DUBAI: The pandemic majorly disrupted the events industry, with live events coming to a standstill. Disruption has continued well into 2021 in many countries.
At a time of gloom for the industry, entrepreneur Dan Bolton saw an opportunity to create a new kind of events agency, BE Experiential, which aims to bring an “experiential” and “people-first” approach to eventing.
Bolton launched his first company, Dan Bolton Creative Management agency, in October 2015 in the UAE. Covering all things entertainment, the agency is responsible for “talent management, show design and production, which includes choreography, costumes and prop design as well as casting services for a selection of clients that are now looking at securing performance-related talent in the region for live shows, productions, and increasingly, digital content,” Bolton said.
The new agency, BE Experiential, was created on the back of the current agency, offering “different but complementary services,” catering to the wider event experience through services such as “event design and production, staging, tech & AV, guest experience, decor, augmented reality, and guest list management,” he added.
“We started to discover throughout 2019 that brands and clients wanted us to handle the whole production and creativity for particular projects, which is something we did not necessarily do at the time if it was not purely entertainment-focused,” said Bolton, explaining the rationale behind the launch of BE Experiential.
Entertainment and the overall event experience have increasingly become intertwined, resulting in a natural progression of sorts where the agency would support clients through the entire process.
“It made sense to our clients to engage with us to develop and deliver the complete narrative of the event and experience from A to Z,” he said.
The pandemic changed everything. Bolton had to put the launch of his new agency on hold. Clients were canceling events.
“Many people believed that we were permanently living in a ‘new normal’ and that live events, entertainment and music were not possible to return,” said Bolton.
This frustration led to the birth of Breakout DXB, a live community event supporting independent musicians and artists, held in November 2020. “It was the brainchild of Lobito Brigante and myself and was born mostly from frustration at the time that the events industry was completely on pause and that entertainment was particularly affected. Many of our friends and colleagues were out of work and struggling both mentally and financially,” said Bolton.
Following discussions with entities such as Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, event partners and health and safety professionals such as GallowGlass, Bolton and Brigante made the decision to host Breakout DXB.
But not everyone was comfortable with live events.
For example, the agency worked with P&G on a series of hybrid activation spaces using two local artists that created art works within JBR and CityWalk that could be viewed through an augmented reality application.
“Digital technologies and the virtual world have been encroaching into the live experience space for some time and last year has only forced this to gather pace and accelerate,” said Bolton.
However, live events aren’t going anywhere, he said. In fact, the appetite for attending live events together will only increase in the coming months.
Even when the pandemic began and everything from meetings to gyms was going virtual, “we made a solid decision to remain committed to live and in-person events no matter how difficult it would be,” Bolton said.
“We live for the ability to be on stages and bring people together face-to-face. If we suddenly pivoted towards all things digital, it would be completely contrary to what we believe in and would go against the authenticity we strive to live by as a company,” he added.
However, he admitted that digital technologies will have an increasingly important role to play.
“As we can see from the discussions we are having with brands and clients, there is a desire to balance both worlds and merge them into a holistic experience where the end consumer has the choice and ability to attend in-person or live stream and follow remotely,” he said.
BE Experiential is currently based in the UAE with operations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“This is certainly our focus for now as we rebuild from the madness of the last 15 months.
“However, I would be lying if I said that we were not discussing some incredible opportunities in Qatar, Saudi, the rest of the region, and Europe,” said Bolton.