Performance venues: Back to the show

Data suggests that performance venues are poised to bounce back. Hurrairah bin Sohail discusses what this return to growth looks like in Asia Pacific.

As the world continues to bounce back from the disruption caused by the pandemic, the performance venue and auditoriums market segment is growing again.

Data from trade association AVIXA puts fixed performance solutions globally at USD 28 billion, growing at a CAGR of 8.1% from 2022 to 2027. Fixed performance solutions in APAC are at USD 10.8 billion in 2022 growing at a rate of 9.3%.

Sean Wargo, AVIXA’s senior director of market intelligence, provides context for the data: “As has been widely discussed, any solution area related to in-person activity was hard hit during the pandemic. Live events and fixed performance or entertainment solutions were two of the most impacted and so would also be expected to see the highest growth as recovery ensues. This is now the case as evidenced by the high growth of 8.1% expected from 2022 to 2027 for fixed performance solutions, which exceeds the overall average for pro AV of 5.9%. Faster economic expansion and a burgeoning middle class will increase investments in performance solutions at an even higher rate for the APAC region.”

Flipping to the perspective from the ground in Asia Pacific, Sand Leung, director at consultancy firm Nova Range, shares her thoughts: “We’re active in the Hong Kong and Macau region and in our market, there have been a number of new projects in the performance venue sector but there has been a slight slowdown for this year. However, a number of projects are still under design and under construction and the growth has really been driven by the Hong Kong government. The West Kowloon District initiative and the Kowloon Cultural Centre have resulted in some premium venues and auditoriums being created and these initiatives are still underway.”

While the disruption might have hit performance venues and auditoriums hard, it seemed to have spurred them into action. Reese Kirsh, performing arts segment manager at audio manufacturer Holoplot, says: “Many performance venues are currently upgrading their systems to achieve a higher standard of production than was previously available. With many creatives having time to reflect and create over the lockdown period, there is a large pool of progressive and ground-breaking ideas for shows and content on the market. Performance venues are having to evolve in order to accommodate these ideas. Embracing and investing in new technologies is key to achieve this.”

Much like the corporate and education sectors, performance venues are also considering a ‘hybrid’ approach. Leung details: “Performance venues and auditoriums went hybrid like many other sectors out of necessity. And now, they are looking to have the infrastructure to be ready to fulfil hybrid operations in the future if needed. When restrictions were in place, performances and live events had to be cancelled or rescheduled. But there was an avenue to go virtual. It meant that the cost of the ticket was reduced but you were able to reach a much wider audience.”

Kirsh believes that going hybrid has caused a shift in the technological makeup of performance venues and auditoriums: “Before the pandemic broadcasting live performances may have been seen as a large task or hard to achieve as the infrastructure may not have been readily available. In the current market, this has become an expected requirement. Broadcasting ability is now being considered from the initial design process and not as an added extra for special events and many major West End and Broadway musicals have recently been filmed including Hamilton and Come From Away, making them accessible to a wider audience unable to attend a specific location at that time.”

The focus on technology is not just limited to broadcast. Performance venues are now looking and examining how investing in the right technology solutions can give them an edge. Leung says: “There is a real interest from the government and the users to explore new technology solutions. They are open to training, workshops and demo sessions so they are invited into the field to experience new solutions. Right now in particular, immersive audio and acoustic solutions to enhance performances are something that is gaining traction. AV over IP is another thing that is garnering interest, it can simplify wiring and allow for more complex switching of signals and that opens up new avenues for experimentation.”

Kirsh says: “Immersive experiences and creating new, interactive audience environments is the mega trend in the industry at this time. This leads to many performing arts projects wanting to achieve something more than what is possible from a traditional sound reinforcement system. With the current advancements in technology, these desires can become realities.”

Kirsh adds: “From a Holoplot perspective we look to challenge the definition and preconception of immersive experiences - rather than starting from a 360-degrees audio design we believe that immersion starts by heightening an audience’s connection to the artistic performance through a dramatically improved audio experience by reducing unwanted reflections and reverberation. All the way through to the envelopment of audiences in 3D sound. On top of this Holoplot is unique in its ability to bring audio objects beyond the 2D physical constraints of the sound system and into the sound field itself. This is a new level of immersion that we’re seeing incredible interest in from the market.”

Moving forward, there is a sentiment that performance venues will have to leverage technology if they are to continue to attract patrons. The entertainment market has been inundated with options. Kirsh advises the following in order for performance venues to remain competitive: “Stand out! Let the audience attend a show that they cannot see anywhere else. This may be down to the show content or driven by the technical implementation. Doing something no one else is doing is critical to creating differentiation and providing wow factor.”

Leung concludes: “Technology is definitely something that performance venues believe will attract people. But venues are also realising that the technology cannot be implemented for a single purpose. It is not just about getting people into venues for a show. It is about creating an experience and curating a journey for them.”

Image: overcrew/Shutterstock.com

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