Tag Archives: streaming

5 Years After Live 8: Online Live Events Exploding

This article was written by Antony Bruno on Billboard.

Five years ago, AOL’s webcast of the Live 8 concerts marked a watershed moment for the live streaming of concert footage online. More than 5 million people tuned in via the Internet to watch footage of the event, compared to the 2.2 million that watched it on TV. Since then, the webcasting environment has obviously evolved. Billboard takes a look at three key developments since then that define the market today.

Live 8 was certainly a huge moment for online webcasting, but it was one event. Today, streaming a concert live online is almost commonplace. YouTube’s live stream of U2’s concert at the Rose Bowl in October garnered some 10 million viewers, leading to additional live streaming of concerts by Alicia Keys and, most recently, performances by the Dave Matthews Band, Norah Jones and other acts at this year’s Bonnaroo festival. MTV has aired live performances by such acts as the Gorillaz, Honor Society and Just Kait. Vevo, which featured a live stream in May of a concert by the National, aired a live webcast of the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Celebration Concert June 10 in South Africa. Meanwhile live video sites like Ustream give artists complete control to film, host, and stream concerts directly to fans. Hundreds use Ustream alone, which claims more than 50 million unique viewers a month.

One of the reasons we’re seeing so much more streaming of live concerts online is that the cost to do so has fallen. To be sure, streaming an event to 1 million simultaneous viewers is far more expensive that streaming archived video to 1 million different users at a time, but it is now far more affordable than in Live 8’s day. The average cost of streaming live video is around 50 cents per user per hour. Ustream, however, says it is able to do so at 2 cents per user per hour, citing both technological advancements and economies of scale gained through purchasing large blocks of bandwidth. Helping pay those costs are advertisers who are growing increasingly interested in sponsoring live events online. Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff wasn’t planning on airing live video for a good year after the service launched, but began doing so early due to the demand for appointment-based content among advertisers.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 65% of U.S. adults have home broadband Internet access, compared to 24% in 2004. Higher speed Internet access means better online video, which only increases the market for live streaming video. What’s more, there are more and more opportunities to access live video from devices other than the home computer. Smartphones like the iPhone offer not only high-speed Internet browsing, but also special downloadable apps that offer more direct access to streaming video. Ustream’s Mobilizer technology lets artists add access to their Ustream videos into any iPhone apps they may create. The iPad is another device beginning to emerge as a live video platform, with Bon Jovi recently streaming a concert optimized for the device (also via Ustream). And as more Internet-connected TVs flood the home theater market, additional services will blur the lines between watching concerts on traditional TV networks vs watching them live on the Internet.

What’s Next
As live webcasting events evolves, the next logical step is an evolution to pay-per-view scenarios, where users pay a fee to access the live stream online. So far, that’s not been a very successful model. Ustream tested it out first with a comedy performance by Dane Cook, to a rather tepid response. The company says its re-examining the model and is expected to introduce new pay-per-view offers later in the year. Also worth looking at is increased interactivity. Already many live streaming platforms allow users to chat with one another as they view the show. Additional capabilities could include interacting with attendees present at the actual event through text as well as photo and user-generated video sharing. Finally, there are the additional commerce opportunities, such as music download sales, option to buy a download of the full video after the fact, merch an so on. Given how far we’ve come in the last five years, it’s not a stretch to image these new features and others become a standard in the next five.


The Death of Pandora?

This article was written by Bob Lefsetz from The Lefsetz Letter.

With AT&T announcing limited wireless data plans, the unavailability of an unlimited plan unless you are a legacy customer, what does this mean for services that depend on streaming via the cloud, like Pandora?

Pandora may be making money, but once its users find out they’ve got to pay to listen to that music, will they?

I’d say this is a bonus for satellite radio, but it appears Sirius XM has shot itself in the foot.  Its programming is barely different from that broadcast for free, its only advantage is a lack of commercials on music channels. Whereas Pandora is something completely different, modern.  I prefer Sirius XM to Pandora, but perception is everything in today’s society, and the perception of Sirius XM is awful.

