With the world being online 24/7, it’s inevitable that the music and events industries dive into the web as well. And no, we’re not just talking about online concerts — the openness and interconnectedness of the Internet has allowed for the empowerment of all its stakeholders, including promoters to fans.
Enter All Access Anonymous (AAA) — a decentralised network that has tapped into the potential of Web3 in providing even more meaningful experiences when it comes to music events. Its sole aim; to drive new innovation for the industry while empowering all actors in contributing towards its sustainability and development.
We spoke to Iqbal Ameer, Founder and Group CEO of The Livescape Group plus the mastermind behind several of South East Asia’s biggest award-winning event and festival brands. After years of experience and digging further into understanding the true value of decentralised technology, AAA was born, and now he’s here to share how it benefits all layers and players.
From enhanced fan engagement to equal access to capital, turns out the advantages of Web3 are almost endless. Understandably, not all of us are fluent in "tech talk". However, take the time to read what Iqbal Ameer has to say about the inner workings of Web3, and we guarantee you’ll be just as blown away as we are.
Hi, Iqbal! Perhaps we'll start with a more general question for those who are still in the probing phase of Web3. In your opinion, how has the role of Web3 supported the evolution of entertainment and events or experiences?
Well, it hasn't actually hit mass adoption in scale. There are brands like Tomorrowland or Coachella, for example, they've had NFT announcements and kind of put stuff out, but to be honest, they're no different than just exclusive memberships and perks. It's like I could just announce a membership and just say like “I'm doing a limited-edition pass”. However, that’s not the real true use case of Web3, but actually it’s fine. It’s a good introduction to people and the reason being is because it's unknown territory, right? There’s hype, there’s FOMO, there’s so many brands joining the train that makes other brands think “I need to be associated with something that’s Web3 or something that’s NFT-related as well”.
Web3 technology changes your business as a whole; it's not about just dropping something by the side and saying that you’re doing NFTs. It changes your entire business model as a whole. So to answer your question, has it supported the evolution of entertainment and events experiences? I would say that it's introduced an idea at very, very surface level at this point in time, but it hasn’t hit mass adoption or hasn't done anything in scale to what Web3 actually is.
So we still have a lot to experience from what Web3 has to offer, yeah?
Yeah, and I guess that’s the most exciting part of it because all of us at AAA, we’re dedicating our lives to this, you know. We don’t say we know everything about it but we’re on the forefront of learning more and more about it and it's so exciting to see how technology evolves and in the space of Web3. It moves super fast because there's so many people building, tweaking, experimenting. We don't know when it's going to end because it’s always innovating as we move forward.
Previously when accessing the AAA website, there was a teaser sentence “The future of Experience Economy is here”; can you give us a hint of what's to come from All Access Anonymous?
The Experience Economy is something that I've been personally involved in, since my days as a nightclub promoter. The words “experience economy” aren’t as sexy as nightclub promoter, but during those days what we created was building blocks for an experience. Getting people through the door, putting the artists on stage and making sure that people have a good time. Essentially, creating an experience.
And then as your appetite grows to build bigger shows, you move from a 300-capacity venue to 1,000, 3,000, 5,000 and then you’re doing 20,000 and 50,000… You’re bound to get a tune of the economics behind it, right? The jobs it creates, the people that it supports, the many different industries that are involved when it comes to creating an experience at such a scale.
So AAA basically takes this entire chunk of the puzzle that is the Experience Economy and puts it on an alternative highway where all stakeholders in the industry become the economy itself. Promoters, artists, venues and most importantly the fans are able to interact and transact in a trusted, verified environment without any intermediaries, and supercharge what an Experience Economy really is, with the right tools to make it happen.
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You see, intermediaries are actually currently preventing growth and inclusivity. I’ll give you an example; one of the Web3 tools that people currently use is something called DAOs — Decentralised Autonomous Organisations. We can just look at it simply like it’s a group chat. A group chat is bunch of people just talking, right? But, with Web3 tools what happens with a DAO is that because I don't necessarily need to know you, and you don't need necessarily to know me, but our verified credentials allow us to be part of that DAO.
