Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bring concerts into the living room

Peer-to-peer, the ubiquity of DVD burning hardware now standard on new PCs, and access to aspiring bands all over the globe via places like, have taken a toll on the record industry:
Albums sales in the US dipped by 7% in 2005 but the music download market doubled over the past year, according to early figures.

Sales stood at 602.2 million during the year, down from 650.8 million in 2004, report analysts Nielsen Soundscan.

Downloaded music reached 332.7 million for 2005, an increase of 148% on the previous year. More than 95% of music is sold in CD format, with Mariah Carey and 50 Cent proving the year's biggest sellers.
This is a continuing trend. Over the four years from 2001 to 2005, total album sales dropped about 32%.

Downloads are much cheaper than traditional CDs, which list at almost $20. WalMart sells downloads for $.88 per song. Of course lots of people don't pay for them at all. So the growth in downloadable songs and albums is not as lucrative as the physical album market, even with the material (virutally nothing) and shipping savings (Hershey bars cost a couple of pennies per capita to send across the country, albums are probably not much more), which are negligible anyway.

But the live act is far from moribund. Indeed, older artists are doing quite well:
Looks like concertgoers aren't so intimidated by high ticket prices after all.

With splashy tours from Madonna, the Rolling Stones and Billy Joel as lures, fans paid an average price of $58.11 per seat in the first half of 2006, up 15.6% from the first half of 2005, according to concert trade magazine Pollstar.

Total ticket sales rose 20% to 17.4 million.

Pollstar pegs total sales at more than $1 billion, up 38.5%, while the Billboard Box Score tallied sales at $990 million, up 24.6%. Either way, first-half revenue broke
These acts draw lots of fans now in their forties and fifties, who were pimply-faced teenagers when the artists were new. They have the disposable income to pay for the shows. Even with sagging album sales, it's not a bad time to be a long-established act (trying to bust onto the music scene for the first time is a different story, with infinite competition selling at a price of free).

But I think it could be even better. I just finished imbibing myself of a Dave Matthews Band concert presented via internet feed by AOL. They played in Palm Beach. I live in the Midwest. Thousands of fans from all over saw it in the comfort of their own homes as well. These aren't people who would've been able to come to the actual show. Within the traditional concert framework, their revenue potential would be zero. But feed every show and suddenly your venue capacity has increased by many orders of magnitude at almost no additional cost. Cameras are in place anyway to provide footage for the big screens--transmit that directly to a web feed and no additional recording hardware or manpower is required. Charge some amount to tap into the feed, probably less than ticket price. Most fans, especially of musically versatile bands like dmb that have made the bigtime because of the diversity and spontenaity of live performances, will still choose attending the actual concert when it's in their home towns. The concert feeds wouldn't be cannibalistic, they'd be gravy.

I don't attend more than one concert a year because of schedule restraints, cost, agoraphobic tendencies, but most of all because they're in other cities. I'd pay for a couple of these, however. With surround sound and a 30' flat screen monitor, all the existential pleasure is there with the additional benefits of climate control, easily accessible drinks and snacks, and the ability to use the facilities between songs and be back without missing anything. Instead of piling into a car or two, my group of friends could just meet at someone's house and enjoy the show together without fighting the traffic and the riffraff that causes it.



adog said...

Why not archive them as well? Let people 'pay per view' shows. There'd be a market for it.

crush41 said...

I'd devise a sort of setlist scorecard, tell a friend to check out a list of shows, and point me to the one that received the highest score. Even if not live, it would seem so to me, and likely be worth the ten bucks or so. Wouldn't even have to leave home.