And the perception is you can listen to Pandora anywhere!  But will that now be true?

You must understand that you don’t profit by researching what the public has to say.  Because the public hasn’t seen the future. Conventional wisdom is people don’t want to rent music.  But isn’t it funny that people rented movies, then bought them and are now renting them again?  Yup, the trip to the video store and the threat of late fees was replaced by low cost DVDs and now Netflix and Redbox rule.  So, when you say people won’t rent music, you’re pulling this statistic out of your behind.

This is all a set-up for the modern music app.  Most people have never used one, and have no concept of how they work.

Spotify and Rhapsody and MOG…have either delivered or are promising auto-sync with playlists that live on your hand-held.  I’ve used the Spotify version, it allows slightly more than 2,000 tracks to live on your iPhone permanently, well, as long as you continue to pay the monthly fee.  In other words, you can listen to your favorite tracks on the top of Mt. Everest, in the backwoods, where there is no cell signal, assuming you’ve got juice.  Sure, you can still stream via the cloud, but many will prefer not to if they’ve got to pay.

Few are going to pay bandwidth charges to listen to supposedly free Pandora.  It’s a contradiction in terms.  How is Pandora the new model if you’re paying for it, and you’re paying the dreaded AT&T, not even Westergren and his buddies, certainly not the artists.

Will Verizon follow AT&T’s lead?  Indicators say so.  T-Mobile’s got such a shitty high speed network, they almost don’t matter here.  But Sprint probably won’t cap usage, they need some kind of advantage to avoid hemorrhaging customers.

So here we have the music business, once again, with its tiny mass being flung around by powers much larger than itself.  Believe me, AT&T’s goal is not to kill Pandora, but to put a dent in usage by those using their hand-helds like desktops.  Pandora is just collateral damage.  But when are the rights holders in the music business going to peer into the future instead of burying their heads in the sand and imploring everyone to come back to the past?  Pandora paid, it exposed the public to new artists, you kill it and then what?


New Details: Digital Music Startup Rdio Looks Promising

This article was written by Antony Bruno on Billboard.

Still no Spotify and still no Apple. But the cloud music market now has yet another entrant in the form of Rdio, a slick social music subscription service that is sure to make waves in the ever-growing competitive landscape. Rdio is the latest company from Kazaa and Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom.

The basics: on-demand and unlimited access to a catalog of five million songs — with all the major labels onboard — that also includes an a la carte option. A $5 per month Web-only tier lets users access all the streaming features via their browser. And for $10 a month, users can download a desktop application (required if they buy a la carte) and access to all the same features, along with caching from a BlackBerry and iPhone app (an Android version in the works). There is no free paid tier.

The Rdio service is not fully live just yet. It’s still an invite-only beta, and general availability is not expected until later this year. But this is the first time details of the service have been made public, and if the live version works anything like the short demo, this newcomer shows some real promise.

Like other cloud-based services, Rdio hopes to set itself apart based on its music discovery capabilities, and does so through a decidedly social interface that borrows heavily from Facebook and Twitter.

Users can connect to each other by “following” them, much like on Twitter. If any user you’re following adds a new song to their collection, or makes a new playlist, you will see that activity in your feed. Each user profile is set up much like Facebook, where users see a feed of both their own activity and that of their friends.

“It’s constantly updating, constantly feeding you new sources of information about music,” Rdio CEO Drew Larner says.

Rdio also has a Pandora-like customized radio feature that builds automatic playlists based on a selected artist. It can’t, however, build that playlist based off a specific seed song like Pandora does. Other elements include a tool that will scan users’ iTunes or windows Media Player libraries and automatically add it to the online collection, shared collaborative playlists, links to share songs and playlists on Facebook and Twitter, and more.

Many of the company’s employees hail from Skype, which is reflected by the simple interface and intuitive controls. Rdio certainly has all the right pieces and definitely feels different from other streaming services. Labels have expressed excitement over the launch and seem to have high hopes.

