The recent live stream of U2’s Rose Bowl concert on YouTube is notable not only for the 10 million viewers who tuned in, and that fact that many people actually tuned in to a band of accelerating decrepitude, but for the fact that the event may well have sewn the seeds for a reflowering of the music industry.
The Internet has taken a sledgehammer to the music industry more than any other, decimating incomes through peer-to-peer piracy and the demolition of its business, distribution, production, marketing and revenue models.
Established, independently-minded artists such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have attempted to use the Internet to free themselves from old business models and dead-weight record companies by giving away their music for free, or via a ‘pay what you want’ model as a loss leader for more lucrative touring and merchandising sales.
This approach may well work for larger bands, but falls short for smaller or less established bands who have no fan base, play small venues and/or command far less for ticket and merchandise prices.
This is where YouTube comes in.
The U2-YouTube-Twitter triumph shows that the interest and demand for communal live event streaming is there, but clearly providing 10 million streams of free content at no cost to the viewer is costing someone, somewhere a lot of money.
So, I propose a paid-for live event model that combines the Cricket Australia-Channel Nine approach to live sports broadcasting.
In essence, YouTube stitches up an agreement with concert promoters and artists that says that conditional on a sell-out of the music event, YouTube will offer a live stream of the event for a fee — say $5.
The fee is split between YouTube, the artist and the promoter to cover the cost of holding the event and, ideally, turn a profit as well.
The live stream would also be limited to IP addresses based in the city in which the concert is being held in order to protect revenues of future concerts in other cities.
A replay of the event could also be made available, still limited by IP address, but at a reduced rate, or even for free via a Google ad-funded model, so that the diminished value of the event no longer being live is reflected.
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