Massive Internet festival is music to your mouse
Web posted on: Thursday, October 08, 1998 3:29:30 PM
From Donna Freydkin
(CNN) -- These days, it seems that getting your hands on a coveted concert ticket is only slightly easier than resolving a dispute with the IRS. Between exorbitant prices and endless ticket lines, who wants to camp out the night before for tickets to a show that will probably end up selling out before you even reach the front window?
Don't feel like shelling out 25 bucks to see Third Eye Blind? Missed a recent Morcheeba show? Warner Music Group's ear1 Internet concert festival may be the answer to your concert blues. The mammoth cyberfest, which runs through the entire month of October, is jammed with a varied lineup of some of today's most popular -- and most elusive -- acts.
"Our goal is to introduce people to new music," says Warner Music Group's Donna Cohen. (Warner Music Group and CNN Interactive are both owned by parent company Time Warner.)
The MusicFest is produced in conjunction with Warner Music Group's labels Warner Bros./Reprise, Elektra, Atlantic, Sire, Rhino and their affiliates. The lineup is phenomenal, to say the least.
Users can check out performances from Third Eye Blind, Guster, Luna, Seven Mary Three, Everything, The Corrs, Brad Mehldau, The Derailers, The Tragically Hip, Morcheeba, Gabriella Anders, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Paula Cole. And fans seem to be responding -- although she won't reveal specific numbers, Cohen calls the traffic thus far "really nice."
Hootie & The Blowfish kicked off the month-long series on October 2 from Chicago's House of Blues with a live Webcast that essentially placed viewers in the director's chair.
Unlike other concert cybercasts like those offered on the Web's Jam TV, this series is live, daily, and free to every viewer. And for the first time ever, viewers can switch between six different live camera feeds to create a unique, custom-tailored viewing experience.
Cohen calls the six-camera angle Hootie live feed a "beautiful moment in time."
"In one night, we delivered the promise of interactive TV on the Web," she says. "And we're toying with the idea of broadcasting the show again."
Subsequent Webcasts of performances by Third Eye Blind and Soul Coughing also will feature the same viewer-controlled multi-camera feed.
Bands turn on remote listeners
For New Orleans band Better Than Ezra, whose performance will be shown on October 8, the ear1 Music Fest represented a unique opportunity to connect with otherwise unreachable listeners.
"It's a really cool notion that someone geographically unable to come see us or someone who just wouldn't ordinarily have come to one of our shows can just click on a site and check us out for a few minutes," says drummer Travis McNabb. "It might draw someone new in and let them see what we're doing."
The cyberfest is a win-win deal for both bands and fans. Musicians get to reach a broad audience at virtually no extra cost, while fans can check out bands for free. And for those of us who have pounded pavements in search of scarce tickets or paid in excess of $70 for a show that only ends up lasting an hour, Internet concerts are a welcome reprieve and an attractive alternative.
"We wanted to be involved because it's a great new way to get our music across to people and it's very exciting," says Paul Godfrey from trip-hop group Morcheeba, whose show was Webcast on October 5.
"Hopefully, when the technology develops, we won't have to tour at all and just do it over the 'Net," he laughs.
Godfrey may have to wait a while for that. In a perfect world, sound and video quality would keep up with promoters' aspirations. But at this point, the video is murky and hazy, the sound often wobbly.
Nevertheless, despite the technical limitations, Webcasts make for a great way to check out acts you ordinarily wouldn't see. Right now, watching a show on your monitor can't replace actually attending a live performance, but it's the next best thing because users are completely in control of the concert. Devoid of inane DJ commentary and annoying commercials, cyberfests actually allow viewers to direct what they watch, and when.
And Webcasts are growing in popularity among Web users. Jupiter Communications reports that 33 percent of online consumers often listen to audio content on their PCs and 29 percent would download music if they could play it on their stereos, despite bandwidth and technical constraints.
The music industry, too, recognizes the reach of the Internet.
"The proliferation of the Internet phenomenon is amazing and it's a tool for us to get in touch with our fans," says Better Than Ezra's McNabb. "These concerts are very exciting to us because we're interested in embracing the leaps and bounds the computer industry is taking."
If you missed any shows, they're all archived on the site through the end of November, along with 360-degree panoramic views of the venues, band photos, chats and interviews.
Admission to the MusicFest is free. You'll need RealPlayer 5.0 or the new RealSystem G2 to see and hear the concerts and interviews on your computer and the LivePicture plug-in for viewing the 360-degree panorama shots.
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