A couple Sundays ago, my girlfriend and I, Wren Leader, traveled to Berkeley, California to see one of my favorite bands, The Bobs, play at the Freight & Salvage, a coffeehouse music hall.
These masters of comedic but heartfelt a cappella were in true form world-class professional musicians combining the skill and talent of the most highly-trained Berklee College of Music graduates with the songwriting abilities of the best pop/rock composers (ed. note: The author loves the Bobs.) They also came off like the most hilarious of people in the world, joking and laughing on stage like best friends, churning out witty commentary that late night comedians wish their writers could pen (ed. note: see?).
The truth is we weren't anywhere near the concert, at least physically. We were at home in Worcester, Massachusetts, comfortably sipping on local pumpkin beer while enjoying this fantastic concert from the comfort of our own home all thanks to an innovative service called Concert Window.
This aptly-named service is a live music webcasting network that brings concerts from around the country to the computers and homes of fans. Harvard graduates and musicians Forrest O'Conner and Dan Gurney gave birth to this financially-efficient, boldly successful service after realizing that music venues and artists could expand their fanbases by streaming real time live concerts to people all over the world. With just a bit of simple web design, a slow-building business model, and clever solutions to the issues that have plagued previous efforts, O'Conner and Gurney are well on their way to being a standard on which online live music should be done.
Of course, the idea of an online concert webcasting isn't new. As reported by Evolver.fm editor Eliot Van Buskirk in 2007, the tools and strategies to making a successful system have been available for some time, but myriad difficulties challenge live online music, ranging from licensing and royalty issues to venues not wanting the responsibility of installing potentially complicated equipment. Concert Window has largely solved these issues.
When they say that these are live" broadcasts, they mean these shows are shown in real time as it happens. There's nothing recorded or saved from these concerts, which simplifies the rights situation. However, it does mean that if you're in a different time zone, you'll have to adjust accordingly. For example, The Bobs' show started at 8pm PT which coincides with 11pm ET not a huge problem for us, for we are late night folk, but some people and timing situations aren't as flexible.
As for equipment- and expense-averse venues, Concert Window basically does most if not all of the work, and provides an extra source of revenue. The venue just needs a decent Internet connection and to plug in a special box that comes with the camera and all the cables they will need. From there, the venue can sit back and let the system do its thing for it is controlled remotely and automatically from Concert Window. Unless they specifically don't want to stream a show, the venue can have Concert Window broadcast any and all of their shows without even noticing.
What really sells Concert Window is the quality of the stream. The image is crystal-clear, while the sound is immaculate. Everything performed on stage came through loud and clear, with little-to-no background noise. Of course, if one has a bangin' sound system and a gigantic computer screen (or a computer-connected television), things get even better. The only downside is that the system focuses so much on the band that audience reactions tend to get drowned out.
However, the price is fairly attractive, if like me, you love the band you're about to watch. Most tickets cost around $3, or $5 at the high end, and plenty of them are free. Two thirds of the revenue go directly to the venue and artist. This means a dollar per online fan for the venue and the artist, which could add up quite nicely, considering that people can tune in from all over the world.
Concert Window is still new to the game, with only a small network of venues included; some are notable see New York's (Le) Poisson Rouge and Boston's Berklee Performance Center.
At the moment, Concert Window works best on computers via web browsers, but iPhone and iPad support are on the way. With the addition of the mobile audience, more venues, and more high-profile artists, it's easy to imagine this service growing over the next few years. I am personally looking forward to seeing more shows through Concert Window especially The Bobs.