Now, the credentials can be many different things. Let’s say both of us journalists, so we join the DAO. Or even we both like movies, we could also join a DAO, right? What happens is in order to join this DAO, to show loyalty or commitment to a particular skill set or passion there needs to be some money involved. So, let’s say I need to pay $100 to join the DAO to show that I am committed to it. That money doesn't go to a company that keeps it; the money stays within the DAO and becomes a treasury. Then the DAO decides what are we going to do with this treasury to support this interest that we all have together.
Let’s use journalists as an example; 10,000 journalists each put $300 to join a DAO, and that money is now being used to start their own magazine. Then the DAO members say that they want to contribute articles for the magazine. The DAO votes on whose article is more relevant or better suited to be published for now; there’s no boss that goes “yes” or “no” based on favouritism.
"Promoters, artists, venues and most importantly the fans are able to interact and transact in a trusted, verified environment without any intermediaries, and supercharge what an Experience Economy really is, with the right tools to make it happen."
So there are DAOs in the Experience Economy that already exist. There are two that I’ll bring up. The first is ‘Friends with Benefits’, they’re based in the States and they’ve created a DAO that’s a treasury fund that basically people can access for experiences. So, somebody can come in and say, “Look, I want to do, an underwater party where everybody has to go underwater and experience the party!”. People from the DAO contribute their ideas to that, “why don’t you do it here or there?” and then utilize the funds of the DAO to actually create that event.
There's another one called ‘Refraction’. I forgot exactly where they are based, but they are more nightlife. The members of that DAO basically go in and support independent, creative venues that were affected during the pandemic and create content at those venues. They book artists, create conceptual events… and Refraction have done this in different parts of the world because the members are from everywhere. So, this is like a really good use case of one Web3 tool. Just one! Essentially, it's like we can have multiple start-ups of our interest; something we truly passionate about. And if the community recognizes the value of what is being done, then there are many different opportunities that can happen.
Monetization opportunities happen because when you're a member of a DAO, there's a limited number of members that can join. If I were to go back to the journalist scenario earlier; let’s say suddenly the magazine that the DAO created is doing really well. Everybody wants to buy it, it's making a lot of money. The money is going back into the treasury, the journalists are getting paid for their published articles… What happens is the access pass, which is an NFT basically, increases in value. More and more people want that NFT to be able to join the DAO. However, the DAO cannot create more NFTs because it’s limited. And what creates value is when people offer you more money for your DAO access.
However, this becomes a tough choice because of course you can sell your NFT and earn more money, but you lose access to the DAO. That’s when value comes out, and this is essentially the economics behind the supply and demand in Web3.
When we say “The future of the Experience Economy is here” at AAA, we’re not just talking about the DAO — that’s just one Web3 tool, but we believe it brings people together in a trusted and verified environment. There are a lot more Web3 tools that when combined specifically for the Experience Economy becomes an unstoppable force.
"AAA will have a Web2 experience, but with Web3 engagement."
How do you determine what you need from a blockchain partner?
So for All Access Anonymous, our importance is to ensure stability, security and allowing us to do fast transactions. If I put a ticket on sale and if everybody’s buying a ticket, it’s got to be scalable and fast. If I’m at the event itself and I’m buying a drink, it’s got to be fast and secure as well.
Our long-term plan is actually to connect multiple different blockchains together. One particular blockchain could be really good with security, one with scalability and one with NFTs, for example. Our idea is we connect different blockchains according to what they're good at and we connect them to AAA.
We like to use this phrase in the office; AAA will have a Web2 experience, but with Web3 engagement. So, it will be like you using Instagram or Facebook, but you don't know, and you don't have to know, the underlying technology behind it.
AAA is catering to eventually millions of people, so we’ve got to make sure there’s no confusion. Hence the term “a Web2 experience with Web3 engagement”.
You mentioned the stakeholders will be basically everyone, from promoters even down to the fans…
Yeah, promoters, fans, production companies, venues. As long as people are on the network and are using the network, their influence in the network grows. They get rewarded and they become the stakeholders. Everybody benefits, everybody wins.
