It seems like as soon as the lockdown started there was a great rush to get content up online. Companies big and small were at it and so were individual artists and groups of friends. Some of the content was performance, some was interviews and some was just plain quirky. Since then we’ve seen specially staged concerts and attempts to monetize the streams among other things. It’s four months on and what have we learnt?
So… my personal take. I don’t care about “live” very much. I don’t think the fact that other people are watching a show at the same time as me makes much difference. There’s no real sense of a collective experience. It might work if there was a real opportunity for interaction but mostly there isn’t. It’s better for Q&As than for performances but still I’d just as soon watch when it suits me.
Technical quality matters and there are two ends to the “pipe”. There’s only so much one can do singing into an iPhone. Proper lighting, cameras and microphones make a big difference. So does the delivery mechanism. Some platforms are much better than others. Youtube is really quite good but Facebook Live is just plain dreadful. Maybe this doesn’t matter if you assume the audience is watching on their phones but research I did a while ago suggests that about half the audience is likely watching on a big screen with decent sound. Watching a flickery picture with dubious sound and, worst of all, frequent dropouts just drives me nuts.
Things are changing awfully fast right now. So, if you are doing interviews and panel discussions get them up there right now. Six week old interviews sound like a panel discussion on what Japan might do recorded a week before Pearl Harbour but broadcast afterwards.
Monetization? A lot of people are looking at this. So far the Royal Opera House is offering three ticketed performances at STG4.99 and the Metropolitan Opera is staging a series of concerts featuring big names in recital. The blurb promises spectacular locations and production values comparable to their Live in HD cinema shows. These are USD20 per. I really wonder what proportion of the Live in HD audience will be able to figure out how to access these let alone pop for twenty bucks. Also, of course, those HD values only make sense if the viewer has really good gear. Bottom line, I’m very sceptical about whether these shows can compete against a plethora of free content. Time will tell I guess.
Personally, I’m getting on-line fatigue. I’m watching less. The topical shows haven’t really captured my lasting interest and streamed performances have to compete with video disks. I really, really need to see that performance before I’ll choose it over a disk.
All that said, some outfits have got much better technically and I think there is real potential in hybrid shows. By that I mean a streamed performance with a small, physically distanced, live audience, I think that has the potential to create some of the energy of a genuinely live show and might make watching it “in the moment” more worthwhile. I know various companies are looking at this. I’m interested to see how it pans out.