Van Dusseldorp's Future of events (3)

Unbundling in practice - new platforms - Tilburg on my mind

Dear everyone, my 382 most appreciated people in the world!

Time is ticking away, and I write ten times more slowly than anticipated. TickTock. There goes the year.

In this edition, another look at the ‘‘unbundling’’ of events - how speakers and acts are finding new audiences online - and where this could go. In short: you can reach new audiences, and what you unbundle may not look like an event.

Speaking of audiences, if you know anyone else interested in the future of events, tell them about this newsletter!

And, of course, a big thank you to everyone who already did.

Feedback, suggestions, tips also most welcome!

Mail me at

best wishes,

Monique van Dusseldorp

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p.s. If you just signed up for this newsletter, you might want to check out the first three issues. In issue no zero, I set out what I want to do, no 1 zooms in on WHY WE ORGANIZE EVENTS AT ALL, and in no 2, the Tiller effect and ‘‘unbundling’’ are briefly explained….

p.p.s. I admit some of my writing only tangentially deals with the future of events. I am exploring myself what works and what does not. Just a warning. What is Tilburg anyway?

Tilburg on my mind

The house I grew up in has the most beautiful light in the world. Trees outside, old glass. I took a picture last week, seasonally aware of the transient nature of all things. It is December 2020, after all.

If the house is no longer there, will I still remember the light? The moment reminded me of a Facebook group with people from Tilburg, my hometown.

The group works like this. Someone will post a picture of some street, ask for a picture of a specific shop, or say, ‘‘do you remember this pub?’’

Others will respond. Yes, I used to live there. Or: my brother-in-law was the bartender. Someone may remember the lyrics of a local song about that shop, or they will share a bit of decades-old gossip or anything else they remember of the people they used to know, the ones who lived in the house next to that house actually - or maybe just around the corner.

Here an untranslatable impression of those comments for my Dutch subscribers.

‘‘ik ben in de exotabar geboren boven den orgel, naast de paardenslager’’ - ‘‘Hier heb ik 8 jaar gewerkt op zaterdag en op koopavonden van 1975 tm 1983. Kassa 32 was mijn favoriete kassa... ‘‘ - “Tweede van rechts is berry van ome theoZijn vrouw Riet werkte bij de MIDI bioscoop.” - ‘‘Daar kunde alles halen. Zonder te betalen. Daar kunde alles jatten. Zonder da ze oew vatten!!!!’’

A while ago, someone posted this picture of the Voltstraat. The houses on the left were demolished sometime last century. The post got 190 comments - and I remembered this exchange:

Someone: I used to walk to school through that street. Someone else: on that corner, you could hear organ music. A few other people from the group now remembered that the occupant of the house on the corner had an organ in the shed. You could hear the music wafting through if you walked that street.

Deh huskuh links wonde den ouwe swachte mee zun urgels warre. En ik denk dettie daor stoï mee zun huutje

Yup, that was a bit of Tilburg dialect for you. Organ man identified, actually. Mee zun huutje.

The shared memory of a sound in a street that no longer exists. Why share this small moment of local connection in this newsletter? (I did warn you)

In this case, the connecting tissue of the internet illuminated a memory there all along. How can I say this: if an event works well, this happens sometimes.

You become aware of something you individually did not realize you knew. A thought, an idea, a plan - it is yours, but it is only there because, for a moment, you were part of this group of other people with their own ideas and memories. It seems as intangible as the light or the sound of an organ.

Let’s put this in event terms: that’s how you would unbundle a local birthday party! Forget about the cake, take out one particular type of conversation (‘‘Do you remember..’’) to a place where friends and strangers hang out. Or in fact, this is in a very narrow way beats the birthday party, as there are more people, in different places and at other times, who are now part of the event.

New bundles

Enough about Tilburg already! Let’s get down to business.

When you ‘‘unbundle’’ a product or service, you come up with stand-alone offerings that were not previously viable to sell separately. It is the story of the internet - see what happened to shopping malls and e-commerce, record companies and streaming music, newspapers and classifieds, etc.

Once you ‘‘unbundle’’ a service, you can usually reach a far bigger audience for it. And it no longer matters where they are. And the organizer of the old bundle has to make a new plan.


In a way, seen from the perspective of the event industry, social media interactions can be seen as one of the first ‘‘bundles’’ that provide a splendid stand-alone offer.

What previously could only be shared at an event - a group of people in the same place at the same time - chattering away about their industry - is now available as a conversation across time and space.

Think of all the industry banter we love to listen to at events: find your people, and conversations will follow. Visiting Twitter is like visiting the conference bar, listening to discussions of friends and strangers, picking up stories, background info, getting an idea of the person tweeting, be it your hero or your pals. Zoom groups offer a video version of that, Clubhouse’s drop-in audio chat is in the same league.

