Features December 21, 2016

4 technologies changing your concert experience

Former Editor

This live music technology series is free to view and share, thanks to our sponsor Eventbrite, the world’s largest self-service ticketing platform, hosting a vibrant collection of live experiences to fuel people’s passions and enrich their lives. Eventbrite provides a seamless, professional grade solution to create compelling event pages, sell tickets, promote and manage events, and analyse results – from the web or any mobile device.

 

According to Ian Hogarth, co-founder and CEO of Songkick, between 40% and 50% of concert tickets go unsold. While this statistic already has promoters thinking on their feet, venues have been quick to lean on technology to not only democratise access, but to engage fans and prove they’re innovative.

Below are four technologies changing the concert experience:

 

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is taking in concerts in a most intriguing way. From free, intimate experiences to entire multi-day music festivals, VR producers are connecting fans to music in a more personal way than ever before.

On October 27, Avenged Sevenfold offered fans a global 3D, 360-degree virtual reality live stream of their concert on the roof of Los Angeles’ Capitol Records Building.

Avenged Sevenfold filming their 360-degree virtual reality live stream in LA

 

In the first-of-its-kind venture, the experience was made available via Facebook and Universal Music Group’s new VRTGO platform, which uses VR technology from VRLIVE.

 

While the venture to launch the band’s new LP The Stage has already been dubbed “the industry’s most ambitious dive into VR yet” by Billboard, artists have been handing over the controls to fans since Fakespace Music’s visualiser tech demo Still Life in ’96.

Brad Allen is the executive chairman of leading VR producer NextVR. His company has created on-demand virtual reality experiences for anyone with a smartphone and a VR device in the realms of music (including Coldplay’s Ghost Stories Live virtual concert at Sony Studios in LA in 2014), sports (including The PGA Masters and The World Series), and even education and training.

Speaking on The Next Big Disruptor podcast, Allen said: “Imagine you buy the virtual ticket and now you’ve got four or five different camera positions in or on the stage of your favourite performer. […] It puts you in a seat that you can’t even buy a ticket for.” 

But will VR impact concert attendance? Dale Moore, CEO of high-resolution music download store and live recording platform OpenLIVE, says ‘No’. 

“[VR] provides a great opportunity for those that can’t be there – particularly for those in another geographic location. I think it would be great to ‘see and hear’ a band play in London for example even though you live in Melbourne,” he said.

Allowing artists to turn their live performances into live releases, OpenLIVE boasts a catalogue of over 2.5m tracks in CD quality and above. Each track is recorded using the platform’s live audio recording infrastructure, MasterBuilder, which is implemented in 10 venues in Australia and a handful overseas, including the Moody Theatre and The North Door in Austin, Texas. This year, MasterBuilder won ‘Innovation of the Year’ at the Sound+Image Awards.

“The venue, Artist, promoter etc. aren’t losing out on ticket/alcohol sales [through VR], but gaining a wider audience and hopefully bringing in additional revenue while giving more people a unique live experience,” said Moore. “And let’s not forget none of this is possible without the venue in which the gig will be played. So VR might help exposure for the venue to people that otherwise might never have known about its existence.”

 

Geofilters

When video-sharing app Snapchat unveiled on-demand geofilters in February – where any user of the app could create a custom filter for their event – the music industry was among the first to jump on board.

Now, events like Coachella and Splendour in the Grass, artists like DJ Khaled and Ariana Grande, venues like the Sydney Opera House and Star City, and brands like iHeartRadio and Spotify are using consumers’ mobile dependence to their advantage.

 


Ariana Grande created her own Snapchat filter for the release of ARIA #1 LP Dangerous Woman

 

It’s not just big-name brands and venues with envious campaign budgets that are engaging with Snapchat’s over 150 million daily active users (with four million in Australia alone). Geofilters can be purchased for as low as $6 but vary depending on the duration (maximum 30 days) and location range (from 1,800 to 4,600 square metres).

On March 9, Justin Bieber performed the first concert of his 2016 Purpose World Tour at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. Using a geofilter at the venue and its surrounds, Bieber’s team spent just $132.34 for the five-hour Snapchat filter.

 

 

Although some artists have vocally shared their frustration at fans using their mobile phones at their concerts (Alicia Keys, The Eagles, Adele) and even Apple has patented a technology that would disable cell phones from taking video at concerts, some venues see social networking as a source of powerful promotion. 

Edwin Onggo, founder of crowdfunded venue-filling platform GiggedIn, said we can expect smartphones to become even further involved in the concert experience. 

“Most of the innovations to the concert experience over the next five years will happen through these devices because everybody owns one, and because of the nature of connectivity.

“I believe innovations will occur which will enable smartphones to drive audience participation and enhance engagement and the experience,” Onggo added. “For example, the collective crowd using their smartphones to affect elements of the stage or show.”  

 

iBeacons 

In 2014, US festival juggernaut Bonnaroo was one of the first major music events to use iBeacons – but it wasn’t just so its over 80,000 attendees could receive proximity-based notifications for happenings aroundTennessee’s Great Stage Park.

While festival attendees are praising organisers for notifying them of where the less crowded bars are, or where to access free water, Bonnaroo was observing crucial information that helped inform how the 2015 and 2016 festivals played out.