Right now, when you do a transaction to transfer money to your friend, you pay a bank charge, right? You don't get you don't get rewarded for that. The bank takes it because the bank allows you to use their “highway”. We are building our own “highway”, so as long as people are using it, everybody's gonna get rewarded for using the same highway.
Are there any existing stakeholders that you can mention?
We have signed 51 independent promoters from Asia and Australia, ranging from people that do arena shows to people that do music festivals in the thousands. Some of the names I can mention for now are Good Vibes in Malaysia, 808 Festival in Thailand, Ravolution in Vietnam, S2O which is in Thailand, Taiwan and Korea, It's The Ship which is from Singapore and Djakarta Warehouse Project from Indonesia.
Were there any challenges for the promoters you mentioned, having to move from Web2 to Web3?
We’ve oftentimes been asked “how did you get these guys on board?” and the point here is why would they not join? Right now, what AAA essentially does is we de-risk promoters. In our opinion, the business model of the Experience Economy is flawed.
Let's imagine that you're going to do a concert. You need a million dollars. Where are you going to find that kind of money? You don't have a million dollars just sitting underneath your bed, right? So what happens is you go to a bank, and some banks will loan the money to you with a very high interest rate because your business model is high risk. Or you may go to a bunch of investors that have the money for it. But these people are not giving you free money, they will want a return, right? And they will say, “I want a much higher return than what I get in the bank”.
Why investors are attracted to people in the Experience Economy is because the return is high and the return is fast; you get your money back in, like, six months, plus an interest. But when the interest is high, the promoter has to put that interest on the fan. How’s the promoter going to cover the costs? They’re going to put it on the ticket price!
If you see the history of ticket prices, it's always going up. A show for Travis Scott in Las Vegas was US$900 dollars. Why is that? It’s not just about inflation, not just about artist fees having to use live entertainment as their main revenue source instead of streams. The promoter takes all the risk, right? I get my million dollars, but I've got to pay the artist 500,000 dollars, got to pay the venue a hundred thousand dollars… I’ve got to put all this money out first and then go sell the tickets, hoping everybody buys them. Then once the dust has settled, I can only hope that I make money.
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This cycle has been going on for years — forever! There are promoters that have done extremely well by being very, very smart on how they do their business model, but there have also been multiple promoters who just receive the bad side of the coin, forcing them to not be able to sustain their business. The pandemic showed that; so many independent promoters had to close down because it's their bread and butter and suddenly you're telling them that you can't do it.
So AAA basically does several things for the promoter. First, we help you to de-risk your business model with Web3 tools. We help you to increase your revenue model through Web3 tools. On top of that, AAA also allows promoters to access capital. Instead of you going to the bank or angel investors, remember the DAO I mentioned before? You’ll be able to basically access funding this way. Which means you're not paying any amount of interest; you're paying nothing.
And who wins? The fan wins, because the fan gets the cheaper ticket price. The promoter wins because they are de-risking their business model because they're being able to talk to the fans. They can go “Should we book Hardwell or should we book Tiesto?”, then the DAO decides, let’s say “Book Hardwell, because he hasn’t come in years” or some other reasons. Then the promoter can communicate that “Alright, but if I do, I’ve got to up the ticket price by $10, is everybody okay with that?”. This way the promoter is de-risking their business model, and at the same time they get to reward those who have been active in the DAO.
Let’s say a person has been actively convincing others about booking Hardwell, putting out proposals in the DAO. The promoter can give you a meet and greet with Hardwell as like a sort of thank you for supporting them. Now that’s the Experience Economy, man! You participated in the pre-event, everybody supports the promoter, you get rewarded with a money-can’t-buy experience. That’s what AAA is about.
"The problem with the world we live in today is that there's been so many processes and intermediaries put in place and currently they serve no function anymore."
I was just about to ask something related to that; since not all festival-goers are fluent in crypto or DAO, how will AAA appeal to potential attendees?
To the fan, it's a Web2 experience; it's like, downloading an app, like just being on the browser. Sometimes when we talk about what we do to people, they’d say “Oh, so you do ticketing?”, and we’d answer “No, we’re providing access”.
