Digital Tech, Helping Monetize and Expand the Live Music Experience (Guest Post)

The crowd watch as Tinie Tempah performs on stage during day 1 of The Ultrasound Music Festival at Tamworth Castle on September 3, 2011 in Tamworth, United Kingdom.

Ollie Millington/Redferns
Peter D. Csathy is CEO of Manatt Digital Media Ventures.

As I wrote previously, new and transformative online services enable artists to expand their “communities” of fans, directly engage with them, and monetize in myriad ways never before possible. But how about using online technology to fuel richer experiences, deeper engagement, and greater monetization offline, in the physical world of live events? Few artists and venues have yet harnessed this potential, but it is here, now, and it gives even more reason for optimism.

Mobile apps, specially designed “wearables,” sophisticated audio and video technology, and geofencing enable these new opportunities. Mobile apps and wearables can “hear” otherwise inaudible sound signals emanating from venue-based speaker systems, triggering micro-targeted cues and messages. Geofencing leverages Bluetooth technology and networks of in-venue sensors (or “beacons”) to instantly recognize concert-goers – who have pre-installed apps -- as they approach and enter the venue.

First, let’s take the live music experience itself. Artists can now design and create an entirely new immersive event, enhancing the crowd’s overall sensory experience and sense of connection. Lighting and overall effects no longer need to be fixed to the venue and stage. They can be extended – and synced -- to each fan’s mobile phones or wearables (think LED bracelets), engulfing fans in a communal sea of lights. Inward-focused mobile phones now turn outward, morphing into media devices that become truly “social.”

Early innovators in this space include Wham City Lights, a Baltimore-based start-up that used sound to program a mobile-fueled light show at Outside Lands for, naturally, the band “Pretty Lights.” New York-based Sonic Notify did the same for Swedish House Mafia. New York City-based Estimote, on the other hand, builds geofences to the same end, while fellow New Yorker Audience Entertainment harnesses audience video capture to fuel crowd-driven big-screen games where thousands can play the same game at the same time, together. These “buzz-worthy” enhanced experiences drive both word-of-mouth and tour revenues.

Equally intriguing, new technology enables artists (and the machines behind them) to extend that overall immersive experience beyond the actual show itself. Banks coming to a city near you? Buy her ticket (online of course), download her app, and she can begin to engage with you well before the show, up to the show, as you walk into the show, after you leave the show, and until she tours again. As a passionate music fan, you are smitten. As a commercial artist, Banks is engaging -- with her fans every step of the way. That means more touchpoints, more opportunities for her to connect with her fans both creatively and commercially, all of which they happily embrace.

That’s the second opportunity – the opportunity to monetize. Leveraging these new technologies, artists and venues can offer up geo-focused, customized “impulse buys” at the show itself. Let’s take Banks again. I am at the show and in the moment. That’s precisely when I am most open to opening my wallet to happily shell out real cash for virtually-enabled offers. Buy the audio or video to the show you are attending (and get the audio delivered for your ride home!) -- but only if you act now at the show itself. Seattle-based Lively is in that game.

Taking a different, but equally significant, revenue-magnifying approach is San Francisco start-up WillCall which uses the “sound/app” combo to reduce bottlenecks at point of sale (drinks, merchandise). No need to whip out your credit card and sign, because you already have registered that information. Lines move faster; less frustration, more monetization. Think of it as the “Uber for live concerts.”  LA-based Mobile Roadie’s app platform also makes all of this possible.

That is the online/offline virtual/physical connection – powerful, transformational, and open for business. I’d be all over it.

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