Aloompa, the company that deploys the iBeacons each year, helped Bonnaroo’s organisers collect valuable data on consumer behaviour. From tracking the most popular area of the event, to the length of time attendees spent watching each band or engaging with each sponsorship activation through real-time heat maps, iBeacons help event organisers see where you are, who you’re with and how responsive you are to push notifications and marketing campaigns. 

Put simply, Beacons are transmitters that run off Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology. They broadcast signals at set intervals that are picked up by smartphones within their proximity.

While Beacons are the most rapidly adopted in-store technology for retailers since mobile card readers (pharmacy chain Rite Aid uses proximity beacons in each of its 4,500 US stores), it was Apple which changed the game entirely for the music industry.

The tech giant filed documents with the Federal Communications Commission for iBeacon hardware in July 2014, a year after releasing the first standardised BLE beacon platform at its 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference. The technology is currently built into the iOS 7 mobile operating system, allowing iPhones and iPads to scan for nearby Bluetooth devices and emit signals to wake up relevant apps on someone’s phone.

Instead of feeling threatened by technological advances, artists are embracing them. Canadian singer-songwriter City and Colour, aka Dallas Green, has been using iBeacons for almost three years now. His City and Colour Live mobile app not only keeps fans worldwide informed about his live shows and music projects, but it rewards fans at his shows. For example, fans walking past iBeacons receive alerts about free seat upgrades, signed posters, free merchandise and even signed guitars.

 

The “City and Colour Live” mobile app comes to life at City and Colour shows where iBeacons have been deployed

 

Now, the type of companies adopting the technology continues to diversify. According to a 2015 study by Internet Advertising Bureau in the UK, 66% of marketers agreed that location-based advertising is the ‘most exciting’ mobile opportunity for 2016. Cities are targeting commuters on public transport, media companies are creating interactive showroom displays for shoppers and artists are creating apps to interact with fans at their shows. 

 

RFID & NFC

Wearables like RFID wristbands are one of the highest adopted technologies in both the music industry and among tech giants – and for good reason. 

As previously reported by TMN, RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology dates back to the Second World War when radar was refined and used to determine the position and speed of an object. Now, its thousands of uses include access control, cashless payments, tracking consumer behaviour and creating unique experiences. 

“Wearables are adding a new layer to the concert experience by increasing the sense of shared experience,” said GiggedIn CEO and Founder Edwin Onggo. 

British Stadium band Coldplay has been employing the technology since their Mylo Xyloto tour in 2011. The album tour saw the indie-rockers debut the Xyloband, an LED-illuminated wristband that can be activated in unison using RFID technology.

 

 

Synched to a radio transmitter, Xylobands have become a Coldplay concert trademark with the band creating a sea of coloured light that’s manipulated in time with the music.

 

 

Xylobands’ inventor is Jason Regler, a mobile phone vibrating sex toy inventor and die-hard Coldplay fan. Speaking to UK radio station XFM back in 2012, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin said: “He contacted us and said, ‘What do you think?’ And we said, ‘It sounds like the best idea ever’… and now we have them for every person who has a ticket.”

 

 

Locally, the world’s largest self-service ticketing platform Eventbrite is set to roll out its own RFID technology during next year’s festival season. Eventbrite acquired Canada-based Entry Management RFID hardware and software company Scintilla Technologies at the end of last year; it’s been creating powerless access control solutions and countering the issue of counterfeit tickets in the US ever since.

Naturally, the technology is being expanded by major tech players, such as Apple, Samsung and Sony, to develop NFC (Near-Field Communication) technology.

The Apple Watch includes NFC so that wearers can make Apple Pay contactless payments, while Samsung’s mobile payments service Samsung Pay will launch in Malaysia and Thailand by the end of the year, and almost all mobile phones are now NFC capable. This means they can be used as a virtual wallet to make contactless payments, share files or contacts, access announcements, merchandise and giveaways using passive NFC ’tags’ that are built into posters and advertisements at concert venues.

“NFC on wearables at festivals will create more cashless environments, engagement with attendees whilst also unveiling more data for the promoter to understand their audience and their behaviour,” said Onggo. 

RFID and NFC technology has seen the festival industry in particular lock in to the changing needs of the market, but event organisers across all industries are looking for further control, convenience, and most interestingly, insights. From guest spending around merchandise, beverages and food, to positional and location data to see where fans spend the most time, to what sponsorship activations they participate in, data collection is changing the pre and post-event experience for consumers and event organisers. 

“For venues, this might mean they’re more aware of their patrons – how many drinks they’ve purchased and what type, what bands they’ve come to see, how they got there, how long they were there for etc.,” said Dale Moore, CEO at OpenLIVE.

“As venues work more closely with other partners they can tailor the experience for both the patron and the band, to enhance the experience for both,” he added. “This could mean that with the ticket to the gig the music fan also purchases their drinks and their merch, and any other affiliated offerings.”

Moore brings up a critical point. The innovations from the last five years alone have created entirely new revenue streams for those adopting them. And with many artists right at the forefront, embracing new approaches, they’re able to connect with their audiences and bring added value to the products and services that have fallen victim to changing consumption habits.

 

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