Labels Getting Into Live, Are They Already Too Late?
The live concert industry has become more and more of a priority not only to record labels, but also to many larger media companies these past few years. With each year bringing forth more broadband users and digitally switched on, media hungry fans, concert revenues are becoming a reality from both ad-funded streaming and sales of nearly-real-time production live albums.
In the past couple of weeks we’ve been able to see there is genuine potential for streaming gigs. First, the widely-publicized U2 concert stream on YouTube generated 10 million streams during the concert on 25th October, as well as 2.3 million more views since last Monday when it was archived. Also, Foo Fighters gave a web-only concert with Livestream and Facebook and that gained 440,000 viewers.
These are obviously impressive and promising numbers for future projects, and it’s worth noting that Ustream, Billboard and Hulu have all previously done similar events, giving more hope for this potentially profitable venture. New projects and experiments are being tackled in the live industry at an increasing rate, but a strong constant seems to be from summer festivals.
This summer’s American festivals Austin City Limits and Bonnaroo had highlights and streaming from AT&T, self-professed ‘lifestyle website’ RumBum.com covered Lollapalooza and New York’s All Points West, and San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival had its own YouTube channel that was archived (although only a select few songs were uploaded rather than complete sets). These can only help artists and festival promoters thrive, who are gaining more and more value to the industry each year. Even though the major ones are already covered in the UK by the mainstream press, it would be great to see some more niche festivals jumping on this bandwagon next summer to gain more exposure for themselves, as well as lesser known bands out there (and their indie labels of course).
Another area for live revenues is the growing availability of highly-produced live albums right after the performance. Last week, EMI issued a press release introducing “Abbey Road Live” recordings for EMI artists, which launched last week in North America and Europe. Not only will it produce live products for current EMI artists, but there are also plans to sell older shows via an online archive destination.
There aren’t many specific details but the press release stated that “the recordings will be made available in range of formats including CD, DVD and digital devices or via secure digital delivery to home computers or mobile handsets”. Although they already tested its products on concerts in the UK by Blur, Deadmau5 and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, releasing various products, both digital and physical, makes it seem like EMI have a lot to work out.
As great as the idea sounds, having label-funded “live companies” isn’t the best way for labels to be spending their money. Research and technology can be costly and attempting too many ventures for live can be a great risk to any label these days. Also, if a label does manage to ‘get it right’ and produce high quality CDs and DVDs and iPhone-capable concert footage, there has to be the concern for who gets priority of these deals. Targeting the right bands’ fanbases who are already digitally adept and willing to spend time online watching those bands or paying for the gigs after the show is key. Labels are already overwhelmed with tackling digital as a whole; all of that extra research on each artist’s live fanbase would stretch their marketing teams a tad too thin. These decisions shouldn’t be left up to labels, or to whichever manager has the most pull, but to bands who understand their fanbase best and who are willing to conduct deals elsewhere to best suit their individual needs.
Other outside companies have been very proactive in setting up tailored live products and given the time to perfect the method, will most likely end up being the most cost-productive venture. For example, according to Digital Music News, AEG Live is preparing HD-quality 3D concert footage from acts like Kings of Leon, Jay-Z and Kings of Leon, details of which are to come Thursday. There was also a report that AEG recorded a recent festival solely for jam band Phish (in which 35,000-40,000 attended each day for 3 days), that they plan to distribute theatrically, like they did with Michael Jackson’s “This Is It”. With the promise of such upcoming technological options the industry needs to develop better connections with the companies who are willing to stretch their digital know-how into the concert sector. It’s fair enough if labels want in on these revenues, but there needs to be more trust put into companies who are ‘live-minded’; after all labels should be spending their reserves on new bands to keep the live industry thriving instead of competing with it!