LnkBox Group provides last-mile transportation at events like Coachella, shown in 2019. (Getty Images)
Joseph Bradley of LnkBox Group on the road ahead, life after COVID-19
Joseph Bradley, founder and CEO of LnkBox Group, which provides last-mile transportation solutions and secures and activates sponsorships in and around live events like the Coachella and Okeechobee music festivals (AEG and Live Nation are its two largest clients), told VenuesNow that the company saw about 80% of its business “vaporized in about 96 hours” in early March.
“I don’t think that anybody really had any idea as to just what kind of black swan we were dealing with here,” he said in describing the COVID-19 outbreak.
From what he’s heard, it’s a similar story across the live event production world.
“That kind of four- (to) five-day period was where everybody just kind of took it on the chin,” he said. “I think the task now is just get small and make sure that we are kind of minding our people first, keeping everybody healthy and making sure that everybody is in a position where they can start to think clearly and now we are just plowing forward.”
Bradley said he’s working to help organize a streaming concert or series of them to try to raise funds for production personnel and others hardest hit by the crisis but concedes that we are a long way from even getting a leg up on the situation.
“We must mourn the loss and give ourselves the emotional leeway to kind of go through that, but at the same time the world is going to continue to turn,” he said. “We are in a new paradigm. That is a fact. It’s true that on a long enough timeline this will go away and things will normalize, but as we reenvision what our jobs are, that’s something that’s going to take a huge lift.”
Bradley said LnkBox is fortunate to have relatively low overhead and in the coming weeks and months the company, like many others, will pull in its horns and figure out its “minimally viable footprint to kind of stay alive during these times.”
At least on the production side of live events, consolidation is inevitable in an industry segment that often survives at the margins of profitability, he said.
While he’s certain that the current involuntary live event hiatus is temporary, Bradley thinks even broader structural industry changes are likely to remain as a result of the coronavirus shutdown and even offer new opportunities for those nimble enough to capitalize on them.
“The truth is, the magic of getting 150,000 people together in one place all jamming to the same band, you cannot re-create that,” he said, but he noted that the emergence of streaming during the current environment, for instance, points to new possibilities in the post-coronavirus world.
“If we look at the economics of events, in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and even ’90s, to a large extent, live events were basically a marketing tool for records and now we’ve seen the pendulum swing the other way where you are seeing 99-cent songs as basically a loss leader to get people into these live event environments,” he said. “So I think something we’re tracking heavily, the economics and the way that live events work today, when these things come back what we will have been forced to think through is how to make these events modular and extensible.
“Modularity and extensibility (are) really interesting when you think about packaging something like Coachella and making it available to somebody in the Philippines, because I know that there are people who would love to see Rüfüs Du Sol live at Coachella with a very particular set of merchandise offerings and offerings that are experientially relevant and they are not going to spend $5,000 to come from the Philippines to Indio, Calif., but they’ll absolutely spend maybe 10 bucks to tune in and have that group experience.”
Finding a sweet spot between offering value-added remote access without cannibalizing the live audience may well be hastened by the current crisis, Bradley said.
“I think that’s something that’s going to be proven out in this time. We’re going to be forced to think about how to convey experience in a modular and extensible way and I think that will absolutely remain once we come back online.”