The Hong Kong Arts Administrators Association (HKAAA) has been established for more than thirty years, to provide a networking platform for art administrators to exchange thoughts and promote the professional development of the industry. This November, HKAAA has successfully organised an extended event of the 11th edition of their Cultural Leadership Summit, featuring the theme “Hybrid Event”. Industry experts were invited to discuss the transformation and development of art activities.
Mrs. Vennie Ho, Chairman of HKAAA, said, “Due to the epidemic situation in the past two years, most arts and cultural programmes were forced to be cancelled. Lots of art groups have released their performances online. Even when the pandemic eases, restrictions such as the government’s social distancing policy are still imposed. Hybrid event model has thus become the new normal. In response to this phenomenon, HKAAA has organised the Spin-off Event to help art practitioners to understand how to make use of technology to express art, connecting the audience.”
Spin-off Event speakers included Mr. Wilson Yuen, Founder and CEO of TFI Digital Media, Mr. Wilson Tang, Co-founder of POPTICKET, Ms. Jess Mak, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Market of Hutchison Telecommunications (Hong Kong) Ltd., Mr. Michael Chen, General Manager, Market Enterprise Solutions and Support, Business Market of SmarTone Business, and Mr. Sidney Tsan, Head Market and Competition, Office of the Communications Authority.
Live streaming services are an indispensable part of hosting hybrid events. TFI Digital Media Founder and CEO Wilson Yuen, therefore shared with the participants the considerations to be taken while organising hybrid events, in terms of live streaming technological application, production and ticketing operations. He claimed that the epidemic had accelerated the development of the industry by five years. Live streaming technology is intensely demanded by an array of industries, resulting in a tenfold increase in the overall turnover, of which, arts and cultural activities account for a certain proportion.
Yuen believes that hybrid events have their uniqueness and appeal. “If the content itself is attractive enough, the number of physical event ticket buyers won’t reduce, but will expand the online audience base in reverse.” He once produced a live show for the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, of which 20% to 30% of the online audiences came from the Mainland China. This shows that hybrid events can break the geographical boundaries and cater to different audience groups.
He also believes that even when the pandemic is over, hybrid events will maintain their popularity. Apart from the reason that audiences can enjoy different online and offline experiences, the flexibility of hybrid activities can also enable event organisers to create more varieties, such as including the behind-the-scenes highlights and interviews as the extended programme of a concert, providing free performance replay after the performance with a 24 hours limit, adjusting the content or repertoire for audiences according to different regions, etc.
Even though the pandemic has brought about certain challenges to the industry, Yuen thinks that opportunities always come along with adversities. The pandemic has brought the art practitioners to realise the possibilities of turning any place into a stage, encouraged innovation and even reduced venue costs. For example, in a live streaming concert he once produced for Rubberband under a flyover in North Point, the number of online audiences has surprisingly reached 4 to 5 times higher than a physical concert. If the event organisers have all the activities returned offline after the pandemic, he thinks this is restricting themselves and rejecting the existing possibilities.
When being asked about how the government should assist the arts and cultural industry in organising hybrid events, Yuen mentioned that the current cost for a livestreaming production reaches at least HKD100,000, which is unaffordable to small art groups. He further suggested that the government should consider subsidising the first two live streaming productions of the small art groups, replacing the current matching fund model, which the art groups will have to settle the expenses in advance. Through this approach, these art groups will be provided with the opportunities to first attract audiences and make profits from the hybrid event, further being encouraged to continue organising events in a hybrid mode, bringing high-quality programmes to the audience.
The pandemic has also led to the birth of some ticketing platforms that provide both online live streaming and limited-time broadcasting services. POPTICKET is one of the examples. With regards to the blooming of the ticketing platforms for the arts programmes compared to the past, Mr. Wilson Tang, Co-founder of POPTICKET reminds the organisers to first understand their own needs, then proceed to consider whether the platform supports the desired services, such as seat selection, queuing system and refund service, etc.
At present, 70% of the Hong Kong audiences are used to buying tickets via mobile phones. Organisers should also pay attention to the platform layout of the mobile version, the clarity of the information displayed, and the smoothness of the ticket purchasing process. The reputation of the ticketing platform itself is for sure very important. If the ticketing platform system has a lot of negative reviews, it may indirectly affect the organisers’ or audiences’ perception of the programme.
Tang said that hybrid events have been gradually changing the audience’s habit of watching programmes. For example, for viewers who have missed tickets of physical events, they can choose to purchase online event tickets, benefiting all parties including the organiser, ticketing platform and the audience. In addition, if audiences want to recommend a certain programme to their friends, even if the programme has been completed, ticketing platforms that support replay functions will come in handy in this case. As long as you pay and buy tickets on the online platform, you can review it instantly, which is also a good alternative to promote the programme.
Regarding the future development of the ticketing industry and hybrid events, Tang believes that more ticketing platforms will provide live broadcast services in the future. These one-stop services save the organiser’s time in coordinating and communicating, and audiences do not need to switch to a third-party platform, bringing convenience to all. In addition, he proposed that in the future, ticketing platforms and organisers may consider placing more past performances online, making them available for audiences to pay and view.
Although the competition within the industry will become more robust in the future, Tang remains optimistic. In the past, ticketing development in Hong Kong has been stagnant. The impact of the pandemic and the surge of hybrid activities are opening up business opportunities for the industry.
For the implementation of hybrid events, in addition to the live streaming technology and ticketing matters, the support of the 5G network is also indispensable. Ms. Jess Mak, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Market of Hutchison Telecommunications (Hong Kong) Ltd. said, “The fusion of 5G and art hold vast and limitless opportunities and potentials. By applying 5G to 4K live broadcast, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, art and cultural events will be available both online and offline, widening the audience group and opening up new opportunities to the creative industry. As the Government has extended the application period and has increased the funding amount for the “Subsidy Scheme for Encouraging Early Deployment of 5G”, we believe this will encourage more art groups to utilise 5G in creating art and accelerate the development of art technology.”
The 11th edition of the Cultural Leadership Summit and extended activities have been successfully concluded. Members of HKAAA can review the sessions online. Mrs. Ho, Chairman of HKAAA, hoped that more art practitioners from the industry could join HKAAA as members, exchanging ideas, thriving arts in Hong Kong.
If you are interested in arts administration, stay tuned to the future events to be held by HKAAA. Apart from the talks and courses on various topics, career fair will be held, redemonstrating the possibilities of hybrid mode application on events.