A lot of businesses these days don't discount their current business model when they get into Web3. Let’s say I’m a ticketing company and I need to do something Web3; I introduce NFTs and now I'm and NFT ticketing company. Essentially, you're doing the same thing but it’s the company's decision of the use of NFTs. So your tickets now aren’t going to be an email but instead an NFT. Why? One of the reasons is the security is better. But essentially, the company's business model is the same; it’s just a sort of upgrade.
Whereas AAA is 100% Web3, but on the outer layer we are Web2. When everybody uses it, it's like just using a normal platform. Just the stuff on the back end is Web3 tech.
You mentioned NFTs which is something quite new. Do you see it as something sustainable in the industry?
NFTs are not a medium, it's a technology. The word “non-fungible token” is not as attractive, not as sexy to be honest. But it’s tech. A lot of people know NFTs in the form of art or in the form of music because it’s something we’re familiar with. It was the first mass group of people that use the technology. But then again NFT is a brilliant technology because what happens is it publicly verifies ownership of something that nobody can contest.
I was just talking to somebody who's using NFTs for real estate, and it's brilliant. So if I was a developer, I would need to build, I will need to come up with a plan, I need to draw what my development’s going to be like, and then I've got to come up with a big marketing plan on how to sell. For that I’ve got to spend a lot of money.
Eventually people will buy it, and then let's say the property sells out. Suddenly somebody else wants to buy or I want to sell it; what happens is I got to go talk to the real estate agent about selling the unit. You know how real estate agents have their own demographic of people that they cater to, and you’re not going to be sure what the price is, right?
Now if somebody gives you ownership of your unit as an NFT, first of all you own the unit and it’s verified that you own it. Secondly, the entire world can see that you own it. That means someone from Zimbabwe or someone from Japan who you have never met, and you don't need to meet, can verify that you own the NFT and this person can put an offer straight to you. You don’t have to care who this person is because you’re in a trusted environment. You don’t need to know does the person have the money or not, who is this person, is this person a resident… It doesn't matter. You’re selling ownership and you're making the money that you can.
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The problem with the world we live in today is that there's been so many processes and intermediaries put in place and currently they serve no function anymore. NFT technology kind of basically cuts through all the fat.
So when you ask how we would appeal to non-crypto natives, it was a topic of discussion that we've had in a company multiple times. But, if I talk to my nephew, he knows what an NFT is because he plays video games. Look, I play video games, but I don't play as much as him, right?
It's very common; that’s the new generation. When they play games, they spend money on digital items for their avatar. And the kind of technology that's being used is an NFT. They are going to understand the real estate story that I just told you a lot faster than any of us. Every kid right now that’s 16, when they turn 18, they're going to know everything about what AAA does. Everything. So, in the end, mass adoption doesn’t become a problem.
"I've seen some really unique online-offline, hybrid experiences that will cater to both sides of the coin. To me, if there's anybody that can create that, it’s Asia."
Bring our conversation back to Asia; how do you see Asia's experience industry sizing up to the rest of the world? It can be said that we were the last region to have “restarted” from the pandemic; is there a need for some sort of reformation or restructuring for events in the region?
It's a really good question. I think we're a bit slower than the rest, but it's actually a good thing. A lot of industries really, really rushed the moment things opened up like in Europe and the US. What happens is when you are rushing to cover back two years of losses, you don't necessarily make the best decisions.
One thing could be financial decisions, where you submit very high offers for artists because you believe that you're going to sell 100,000 tickets for this act, assuming everybody's going to come. What happens is that everyone else is thinking the same thing. So then suddenly it's Festival season in Amsterdam and there are 100 festivals announced, one day after the other. There’s only an “x” amount of people, earning “x” amount a month. This causes everyone to suffer.
