Beyond the Stage

May 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By David Weiss

LIVE STREAMING, NEXT-DAY DOWNLOADS MEAN MORE REVENUE, MORE PRESSURE FOR CONCERT SOUND BUSINESS

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As the global economy speeds headlong to Doomsday, someone should get the memo to the live concert industry. Other indicators in the music business seem to be just down, down, down, but the latest statistics on concertgoers tell a different story.

When Live Nation, the world's largest producer of live events, reported its 2008 fourth-quarter earnings, the numbers were both surprising and encouraging: promotion of almost 7,000 events with more than 13,000,000 attendees. For the whole year, the total was more than 22,000 events with more than 52,000,000 ticketholders. Both the quarter and the year overall represented double-digit gains over 2007. With the likes of Madonna, Coldplay, the Jonas Brothers, Nickelback and AC/DC all on tour in 2009, live sound may stay on the healthy side.

One of the ways that Live Nation acts, and thousands of other artists performing live every day, create such impressive buzz and revenue stems is from integrating evolving technology platforms. Touring and merchandising can represent lucrative revenue streams by themselves, but more and more bands, labels and promoters realize that any show that's not captured on audio and/or video, and subsequently made available via the Web, broadcast or other means is a wasted opportunity to increase revenue and/or exposure.

A touring artist since the formation of his band Less Than Jake in 1992, drummer/Paper and Plastick record label founder Vinnie Fiorello has seen the expectations of live audiences evolve significantly. “Audiences are not only looking for the immediacy of being entertained, but because of advances in the Internet and the ability to cherry-pick the entertainment that they have, they're looking for something after the fact,” he observes. “Not only are they going to see Less Than Jake at the [Baltimore venue] Ram's Head tonight, but they'll be looking on YouTube for live updates, live feeds and videos. It's a very interesting position to be in as a band because you not only have to be prepared to play live, but have what you play live immortalized for people to see after the fact.

“As bandwidth becomes faster, people are looking for video. When all you had was a 56k modem, all you could get was audio. Now that you have a fast enough connection to stream video easily without any hookups, 15 to 17-year-olds are looking for video. If they like South Park, 90210 and Less Than Jake, they want to be able to pull that up at the drop of a hat. There's a vast amount of entertainment out there from a few keystrokes. As a band, you have to keep up with that, provide it or be left behind.”

Hank Neuberger, president of Springboard Productions Inc., takes this attitude on the road for artists such as Smashing Pumpkins, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews Band and scores more. Specializing in digital media production for broadband, broadcast, mobile, IPTV and Blu-ray DVD, Neuberger's team is on hand to ensure that every desired means of distribution is covered once a gig's last note has sounded.

Says Neuberger, a Grammy®-winning producer, “Just like I was doing in the recording studio, now I'm working with video and audio in a live setting where the audience is. I'm just making sure that our mission extends the impact of the artist and doesn't get in the way of it on the path to these multiple formats.

“Every production is literally different, and what impacts the decisions we make and the communications we have with FOH and monitors are the deliverables, or the final windows of exhibition: Is it broadcast? Is it Webcast? Is it satellite radio? Is it downloadable video or audio only? Is it for movie theaters? There are so many options now, and they all require different solutions.”






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