Many people like listening more than talking, but they too will occasionally chip in, share someone else’s remark, or dole out a like or two, follow a link to more insight, etc.

So some of the conversations once exclusive to industry events moved online. Scott Galloway (Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern) describes the business and societal complications as a result of this endless unbundling and as for social media, he says:

Social media is a form of dispersion, enabling connections, competition, and debate despite physical distance, print, and paywalls — the dispersal of community. It has also removed healthy friction (truth, science, editors) resulting in an afterburner for misinformation and conspiracy. 

New audiences

What can you do for a dispersed audience? One of the first and most logical things easily offered online: video. Take your event and live-streaming it. Let’s take some examples of new audiences reached this year.

  • The ESC Congress usually brings together around 30.000 cardiologists to the city of Amsterdam. This year over 116,000 cardiologists from 211 countries took part in the online event. (Source: production company Live Legends). So it seems that all along, there were almost 90.000 professionals who were not going to make it to the event, and now they finally could take part.

  • Dutch author Rutger Bregman did a local theatre tour and ended with a live stream performance - he sold 18.000 tickets for that final lecture at Euro 7,50 (Source: newspaper FD, in Dutch). Just think of that - imagine a venue with 18.000 people joining for a single lecture by a historian. The seats, the catering, the parking services, the security… the budget. This event could only work online.

  • Of course, all this works best if there is a strong community in place already. In October, Korean boy band BTS performed a concert for over 993,000 people from 191 different regions worldwide - who all bought tickets. (Source: Soompi) The live event featured virtual fans on stage, 4K video, AR/XR effects, and multi-views that enabled audiences to feel like they were part of the show. Stans rule the world.

If you unbundle events, you can connect some elements to worldwide audiences. For speakers with the appeal of rock stars, why bother being part of a conference program? That bundle is no longer necessary. The artist can sell tickets without touring. Anyone with de

So I guess that we will see a lot more direct audience-to-speaker connections - and the platforms that facilitate both the relationship and the transactions around it are growing fast this year.


Let’s have a look at some of the new platforms that facilitate some of those direct connections. Let’s continue our little detour to the world of entertainment.

  • Want to send someone a birthday wish recorded by accountant Kevin from The Office? Actor Brian Baumgartner is poised to earn more than $1 million this year from videos requested via the Cameo app (Source: Kara Swisher/NYT Sway). Celebrities of all types create personalized video messages for any occasion - for a fee. Cameo makes money by taking 25% and is expected to turn over $100m this year. (Source: The Sun).

  • OnlyFans is another one that is making waves at the moment. The app lets creators charge fans for access to content and interactions. Until recently the creators on OnlyFans were all offering adult entertainment - but now, musicians, athletes, and artists are invited to use the same tools. According to Bloomberg, the OnlyFans app adds up to 500,000 users a day and pays out more than $200 million a month to its creators. Cardi B is said to make $8M a month on the platform (Source: Film daily).

  • Super is a new Facebook video product that will let people pay content creators or celebrities for the chance to interact with them during a live broadcast. (Source: AdAge).

  • And the good old newsletter is making a comeback as well, cementing connections between authors and audiences. Substack makes it simple for a writer to start an email newsletter. Here we are!

    One of the top writers is Heather Cox Richardson, a professor of 19th century American history at Boston College - her Letters from an American provides a daily news overview of US politics and now has 350.000 free subscribers. Over 15.000 pay 5$ a month for some additional functionality. Or as the NYT writes in a profile.

    based on public and private Substack figures, the $5 monthly subscriptions to participate in her comments section are on track to bring in more than a million dollars a year 

Tech analyst Benedict Evans also just provided some insight into the economics of newsletter publishing. His newsletter has around 150.000 free subscribers and almost 2500 paid subscribers - at 10 USD a month. He started seven years ago.


You are right. Newsletters are not events, social media discussions are not conferences, music performances to a dedicated fan base are hard to compare with your end of year Zoom office party.

If you unbundle events, some independent parts of the bundle are not events. And if you unbundle events, you can reach different audiences. And we will see a lot more direct connections. What we have now is just a start.

Let’s explore what is to come in the next newsletter!

Random share of the day: Distance Disco

It’s 31 December 2020, and there are online New Year’s Parties everywhere. Not sure where to go? Put on your dancing shoes and head over to DISTANCE DISCO this evening from 10 PM CET! It is a digital matchmaking dance game that asks you to find the person dancing to the same song. Gelukkig nieuwjaar!

Monique van Dusseldorp

Van Dusseldorp’s Future of Events Newsletter