do solely digital performances. There’s a gap there. I don’t know if the historical promoters will invest in it? Or, if on some level, labels will be able to do it? There’s definitely a level of intermediation that is required in the industry.

Cyril Zajac

Despite the current trend for ‘disruption, Cyril is keen to point out he doesn’t see Omnilive as disruptive.

We are enablers. Very often people are telling me, Omnilive could be a platform and be doing ticketing and all those kinds of things. And my answer is always the same – I’m not here to disrupt the industry. On the contrary. I’m here to enable the creators, the labels and the promoters. We want to bring new value into the proposal.

Cyril Zajac

The live industry still has a long way to go before venues are back to full capacity. Cyril encourages artists and promoters to start experimenting with new technology, not least, because it’s unlikely to go away.

A lot of promoters & venues could be losing their business if they’re not trying to preempt the way the market is going and at least try to experiment. Look, everybody wants to go back to a concert. Me first, you know? But, there’s something happening. Once people have started to try something in digital, very rarely, there is a rollback. Once it’s here, it’s here. You can try to go around, you can try to ignore it, you can try to deny it, but it’s still there, you know?

Cyril Zajac

What’s even more interesting is that, indications are, live streaming is opening up a whole new audience.

I’ve seen studies on who’s buying tickets for live stream and who’s liking it. And what’s the audience. And, the demographics are very different between the people who are buying tickets to go to concerts and people who are buying tickets to live streams.

Cyril Zajac

When I ask him what the differences were, Cyril laughs.

They’re just people who don’t want to go out. Give them the choice. They can watch regular TV, switch on Netflix, or, pay 10 pounds to watch a concert by The Rolling Stone, with a full immersive experience? There are many people who like live music but don’t want to go to a venue for lots of reasons – money, distance or not being able to go. These people are clearly a potential new market.

Cyril Zajac

The costs of doing a full live production mean the scale of event achieved by Behemoth, hiring a venue with a multi-camera shoot, is beyond the budget of artists without a large fan-base. Cyril suggests that larger bands can support developing artists in the same way as they do in the physical world.

They can do pre-shows. You know, much like when you go see a band in a venue, there was one or two bands play at the beginning? OK, so there are lots of people at the bar drinking beer. But, at the same time, the bigger bands took on a responsibility to give smaller bands the visibility.

Cyril Zajac

For smaller bands, Cyril has a great idea for financing live streams. Crowd funding.

Well first, as I said, the web is bottom-up. Engaging with people means having them participate in your success and telling them, they are an actor in your story as much as you are. They’re not just consumers. So, you tell your fans you want to do a live stream. You share the creative proposal and say how much it’s going to cost. And then you ask everybody to pitch in and buy their tickets in advance. If you reach the goal then the concert will happen. If we don’t reach the goal, the concert doesn’t happen and everyone gets their money back.

Cyril Zajac

I also wanted to know, how much a production would cost with a multi-camera shoot. Cyril estimates that €5,000 is roughly the minimum a band would need to spend although is keen to stress that artists are coming up with a lot of creative proposals. Plus, technology is changing quickly.

For developing artists, who want to start live streaming, Cyril has the following advice based on his knowledge of cameras and software.

There is a lot of open source software that will allow you to connect very quickly to a streaming platform like Twitch or Vimeo, for example, OBS or Streamlabs. will definitely allow you to connect to these platforms. For equipment, Android phones have really nice image sensors. A small app transforms your phone into a webcam, and suddenly, you have a multi-camera setup for very cheap. I do all my client demos on a GoPro.

Cyril Zajac

Finally, you can’t talk about live streaming without discussing the issue of rights. Although Omnilive isn’t a platform or host content, Cyril is all too familiar with the legal minefield that awaits the unwary.

So far, in all the experience I’ve had in live streaming, the artist was at the start of the project. They’re the right people to clear the rights with their label or with the publishers. It’s really tough. I had a conversation this morning with a promoter, talking to him about doing something with making new content. But, as soon as you start talking about new material, then you have to think about the label because they have the rights to that.

Cyril Zajac

Not that the streaming itself isn’t without problems when it comes to rights clearances.

When you are live streaming, you have no boundaries in terms of space or in terms of territory. What happens if you are live streaming worldwide but the rights are different in different parts of the world? Sometimes an artist has a different promoter in different countries. I’m sure the industry will formalise guidelines but I hope they won’t be too strict. COVID has done a huge amount of damage to the industry but live streaming is an opportunity for the industry to embrace.

Cyril Zajac

Key Takeaways

  • The way many traditional TV producers film concerts does not take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technology.
  • TV is top down, internet is bottom up. Listening to and engaging with fans is what differentiates the media.
  • If you want to understand what live streaming is all about, go to Twitch.
  • The quality of the output doesn’t guarantee success. It’s depends on your creativity and engagement with your fanbase.
  • There is a gap in the industry for Digital Promoters, specialists who will put on shows and understand the dynamics.
  • The live industry is in crises. Live streaming offers a way for artists and promoters to experiment and build a new business.
  • Live streaming taps into a new audience who like live music but don’t want to attend gigs.
  • Bigger artists can support smaller bands by offering pre-shows to their main event, like support bands at gigs.
  • Crowd funding could play a role in financing gigs for smaller bands
  • You can use OBS and a mobile phone to set up a decent quality, cheap live stream.
  • Talk to the artist early in the process to make rights clearances easier
  • Doing a worldwide stream can cause conflict with local agreements, so take care while there are no guidelines in place.
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