Will Live Streaming Become A Flood?

Trey Anastasio. The Disco Biscuits. Umphrey’s McGee. Phil Lesh. Drive-By Truckers. STS9. The Allman Brothers Band. Heck, you could easily add yourself to this list.

I’m talking about artists who’ve recently streamed shows live over the Internet, whether for a fee, free, or through a paid subscription.

Is this a trend ready to take off on an even larger scale?

This is a big question for bands and concert venues alike. As for fans, let’s be honest: Why wouldn’t we want more shows streamed live into our living rooms? (I don’t know about you, but I was flipping out when a kid last year began streaming Phish shows straight from his iPhone – even if the quality wasn’t so hot!)

One person working to stream more music into people’s homes is Nate Parienti, founder and CEO of iClips.net. He launched the site in January 2007 and says demand has grown exponentially.

“Just in terms of the technology and available bandwidth in people’s homes having dramatically increased, that makes a big difference,” he says. “Now the technology is really starting to catch up, so the broadcasts are becoming high-definition, broadcast-quality live events.”

Unlike some other streaming sites – such as USTREAM, Livestream and Stickam – iClips doesn’t allow users to create their own custom channels. Instead, iClips more closely resembles a production company, shooting and editing its own high-quality content at events such as Jam Cruise and the Rothbury Music Festival. One of its more popular streams was a recent Trey Anastasio concert in St. Louis, which attracted roughly 100,000 unique viewers for the free broadcast.

Not all iClips shows are free, however. Some streams must be ordered through a pay-per-view system, whereas others may be broadcast for free as a live event and then command a fee once they’ve been archived.

Production costs are covered by the company up-front, and profits are split with the artists. Encouragingly, iClips has partnered with MySpace, Hulu, and CBS Interactive Music Group, among others.

“We try to cover costs and provide a new revenue stream for artists,” Parienti says. “Fans sometimes gripe about having to pay for content, but you have to pay to see a concert anyway and there’s a lot of costs involved.”

Few cases show the potential power of live streaming more than that of the newly formed band Kung Fu.

The band’s first show was only four months ago, but it has already secured coveted spots at summer festivals – which the band credits entirely to live streaming of their initial shows.

“We rehearsed once and then started a Monday-night thing at a brand new club in New Haven,” says Todd Stoops, keyboardist for Kung Fu and RAQ. “All expectations were that we would get together, play some music, have a few beers, and maybe play for 20 people. But the live stream blew it out of the water.”

Set up by a group of fansthrough USTREAM, Kung Fu’s Monday nights at Stella Blues were transmitted to fans all across the country. At first viewers worried about whether the venue would want the broadcasts to continue, for fear they might keep people home instead of at the club. But the band’s popularity grew as more people stumbled across the shows online, thereby bringing more people to the club each week. Their final show sold out.

“It’s all about the webcast,” Stoops says. “If I had a crystal ball, I’d say Stella Blues will webcast a lot of shows because it’s gained them a clientele. It’s established them as the hip and cool place to view music.”

Obviously there’s still a long way to go before live streaming is the norm. How do rabid fans like yourselves feel? Would you like to see more bands stream live shows? Would you be willing to pay for them? Would you be opposed to advertisements during the shows? Where do you see this trend heading?

(Photo by J. C. Juanis)

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