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August 19, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Reverse pitch offers new opportunities for start-ups as “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival” shifts focus to entertainment

After two days spotlighting the state’s healthcare and life science sectors, Launch Tennessee shifted the focus of the “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival” yesterday to the state’s dynamic entertainment industry. The emphasis on the sector will continue today with sessions during the day leading-up to a mid-afternoon conversation with country music legend Garth Brooks.

We took particular interest in a late morning session yesterday titled “Reverse Pitch: Innovation Challenges in Entertainment.” Moderated by Heather McBee, Vice President of Operations at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, the panel included Gil Beverly, Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer for the Tennessee Titans, and Adrian Michaels, Vice President of Innovation, Radio and Streaming for BMG/BBR.

Over the course of the 35-minute session, we learned just how common some of the challenges two seemingly different industries – professional football and music – are facing. What they share in common is the importance of the fan experience at a time when COVID-19 is making that difficult if not impossible.

More important for our readers, we also learned that both organizations are looking for technology solutions that entrepreneurs can provide. Those solutions range from improved streaming of artist concerts to data analytics and ways to effectively utilize emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

“COVID is less of a disrupter and more of an accelerant,” Beverly observed. That description carried forward throughout the discussion, underscoring the importance of identifying and adopting new approaches quickly.

“We’re in competition with everything going on in your living room,” Michaels explained, a fact that Beverly underscored with his comment that the challenge before COVID and now is the “24/7 365” relationship with fans. He described it this way: “How do we replace the stadium experience,” particularly if fans cannot attend games this year and become more comfortable with the 70-inch television in their living room?

Explaining that “I’m a big believer we are not going back to pre-COVID days,” Michaels identified “live space help” as a top priority. He said the platform quality is improving and described a show he viewed last week that actually integrated crowd noise. Technologies to improve live streaming are high on his list.

“We (also) want to be able to geo-target fans,” Michaels said. “That’s how we need to replace (in-person) shows . . . with lots of different monetization methods.”

Another area where the music industry could use new technology solutions is to help introduce new artists at a time when taking them to in-person meetings is not feasible. Michaels described a capability he recently saw where a hologram of a new artist was dropped into an office to make sure the artist was remembered after a virtual introduction.

Both Beverly and Michaels underscored the importance of data analytics.

“The data is all there,” Michaels said. “We’re looking for companies to visualize it. Give me something that puts it in perspective.” Beverly agreed, explaining that there is a need for someone to do more than read the findings. He described it as aligning the data and the implications of the findings with an organization’s narrative.

How do entrepreneurs get their attention if the former think they have something to pitch? The answer was what is taught in Entrepreneurship 101. “Be succinct; paint a quick narrative in two paragraphs of a problem you are going to solve for me,” Beverly said. “Bring you’re A game,” Michaels said.

Beverly identified two other areas of need for the Titans. One, which he characterized as the “driveway to driveway experience,” involves making the fan journey more convenient. The other was novel ways to create and deliver content.

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