Tier 4: How to Monetize Live Events

There's no question that immersing your audience in a live event brings tremendous weight and power to the experience. A good event turns up the narrative volume, and can convert your quietly contented fans into enthusiastic evangelists. But live events, at least as they're traditionally played out, don't have an ROI, because in your traditional ARG and marketing structures, they're free. I simply can't build out an events tier if I can't justify the expense by showing how it will generate revenue later. 

Fortunately, you don't have to look far to get an idea of how to turn events into an income source, not just a drain. Is there an ongoing transmedia narrative out there right now using ticketed events as a staple of their strategy? Why yes, yes there is. World Wrestling Entertainment does this. When you buy a ticket, you're not just buying a ticket to a sporting event; you're gaining admission to the latest episode of an ongoing serial drama.

Going by that example, secret to monetizing live events -- at least for now -- is clothing your event in the skin of something to which the audience is already accustomed to buying tickets: sporting events, concerts, plays, conventions, circuses, carnivals, dance performances, probably a hundred other things I can't think of right now.

If I were to build out an events element for Felicity, as with the film tier, I'd have some serious logistical issues if I tried to include the main characters. There would be a tremendous risk that the stories would fall into a million conflicts of continuity and weaken the whole as a result.

But this could be a tremendous opportunity for world-building slightly to the side of the main plot. Surely the audience would be interested in parting with some cash in order to spend an evening mingling with the magic underground, disguised as a carnival or maybe a roving casino night (since I've not yet written that part of the story, the specifics are still a bit hazy). It's a place that Felicity and Lindsay go in the story proper, and a center of power in the story world. The ability to go there in person would have very significant resonance for fans of other tiers. Ideally, the show would be structured on multiple levels so that novices unfamiliar with the earlier tiers would find it amazing and fun, too, and be thereby encouraged to try the other tiers, as well.

In my mind, I see this as a touring show: Something that travels between cities over a season. I don't think I'd want each show to be entirely unique, as with the WWE example; there's a value in letting your audience talk about their experiences, and in making room for first-timers to receive advice on how to get a better experience from those who have gone already, as with shows like Sleep No More. But perhaps there is room for a slowly-evolving plot specific to just this show.

This would be better as a delayed tier, added on much later. If nothing else, it would be a ludicrous waste of money to build it out unless Tier 1, at a minimum, is already a raving success. And I'd definitely need a lot of help to make this one a reality, given my involvement with traveling theater began and ended in high school. Presumably the ideal partner would be a touring theater company.

But I think this could be something really amazing, if I got the chance to make it. For Felicity, this is the moon I'm shooting for.