I've had this dream for the last few years. Not a dream in the REM sleep sense of the word, but rather a dream in the "wouldn't it be great if…" sense of the word. Yesterday I received an email that finally sparked me to write about this dream in the hope that just maybe I could nudge someone or some company, even if only a tiny bit, in the right direction, or at least in my direction. Technically it's fairly easy to accomplish the subject of my dream. Almost all the pieces are already in place. In addition, if this dream came to fruition, it would be a win for everyone involved. Consumers would be spending money on something they want and everyone else would be making money from something they are already doing. As a consumer I've been waiting to hand over my own money for three years. If only the subject of my dream existed and someone was willing to accept my money :~)
I want to stream live concerts, either audio or video or both, in high quality, as they happen.
Living in Minnesota, I grew up playing hockey. I still get into the NHL, especially around playoff season. Thus, a few years ago I was browsing through the apps on my AppleTV and signed up for NHL GameCenter LIVE. It's a great app that enables one to watch almost any NHL game live or on demand. After a few minutes of browsing through the service, I thought to myself, why isn't this available for live music? Then, I started watching a game and the idea of streaming live music went to rest somewhere in the back of my brain. Days later, I was on a long drive and the idea came back to me. I had nothing but time while sitting in my car, and my dream was underway.
Unfortunately many of us don't have the free time to follow our favorite bands on tour like we may have during summer break in our college years. Thus, I really want a service that enables fans to watch or listen to concerts of their favorite bands live as it happens. There are currently apps that enable listening to concerts the day after the performance in very low quality, and many bands offer good quality official bootlegs for purchase on a per show basis. These two concepts are neat, but not the holy grail. There is so much to be said about the shared experience of a live event.
Part 1: Video Apps
An AppleTV or Roku app, for example Pearl Jam Live or Phish Live or Dave Matthews Band Live, that enables the user to watch all the bands' concerts live and on demand. I'd love to sit down one evening and say, I wonder where Pearl Jam is playing tonight, and watch the show as it happens. Or, I'd love to say, I wonder who is playing at the Orpheum tonight and be able to browse an app by venue or geographic location.
Part 2: Audio Streaming
This is the same concept as the video scenario, but would enable users to stream high quality audio through devices like Sonos or a HiFi system. An nice way for this to happen would be for Tidal to integrate this concept. We already have great streaming capabilities with Tidal integration in many of our HiFi components, so it would be terrific to search for a band and see all its albums and all its concerts (past, present, and future) for streaming. Again, the live as it happens element is critical.
Making money in the music business isn't accomplished through physical disc sales anymore. Artists are increasingly required to go on tour to make a living. Enabling the artists' fans to purchase access to more concerts than they can physically attend can only be a good thing for both artists and fans. In addition, venues all have limits on how many people can get in the building to see a show before the fire marshal barges in and shuts everything down. Why not let people who couldn't get tickets to a concert pay to watch it at home? I'd love to see apps or services like Tidal offer in-app purchasing of an entire tour, a specific show, a festival, or even specific venues such as Red Rocks or Alpine Valley.
The email that sparked my writing of this article came from Pearl Jam's Ten Club. It announced that Nugs.net was now streaming over 300 PJ shows on demand. The Nugs.net app enables users to listen full concerts (after the fact), make playlists, read and post reviews, and save shows for offline playback. This is a big step in the right direction, but falls short on three levels. First, the app only enables streaming of shows after the fact. Second, Nugs only offers this streaming on iOS and Android apps (Windows and OS X coming soon) and has no integration with hardware such as Sonos. Third, the quality of the live shows through the app is horrendous. According to Nugs, "Audio is optimized for mobile streaming and encoded as HE-AAC 160kbps VBR stereo." I completely understand the reasoning for offering a terrible audio experience, well not completely, but I can dream of lossless live streaming can't I? In fact, Nugs offers many of these same concerts as paid-for downloads in FLAC and ALAC. Making these lossless version available in the streaming app would be another big step in the right direction.
I know the aforementioned concept isn't written up in a glossy manner with all the details worked out, but I felt this need to talk about the dream I've had for three years. I'd love to read what everyone else thinks about the idea and to read about their ideas for increasing enjoyment of our favorite music while supporting those who create this music.
: The following is an email exchange, from early 2013, I had with a good friend who works in the entertainment industry. If anyone knows what's involved in pulling this type of service off, it's him. I call it the email that killed my dreams of becoming a streaming mogul :~)
: Hey J. - I had a long drive this evening, 4 hours round trip, and thought of a business idea that really had me jazzed. It's far bigger than I could do myself but it starts with an idea. Let me know what you think.
Many sports fans follow their local team by watching games on TV. Music lovers don't have this type of option. I think it would be really neat to stream live concerts to fans all over the world. For example Dave Matthews Band has die hard fans that travel to each show. Many more can't travel because they actually have jobs. It would be really neat for these fans to check where the band was playing on a particular night and catch the concert through an Apple TV, Roku box, or iPad app.
The business could be just like the NHL iPad and Apple TV apps that enable you to watch any game throughout the season. The concert app would enable viewing of concerts from all kinds of bands. Season passes for specific bands or specific venues like Madison Square Garden or Red Rocks could be purchased.
There could even be a deal through YouTube to distribute the shows as Google already has that infrastructure built.
I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Any thoughts? I'm sure the idea isn't new but I don't see anyone doing this.
.: It's a great idea, but so complicated. Clearing rights with bands, composers, labels, music publishers, maybe venues and promoters is a nightmare. Some bands have funny ideas about giving their music away and, by the way, most of them don't even own the rights or have them tied up in "360" deals with their labels or management companies. You'll spend more in legal fees than you could make in revenues. Everyone up and down the chain will want a piece. It's a job you wouldn't wish on anybody, and the RIAA will probably sue you. Bootlegging is the way to do this, a method best pursued by people with no assets. Explaining to your wife that the house went to pay for your legal defense is probably not something on your bucket list!
The revenue model is equally problematic. You need a sales force to sell banner ads on YouTube, so you have to sub that out to somebody else who'll take 20-50% off the top.
Haven't you heard that people only buy singles and listen through little white earbuds on their phone?
Go for another drive!
: Thanks so much for killing my new dream of becoming the next Internet streaming mogul.
Time to warm up the car :~)
: This is what I do all day. I describe my job as falling somewhere between rodeo clown, keeping cowboys from being crushed by larger beasts, and the guy at the circus walking behind the elephant with a shovel and a bucket, cleaning up the mess.
They pay me me a lot for this sort of dream crushing, but I'm so generous as to to crush my friends' dreams for free.