The introduction of the Internet and its rapid expansion in the 90s, coupled with technological advances in software and hardware, allowed the digitisation of virtually the entire value-chain of the music industry (Berry, 2006). The industry saw its traditional value exploiting methods, in particular CD sales, become less effective and in many cases obsolete. At the same time, new stronger and more direct relationships started forming between the artists and their audience, radically changing how many of the industry’s functions, such as its supply chain management, were undertaken. In this article, we discuss how information and communication technologies affect one aspect of the music experience, that of live and virtual performances. This choice allows us also to illustrate a change of attitude toward technology from all stakeholders, especially music labels. The article first presents a number of examples of “live” performances with “real” performers that were reproduced and repackaged using various multimedia technologies and then distributed through a number of online and digital channels. Following this, the article discusses the emerging phenomenon of virtual performances on Second Life and considers their potential implications.
Historically, issues like the name and artwork to be used in music productions were kept confidential, not only because they changed frequently up to the date of release, but also because of the very high risk of leaks of content prerelease, which might encourage piracy. The openness of the Internet, and in particular its capacity to facilitate direct relationships between the artists and their audiences, radically changed this attitude. This is demonstrated by the artists’ increasing tendency to reach out and collaborate directly with their fans not only on prerecorded products, but also increasingly in live performances, as shown by the example of Sandi Thom. Thom is a female singer-songwriter who was rapidly signed to SonyBMG’s RCA label after she received a reported 180,000 viewers of a live Web cast of a musical performance that she broadcast from her basement flat in Tooting, and her first single entered the charts at 15 on download sales alone. Although there is a dispute about whether the number of viewers is precise, the case illustrates clearly how Internet technologies can act as cheap, effective promotional tools for artists’ live performances.
The burgeoning online video environment can be both cause and effect of this phenomenon, in particular sites such as YouTube.com, which allow users to upload their own videos simply and quickly for anyone in the world to see and share through Web sites, blogs, and e-mail. At the time of writing, it is reported that YouTube delivers more than 80 million video views every day, with more than 65,000 new videos uploaded daily (Logitech, 2006). Live-performance video on such Web sites has been gathering momentum as domestic broadband Internet access increases, boosted by events such as the international Live 8 concerts for Africa in the summer of 2005, when Internet service provider America Online had over 90 million views of its free Web casts (Leeds, 2006).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Virtual Community: Virtual communities are most often online communities, and are usually created around a common interest which brings together their members. As they do not require a physical presence or space, members may come from anywhere in the world. MMORPGs and social networking services aim to create virtual communities.
Social Network Service: A service supporting the building and growth of a social network which may evolve around one or more applications, for example, sharing of photographs or bookmarks.
Avatar: An image (often a caricature) that is used to represent a user in an online chat. In online games, like MMORPGs, avatars are 3D characters.
Digital Channels: Mostly used to refer to Internet mechanisms that allow transmitting information in a number of ways (e.g., e-mail, blogs, wikis, podcasts, vodcasts, etc.).
Web Cast: The word is derived from the words “Web” and “broadcast” and it refers to audio and visual broadcasting to multiple listeners and viewers over the Internet.
Podcasting: Distribution of multimedia files using a syndication format, for example, RSS. Podcasts may also be available as direct downloads from a Web site. The files can be reproduced by a number of different devices, such as portable multimedia players and computers. Vodcasting is similar to podcasting, but refers to feeds that include video. It is a form of video-on-demand.
MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games): Many games, for example, World of Warcraft, may follow specific themes or ask users to perform predefined roles. Other games like Second Life only provide a platform for the world and users can make what they want out of it.