Live content is king. Today’s challenge is how to better deliver live content to fans.
The realities of the digital music era have shifted emphasis to live music and away from recorded music. From YouTube and Vevo to SoundCloud and Spotify, music is ubiquitous — and often free — on the Internet. Fans will always pay for music, but how much they’ll pay for prerecorded digital music in 10 years is uncertain.
Fans value a live experience. As music sales have dropped, concert ticket prices have risen and artists spend more time on the road. The live event — and the VIP meet-and-greets before and after shows — is the experience that best represents the artist-fan connection.
With the right delivery, live streaming could uphold the value of digital music content. Perhaps what the music business needs is a marriage of digital music and live events in the one place where consumers consistently spend money: the digital living room.
Americans love their TV sets. The average American watched four hours and 39 minutes of live TV per week in fourth-quarter 2012, according to Nielsen. That number is virtually unchanged in the previous four fourth quarters. Americans increasingly love Internet video too. They averaged seven hours and 43 minutes of Internet video in the fourth quarter, up from five hours and 15 minutes a year earlier.
The music business should take note of the sports world. Sports fans are blessed with a wide variety of paid online options, cable and satellite TV packages and satellite radio offerings. And they don’t mind paying for value. The NFL’s “Sunday Ticket” subscription service airs every out-of-market game for $224.95 per year. Additional features and the commercial-free “Red Zone” channel cost $299.95. ESPN has the highest carriage fee on cable TV, $5.13 per month, according to SNL Kagan.
Sports and broadband could be the future. Last week, news broke that Google is in early talks with the NFL for rights to its “Sunday Ticket” offering that allows fans to view games outside their home market. Google could use “Sunday Ticket” to drive adoption of its Google Fiber broadband service just as Fox used its NFL rights acquired in 1993 to build its fledging network.
A handful of new online platforms are already trying to bring concerts to fans through the Internet while paying artists. One is Soundhalo, a U.K.-based service that counts Thom Yorke’s side project Atoms for Peace among its offerings. Another is U.S.-based Evntlve. From Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 it will offer a free live-stream of the North Coast Music Festival in Chicago. Other concerts, like ALO at the Fillmore in San Francisco and Shelby Lynne at Union Chapel in London, typically cost $2.99.
Live music may never match the sports industry. But with the right platforms and the right partnerships — promoters like AEG and Live Nation, for example — over-the-top broadband services could deliver unique and exclusive live concerts to fans in the comfort of their homes. Event sponsors would see huge value in getting their brands in front of even more people than just those at the show or festival. The average person experiences just a few concerts each year. Technology can help them see more.