Not only that; there's a massive, skillset drain that happened during the pandemic. A lot of people have left the industry because they couldn't work. They couldn't work in the industry that they loved but still have to put food on the table. They probably became an insurance agent or a car salesman… And then now when things are opening up again, they’re like “Hey, man. I’m not gonna go back. I'm gonna stick to my new job as an insurance agent or car salesman”, you know. So what happens is you have a massive skillset drain of people. This actually recently happened in Splendour in the Grass in Australia, where they were shouting from the top of the hill for people to come and help out at the festival. There were so many people coming for the show and they didn't have enough manpower.
Then you also have production problems. I know a lot of production companies in Singapore and Malaysia during the pandemic day to go through a fire sale because they needed the cash flow. Now their equipment is not here anymore, it’s somewhere else in a different part of the world. This means there's a lack of equipment to provide and with that the prices go up because supply and demand, right?
Let’s say I'm the only guy, that's got Void speakers in the country and there’s ten organisers all looking for the same Void speakers because that was the request of the artist. If I used to charge a thousand bucks, I’m charging 10,000 bucks now!
All these economic factors weren’t considered when the market opened. Everybody kind of rushed out to try and get it done, and I'm telling you a lot of people got burnt during that period. And again, I feel sad, because it's an opportunity to come back out there. They’re hungry, they’re itching to get things going again, they want to get things back to how they were. But it's never going to be back to how it was; it's going to take a long time for things to get back together. For Asia, it being the last frontier, I hope we don't make the same mistakes.
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How do you see the enthusiasm of the Asian region towards this “digital influx” that's happening in regards to shows, events and experiences? There’s more things happening online nowadays…
I'm actually personally not a fan of virtual concerts. It's something that I personally never got into. Even during the pandemic I didn’t organise one, because nothing beats the real thing. I understand that a lot of promoters needed to be relevant and keep up with the times and keep their communities engaged. I also understand that it seemed like the most natural thing to do because everybody's stuck at home.
I'm a big fan of hybrid, online-offline experiences, you know? Doing things both online and offline, that’s a really core component about AAA as well. We think an online experience is inevitable. We spend most of our lives online, anyway.
I've seen some really unique online-offline, hybrid experiences that will cater to both sides of the coin. To me, if there's anybody that can create that, it’s Asia.
And why is that?
I feel the Western world is very templated and does the same thing again and again. I think this is because they have a mass population to cater to. P!nk goes on tour and she sells out for 30 days in the same arena for the same show. They’ve got the mass audience from people who are 17 to 70 who will go for a P!nk show. You wouldn’t see a 70-year-old at Djakarta Warehouse Project… Well, maybe when I’m 70 I’m still gonna be there! But our maturity level in Asia, I guess we’re not as seasoned as they are in the West. When we’re not as seasoned, we tend to be a bit more innovative because we cater to a smaller amount of people.
So, if S2O announces its water festival happening in Thailand, that’s innovation, right? It's taking a music festival, something that's culturally very accepted in Thailand (a water-fest) synergizing it with electronic artists and doing it in Thailand and then catering it to the rest of Asia as an innovative, new experience. You’ll get to fly to Thailand, go to a water festival, get to see your favourite artists… I’m excited to see something like that now become technologically hybrid.
Any plan on scaling your ventures with AAA onto a larger scope, perhaps outside of Asia?
For AAA the first step is what’s on our front door which is Asia and Australia. Those are markets that we have experienced in, markets we understand more, but we obviously intend to grow or extend beyond those markets.
We actually have a five-year plan, and by the time that five years is done, everybody that’s part of the AAA team don’t exist in AAA anymore. In five years, we give it back to the people that use it, the community. We’re here to just build it.
Every stakeholder that I spoke about has influence over AAA, which means it would require more and more participants to be part of it. So five years from now, I would have to put in a vote like everybody else. I can't wait in five years from now to be building more solutions, ideas and tools that can be added to AAA to help the experience economy.
The first step is with promoters, but when we say Experience Economy, we're talking a lot more than just the promoter, right? We're talking about the hotels, the restaurants, the bars, the vendors… We’re talking about lot of people. The first step is the step with the highest amount of mass adoption, and that's, and that's the path that AAA’s focusing on right now.
Find out more on All Access Anonymous by visiting their website here, and don't forget to follow Iqbal Ameer on Instagram.