#TBT: A Taste of Things to Come for Live Entertainment

Happy #TBT! Here’s an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: “Recordings Have Become Advertisements for Shows.”

Portland Opera’s “La Boheme”

That’s a direct quote from a piece by Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker [circa 2009], and yes, it’s absolutely true.

Interestingly, this has become conventional wisdom in a very short time. If you had tried to make this point two years ago, most “smart” music business people would have tut-tutted you or agreed, but only in the far-off future.

So listen to me now when I say this because the very same forces are at work:

All recorded and broadcast products will eventually be little more than advertisements for shows. Not concerts, in most cases, but shows nonetheless.

That’s not to say that the live product will reach more people. Indeed, that’s the whole idea of an advertisement: Reach a bunch of people and capture the attention of a relatively small subset of those.

Examples of this:

• Imagine that the price of advertising media keeps dropping. At some point, a broadcast basketball game reminds people of why they want to come down to the stadium. While in the short term, TV contracts guarantee revenue to teams and leagues for broadcast rights, in the long term, this can only be made possible by good value capture on commercials, which is under severe pressure.

• Imagine HD sound and picture for a recording of this aria in La Boheme being distributed for free download to opera fans, but instead of being a single camera glued to the floor pointed at the performer in a stuffy-looking setting, it was a fully produced segment that had all the color and drama of the full-on performance. Imagine the whole opera performed this way and distributed for free, to remind people of why they want to be there for the real thing.

• Imagine free or nearly free video content from Rachael Ray on how to cook some of her latest dishes. Put on a nice production, come up with some interesting, trendy new recipes, and give it away for free so that when Rachael comes to your town, you’ll be interested in paying $150 to have a chance to see her cook and maybe even cook with her. She could do this as often as she wanted and people would line up to be there.

You don’t even really have to imagine all this very hard, because it’s already happened. What I want you to realize though is that it’s coming to just about every kind of entertainment (including things like cooking that you might not even think of as “entertainment” in the same way).

And the reason is: recorded/broadcast getting cheaper and easier to get; live product getting more important to us as we value and rebuild our social bonds.

It’s interesting that it’s happened in the pop music business first, considering how healthy the recording industry used to be, but it’s just a taste of things to come.

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