The annual Division I men’s college basketball tournament started Tuesday at 5:40 p.m. eastern time. The music business could take a few pointers. Known as March Madness, the Division I tournament understands how to reach people online, how to deliver ad-supported content through social-media and how to create an experience. 

March Madness equals lost productivity gets into full swing Thursday morning (March 21) after two games each Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, which means many people watch online from home or the office. The annual tournament has been ahead of the curve with online streaming years. CBS debuted a pay-per-view model in 2003. Last year, Turner Broadcasting charged $3.99 for its games, while CBS offered its games for free. This year, CBS games are free while TNT, TBS and TruTV games will require a cable TV login (that’s standard for online access to pay-TV content these days). Games are available on the web as well as iOS and Android devices.

The lesson: people pay for cable television -- and sometimes streaming -- because of live events such as this.
 
Online viewing can be done in bite-sized chunks. For people unable to get away from the office, or if their company's IT department is blocking or throttling the live March Madness stream, one option is the stream highlights being tweeted by @marchmadness (although 35% of IT departments throttle, block or ban Twitter, according to one survey).

This highlight from Thursday's North Carolina AT&T vs. Liberty game has a quick Coca-Cola pre-roll ad followed by a brief highlight -- it's absolutely perfect for Twitter. A company called SnappyTV provides the underlying technology that delivers the highlight. The company's technology is used by broadcast and sports networks to share clips via social networks.

The lesson: March Madness has delivered a great combination of entertainment, social media and advertising.
 
The tournament is an experience that draws people together. From the office betting pools to watching games with friends at a sports bar after work, everything about March Madness is a shared experience. In contrast, music in the digital age is increasingly shared in the virtual world and experienced individually (and with headphones). Record buying is less personal because people increasingly purchase digital formats. Music concerts and festivals are only places where people gather and enjoy music together -- but that's always been the case. Other than the Grammys, music doesn't have an event the entire nation shares, and it's not on the level of March Madness. And that's too bad.

The lesson: people value shared, communal experiences.