Don’t get me wrong, jumping in a van with your bandmates to hit the road for a few weeks is an experience like no other. The people you meet, the fans you make, and the familiar smell of beer soaked bars, (and beer soaked bandmates for that matter), make touring an unforgettable experience to be sure.
However the reality is that van rentals, hotel rooms, the rising cost of fuel and poor pay, make touring something that few bands can afford to do for any sustained amount of time.
But once again, the internet is offering new opportunities for musicians who would like to perform for an audience, and actually make money doing it.
Enter the internet concert. Streaming live (or even pre-recorded) concerts is quickly becoming a great way to perform for an audience and generate income, without the hassle and expense of a traditional touring.
Here are 3 ways to set up your own Internet concert…
1. Ustream.com – Ustream is a live interactive broadcast platform. Anyone with an internet connection and a camera can start engaging with their fans anytime, anywhere. Ustream is very easy to set up, and it provides a very simple user experience, but it also presents a few challenges when it comes to monetizing your broadcast.
Ustream does now offer a pay-per-view option however it is not available to everyone and there is no simple way to integrate an email reminder feature into the Ustream platform.
Short of being approved for a pay-per-view broadcast, the simplest way to monetize the event would be to promote a URL where fans can purchase albums and merch during the broadcast itself.
2. Stageit.com – StageIt was created by music industry veteran Evan Lowenstein, and while the user experience is not as simple or intuitive as something like Ustream, the service does offer a very simple way to monetize live performances via the Internet.
StageIt works like this: An artist creates a show, sets the price or suggested donation, then invites his/her fans to show up. That’s about it. One thing to be aware of is that StageIt also uses “Notes” instead of dollars. The currency exchange is 10 Notes for each $1. That allows users to offer tips in increments as small as .10 cents.
Stageit offers an experience that is much more in sync with the live concert experience, however the fact that you need to educate your fans to the registration process and the “note” to dollar conversion rate does add a bit of undesirable complexity. To my knowledge Stageit does not offer autoresponder integration either.
3. A third option – which I personally am very excited about, but which I am have not seen any musicians explore yet – is to use a “Webinar” application or service.
A Webinar is a transmission of an audio and visual media file scheduled at a particular time or on demand over the Internet. The content comes from a single source to multiple viewers simultaneously and is viewed on the attendee’s computer.
Traditionally Webinars are used for educational purposes, however they offer all of the elements that are essential to creating a seamless and profitable live concert, and there is no reason they cannot be branded specifically for a music.
The way a webinar would work is that you would send your fans to an order page where they would purchase a ticket to your show, (or offer free tickets and monetize the event with album sales). Once the ticket was purchased you would redirect your fan to the webinar registration page. Most webinar applications have a built in email notification system that reminds people about the event 24 hours, 3 hours, and 5 minutes before the event begins. The nice thing about this is that it can be integrated with a quality email management system such as Aweber.
A Webinar puts you in complete control of the process which in turn offers the most opportunities for you to monetize the event.
One way that you might consider using the Webinar approach is to contact webmasters, companies, or even individuals who possess a large email list, and offer to throw a live concert just for their subscribers. You can brand the event specifically for their organization and you can offer to split the profits as an incentive.
This allows you to effectively book an online tour with no financial risk. Most importantly, by integrating your own email management system into the registration process you can build your mailing list by the hundreds with every sponsored gig. IE, when your “sponsor” sends people to register for your live event they are effectively joining YOUR mailing list. This gives you the opportunity to promote your music, live events and merchandise to those subscribers for years to come, regardless of whether or not they purchase anything during your live concert.
There are two Webinar solutions out there that I have personally explored…
The first is GoToWebinar. GoToWebinar is arguably the leading webinar service provider. The system is robust and bug free, but unfortunately there is not much control over the look of the application. That means that the event itself would be presented as a “Webinar” as apposed to a “Live Concert” and you wouldn’t have much control over customizing the process. They are also a bit on the pricey side, starting at $99 per month.
Another solution that I recently purchased myself is handy little piece of software called “Automated Webinar Generator”. Automated Webinar Generator is offered for a one time payment rather than on a monthly bases. It sells for $297, and while that price tag may sound a bit steep, the reality is that a single show can easily cover the cost. AWG is a script which you install on your own server. Once installed there is a set up wizard that makes the whole process relatively painless. AWG integrates with all of the major autoresponder companies and while they are also branded as “Webinar” software out of the box, because the software is installed on your own server it is easy to hire a designer to change the look and feel of the player so that it is presented as a “live Concert” instead of a “Webinar”.
One thing that is different about Automated Webinar Generator is that it only allows you to stream pre-recorded webinars. But it presents the video as though it is happening in real time. The user sees a countdown screen until the event begins, at which time users are redirected to what appears to be a live event. Users can see the name’s of other attendees and there is also a chat box that allows users to ask questions.
This allows you to effectively record one event and present it every day of the week, even several times a day. You can then send everyone who missed it a reminder to check out the replay of the show the next day. You can be as transparent as you like about the fact that the event is pre-recorded, but the software is designed to make everything about the experience feel as though it is actually happening in real time.
These are by no means the only solutions out there, but at the end of the day I much prefer a solution that allows you to control the entire sales funnel, gain subscribers in the process, and make the most money possible as a result.
We are still very much at the dawn of the internet concert age. There will undoubtedly be new solutions popping up every year. However for those of you who would like to connect with your audience directly, but don’t have the money, time, or ability to physically hit the road, an internet concert is certainly something worth exploring.
So now it’s your turn….
What do you think of the Internet Concert idea? Is this the way of the future? Or are you a purist who thinks that the only way to perform is in a loud, beer soaked (in a good way) bar?
Maybe you’ve already thrown your own internet concert?
Leave a comment and share your thoughts and/or experiences…