SXSW is filled with Internet startups trying to disrupt or rethink an aspect of popular culture, but few have their goals set as high as EvntLive. The Redwood City, Calif-based company, set to launch in open beta in mid-April, is bringing live concert streaming to the music business. The plan is simple: just as iTunes turned downloads into a big revenue stream for artists, labels and publishers, EvntLive wants to turn paid and sponsored live concert streams into a new and large revenue stream for those same parties.
Billboard met with co-founders David Carrico, chief marketing officer, and Judy Estrin, executive chair, at the downtown Hilton's 25th floor executive lounge to hear about the company's origins and why 2013 is an opportune time to launch such an ambitious platform. Carrico was previously CEO of CMG, a music industry strategic marketing and management group. Estrin -- Carrico's mother -- is a longtime technology entrepreneur, a one-time chief technology officer for Cisco (after it acquired a company she co-founded) and current board member of the Walt Disney Company.
Why is the music business ready for a live concert streaming business now?
Estrin: I think there are two big differences from five or 10 years ago. One is the difference in technology. It is less expensive to capture. You have less expensive, higher bandwidth communication to more and more devices so the devices users can view it on, as well as the communication to the devices, has changed. We have the integration of social with the streaming so you can provide a much more engaging experience. So everything about the technology has led us to it being the right time to provide the right experience for the fans.
The second part of it is the music industry itself. I think the music industry has evolved to understanding that digital is something they need to embrace, as opposed to fight off. There have been enough examples of digital in other areas of the music industry turning into revenue streams that I think the industry is more apt to accept [concert] streaming as a reality today that can provide a revenue stream for them than they would have five to 10 years ago.
How have the conversations gone with managers, labels and publishers?
Carrico: Our conversations and negotiations have been going incredibly well within the industry. I think that managers on the whole see this as an exciting, new revenue stream and a way to extend the tour to more fans. Managers are always trying to protect their artists as best they can, so the only negative response we ever receive is that we're excited to see it work in action once we've taken the platform live.
On the record label and publishing end, I think the industry is finally at a place where they truly recognize how important digital revenue streams and new revenue streams are to their business model, and they've been incredibly receptive to learning about our platform and engaging in a conversation. Yet the publishing mechanisms in place for clearance of content when it comes to out on-demand catalog are still providing an area that is challenging from the sense that it takes a tremendous amount of time to find the composers and to clear content. And so we're really working with the industry trying to find new ways to create new clearance processes and new publishing processes that can help more composers and more publishers benefit from this revenue stream.
What kind of artists do you want to have on EvntLive?
Carrico: EvntLive is primarily focused on brand artists, some of the big stars we think will draw the biggest number of users. When we think about what a brand artist means, that can be an independent artist that has garnered their own following of 50,000 to 100,000 Twitter followers and built their own fanbase or that could be some of the biggest superstars in the world. But regardless of label affiliation or how they've gained their fans, we're interested in working with artists to start with that have existing digital fan bases.
Could you talk about the platform itself?
Carrico: EvntLive is an HTML5, web-based platform available on laptops, iPads and mobile devices. We chose not to create a native app in order to allow us to be on as many devices from the get-go as possible. Our plan is to blend both archive video on-demand shows you can watch any time with live streaming shows, to blend both pay-per-view shows with shows that are sponsored and free and to simulate the off-line concert experience as well as possible. So just like at a show you would chat with a friend, move your head around to see at different angles, buy merchandise, we've taken those things you do at a real concert and brought them to the online concert experience through features on our platform.
Where do you see this going long term?
Estrin: I think there are two parts to this. From a business perspective, we hope that long term, online [concert] streaming becomes a significant revenue stream for all aspects of the music industry. When people are booking tours and thinking about their marketing strategy or their engagement with fans, live streaming is an integrated part of that process.
But I think over time there are ways technology will play a role to make the experience more and more engaging. So whether it is 3D, whether it is 360 capture, there are all sorts of new capture technologies coming out, there are new display devices, again bandwidth is getting higher [quality] and cheaper. So we see this as just the beginning. We believe we've provided a very engaging experience but we think that over time there is way more that we can do in terms of adding features and new technologies to the video and the social as well as the context behind the story that will create a more and more emotionally engaging experience with the user.