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Turning live music on the web into a hot ticket

Could the full experience of watching The Flaming Lips performing at Glastonbury Festival be captured online?
Could the full experience of watching The Flaming Lips performing at Glastonbury Festival be captured online?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rights issues have been an obstacle to broadcasting live concerts online
  • Technology is readily available to stream events and enhance with social media
  • Many bands already embracing the additional value of online as "2.0 artists"

(CNN) -- "Here's my dream," Marc Scarpa, a pioneer in directing and producing live interactive media, told CNN.

"You're watching a concert online, say for the Haitian relief effort. Then if they want to get rid of the banner ad on the screen, or the logo, you are encouraged to donate.

"Then perhaps you can buy and download tracks by a band, or audio clips for the concert. Perhaps some apparel or other merchandise.

"It's about creating a fully participatory online experience."

Already Scarpa has worked with artists from U2 to Elton John, and believes concerts on the web have an exciting future.

It's not just about broadcasting, but making the tour, the album, the videos all part of a cohesive strategy for the band and the audience.
--Marc Scarpa, interactive media pioneer

In many ways live music and the internet were made for each other -- but up to now they've been dancing around each other in a slightly awkward courtship, kept apart by legal issues, technical problems and inertia within the music industry.

As far back as 1996 Scarpa streamed the Tibetan Freedom Festival online, an event that he says "proved that scale worked".

But despite the success of this, and many other events, so far the music business seems to have been slow to fully adopt the potential.

"Ticketmaster could be making a fortune selling tickets for online shows," says Scarpa.

"Fans could pay $150 to see the band live, or $20 to see them online. But they're not there yet."

But all that could be about to change as technology has advanced to the point that any barriers to live streaming of events have gone.

"The [legal] rights issues have been sorted out to the extent that you can have a conversation and do a broadcast online... it's a viable business," says Scarpa.

"You have distribution in place and there are people who will watch it... There is a fan base that wants to experience music in a different way."

Video is already a major medium on the internet, but it will go through the roof
--Max Haot, CEO of LiveStream
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For the fans live music on the web offers not only access to their favorite bands and the opportunity to catch shows they can't make in person, but also a fully rounded social experience, as broadcasters now fully integrate streams with social media.

"What we do is unite the people at the show with those people watching at home by uniting their Twitter feeds, their Facebook posts, Facebook chat," says Scarpa.

"It gives people a taste of what's happening. Plus, live music on the web offers new revenue streams to the music industry.

"While they are watching they can buy songs, merchandise. They can buy tickets to see that band at another date on their tour," says Scarpa.

But he cautions record companies and bands against using the technology as just an added extra.

"The business of live music on the web has to be tied to a bigger initiative," says Scarpa.

"It's not just about broadcasting a live concert, but making the tour, the album, the videos all part of a cohesive strategy for the band and the audience. It's about using all the mediums and bringing them together.

"It's important they don't see it as an afterthought."

Already some artists are fully embracing social media and live broadcasts. Lady Gaga personally Tweets and checks her Facebook page -- she has over 10 million "friends".

"She loves doing live internet broadcasts -- she is a fully 2.0 artist," says Scarpa. "By doing this she has grown her fan base; she is honest and accessible to a point."

The Black Eyed Peas are another band at the forefront of the technology.

"They probably have embraced live behind-the-scenes more than anyone," says Scarpa.

"You could be at the show watching them arrive on your iPhone, knowing they're coming, saying: 'I can't wait to see you and hear this song'; after the concert they will be back in their SUV and talking about their experience at the concert with you; what you liked."

This kind of technology is becoming more and more accessible to those without the resources of major stars and record companies, with several companies, like UStream and LiveStream, competing to offer an easy-to-use and cost-effective platform.

"We've made it very affordable," Max Haot, founder and CEO of LiveStream, told CNN.

"Our main target is event owners and producers around the world, whether that's concerts or school events or churches, whatever their budget; whether they want to use our free version or do something which is a bit professional, we can do that for them.

"We have our own IM chat and we integrate Facebook chat as well, so the viewers can talk together about the concert... It's really cool; people really share the experience."

"The CNNs, NFLs, ESPNs of this world will still do it for themselves," he says. "But everyone else will, I think, gravitate around a business like ours."

Haot believes that the web is on the cusp of a huge upsurge of live content on the web.

"There are millions of compelling live events going on out there, and as soon as they start to come online people will watch them. I think in five years 20 per cent of the internet eyeballs will be watching live events.

"Video will be a major medium on the internet -- it is already, but it will go through the roof.

"As long as the content unlocks itself I think we're talking about a 100-fold increase."

But this shift doesn't just mean huge changes for musicians -- politicians need to get in on the act.

"Obama is the first online president," says Scarpa.

"He tapped one of the co-founders of Facebook to run his online campaign -- raising millions of dollars - and he has his own way of crafting his message online.

"What you will next in the upcoming US presidential election is the ability to go on the road with the president or another candidate; you'll be able to track what they are doing, see their video online.

"After that I can really imagine you'll start to see the Hugo Chavez of the world going online -- imagine if you could hang out with him for the 12-16 hours he is awake? What's his day like? We can do that.

"It's about creating experiences, marketing them -- and making them participatory. "That's when you can see this thing really having meaning."

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