But until it goes fully live, we won’t know how well these features work under a critical mass of users, nor whether it will even succeed in getting that critical mass. Details of its marketing and promotional strategy are being held close to the chest. And just because Skype and Kazaa were popular services, not everything Friis and Zennstrom touches turns to gold, as indicated by the failure of their last venture: the Internet video network Joost.


10 Best Practices of Online Music Promotion

This article was written by Nancy Baym on Future Lab.

Get your music streaming : If you want people to get into your music, they need to be able to hear it. Get your entire catalogue up at Last.fm, load those songs on MySpace, make sure iMeem and iLike have your tunes, find out what services people are using in the regions you want to be heard and make sure those people have easy free access to your catalog. No one’s going to fall in love with thirty second tidbits, and if you’ve got a great song, people will want to know if the rest of your stuff is as good. Let them listen.

Use your own domain : Seems like a wee bit of a no-brainer, but I am always amazed how many bands use MySpace as their primary website. You don’t own MySpace. Why let MySpace own you?

Distribute your presence : You can’t be everywhere your potential audience is, but you can be a lot of places. Everyone needs their own website (more below), but don’t stop there. Among the possibilities? Every band has to be on MySpace unless they’re rebels, but don’t forget putting together your own YouTube channel, getting and using a Facebook fan page, signing up for ReverbNation and using their widgets, Twittering, posting pictures to Flickr … sure you don’t want to do all that stuff, but do some of it, and do more than one of it.

Integrate your presence : Your website should have links to all the other places you can be found online. Fans should be able to move seamlessly from one of your spots on the web to another and shouldn’t have to visit multiple sites to figure out what’s up with you. If you’ve got important news, get it up everywhere you are. I recently had to go to a MySpace page to see tour dates for a band who had not posted them on their own website — you know, the link they put on all the CD inserts. If your music is streaming somewhere that has a widget to put it elsewhere, put that widget everywhere you’ve got a presence.

Give some of your music away : Nothing creates addiction like being able to hear a song on your own machine whenever you want. You don’t have to give it all away (though that seems to be working for some), but at least let people download a few songs on your website, MySpace, Last.fm, and elsewhere. Giving music away also creates good relations with fans — people like it when you give them things. It makes them more likely to do things for you like, um, pay for the rest of your songs.

Get to know the mp3 bloggers : If you don’t already know which blogs cover music like yours, check out HypeMachine and other mp3 aggregaters to figure out where bands like you get discussed. Read the blogs, learn their interests. Write them a nice brief personal note telling them why you think they’ll like you and send them an easy link to an mp3 you think they and their readers would like.

Build an interpersonal relationship with your audience : Like I said about giving music away – when people can distribute your music amongst themselves through peer-to-peer trading, there’s no incentive for them to pay for your music unless they feel a sense of personal obligation to you. Nothing creates personal obligation like warm feelings of friendship. If your fans feel that you think of and care for them, they will be more willing to take care of you.

Reach out but don’t spam : It’s ok to recommend yourself to individuals on social networking sites IF you have really good reason to think they’re going to like you and communicate that to them. If anyone’s ever indicated an interest in you before, it’s wonderful to contact them again when you’ve got new music to share. It is NOT okay to blast yourself onto strangers’ walls and shoutboxes, send random friends requests, and otherwise be pushy. And even when you know you’re talking to the converted (like people who follow you on Twitter) remember that even the most dedicated fans do not need to know what you are doing every hour. A little mystique is okay. Really.

Encourage fan contributions : How can you let your music provide an opportunity for fan creativity? One independent musician who writes instrumental music told me he puts up demos and asks for help choosing names for the songs. Many artists have encouraged fan videos or remixes. There is a place for your fans to play with your music using their own talents. Give it to them. And let them have their own communities and do their own fan thing in there without the interference of you or your legal team.

Give fans promotional tools : As I wrote about in my last post, spreadable is the new viral. People who love you want to tell others about you. Create widgets they can embed on their own pages (again, ReverbNation has a great one but it’s not the only one), create ecards for your music, give them mp3s they can post without fear of lawsuits. Whatever it is that you want others to know, give it to your audience in a form they can easily pass along to others.