By Dean Graziano, CEO of Lively LLC.
Being signed to a major label is certainly beneficial to an artist in terms of brand exposure and distribution, but anyone with an interest in the music industry can attest that touring has always been and continues to be an artist’s best opportunity to make significant revenue. Unlike the recording side of the global music industry, which has suffered as a result of digital disruption and is currently less than half its pre-digital size, the live music business continues to thrive. According to Live Nation, its global concert revenue amounted to $3.87 billion in 2012, and more than 32 million people attended the promoter’s nearly 15,000 shows in North America.
Given the sheer number of concert attendees last year, recent advances in technology and mobile app usage trends, there is a new opportunity for artists to both connect with fans in a new way and to earn incremental revenue through live audio and video capture and sales via mobile apps. There is also an opportunity for entrepreneurs to tap into a market that promises to be large, but that has yet to be fully explored.
Anyone who’s attended a concert in the past five years has seen the evolution from lighters to cell phones in the hands of audience members. Music fans are recording their own poor-quality audio and video at shows so they can relive the experience and brag to their friends through social media channels. Branded T-shirts are great, but the future of music merchandise is concert audio and video. If you don’t believe me, just visit YouTube, which is teeming with amateur concert videos that receive thousands of views from fans starved for new content from their favorite artists.
Today’s digitized music industry and society’s sharing culture inspired me to wonder: What if we could offer consumers a way to relive a concert experience at their convenience by providing them with an easy way to purchase high-quality content? Could it be done while ensuring that artists, record labels and venue operators could benefit as well? Could direct live audio/video capture sold through mobile apps potentially generate enough revenue to create a whole new market segment for the industry?
Consider the numbers. Analyst estimates for app downloads in 2013 range from 56 to 82 billion and according to Flurry Analytics, music app usage is on the rise, showing a year-on-year increase of 530 percent. If only 25 percent of concert attendees—approximately 8 million people—purchased and downloaded direct live audio content for $4.99, the market revenue would be as much as $40 million. If they purchased live video content for $9.99, the revenue would nearly double. Granted, these numbers are only a fraction of the global music industry’s $16.5 billion in 2013, but think of the possibilities!
According to Live Nation’s concert trends of 2012, the average age of a concert attendee was 42 years with an average annual income of $75,000. Concert goers are buying fewer tickets, but are willing to pay higher ticket prices than ever before. The average ticket price reached a record $68.76, but for many shows featuring legendary superstars like the Rolling Stones, Prince and Madonna, ticket prices were sold for hundreds of dollars. And eight of the top 10 North American tours featured performers including Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters, Van Halen, Barbra Streisand and Elton John.
Yet, while fans were delighted to see these superstar acts in concert, their interest in the artist did not extend to their new material. For instance, while Madonna topped Pollstar’s worldwide chart of concert sales with $296 million in gross sales, her “MDNA” album released in 2012 sold only 527,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Similarly, Bruce Springsteen’s concert earnings totaled $210 million in gross sales, but his “Wrecking Ball” album sold only 490,000 copies. The fact that fans are paying high prices to hear established artists play the hits, not to hear new material, implies that with the right technology partner, established artists can make incremental revenue by selling live performance audio and video of classic hits in a new way. Technology has already enhanced opportunities for artists by helping them create and sell their recordings, but until now, capturing and sharing the live music experience has not been optimal.
Lively is one example of a company that provides a solution through its free mobile app. With backend software, Lively’s platform captures and disseminates professional-quality audio and video, and its licensing agreement protects the artists’ rights while allowing consumers to purchase and share content without fear of reprisal. With an app like Lively, artists receive approximately 49 percent of the revenue from downloads, and fans can finally put down their cell phones and enjoy the show.
Recently, Lively partnered with Yahoo’s “Ram Country Live!” and Keith Urban to bring exclusive live audio recordings to fans via the app. Roughly 19 percent of the 700 individuals in attendance downloaded the concert package, but 80 percent of the 660 downloads secured were a result of the “long tail.” These numbers are in keeping with statistics we’re seeing from other acts currently touring and testing the Lively product, and help us to understand that direct live audio and video capture via app appeals both to the fan who attended the show and to those who weren’t able to attend, but still want to have the experience.
For those who appreciate music, the live concert experience is unlike any other. The rise of technology that continues to force rapid changes within the music industry now brings a new opportunity to create long-lasting, high-quality live show audio and video memories for fans, and our growing social media culture allows fans to share their in-person experience with others who couldn’t get a ticket to the show. These are the ingredients needed to start the digital disruption of the live concert business and to create an entirely new market that can benefit artists, fans and the industry itself. Rather than fighting against the disruption, artists should look for technology partners to help them navigate and design what is sure to be a new digital live-music industry.
Dean Graziano is a serial entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in technology ventures focused on online reputation management, social media and media planning. He is an inventor and patent holder in the social media industry and remains active in the Seattle startup community in his current role as founder and CEO of music startup Lively, LLC. For more information, visit www.getlive.ly.