Can Cyberseats Be Scalped?
Do you have a personal computer with Internet access and sound and video capabilities?
If so, you can check out the action this week in the top rock clubs of Manhattan, seeing such acts as Joey Ramone and the Jesus and Mary Chain as part of the Intelfest.
Running Wednesday through Saturday, the event--a descendant of the old New Music Seminar--will feature more than 300 bands performing in 20 clubs, most with video transmitted through the Internet and all sent out in audio. So in theory, you could sit at home anywhere in the world and club-hop around New York simply by hooking up to https://www.Intelfest.com
And by doing so, you might be getting a preview of a not-too-distant future, when music fans will routinely club-hop on a global level, checking out shows around the world the way a baseball fan today can switch between several major league games on cable TV. Maybe you could watch U2 play a Dublin homecoming stadium show and then click over to a new indie band playing in Chicago.
“That’s our vision,” says Wendy Hafner, director of marketing for Intel, the Santa Clara-based microchip manufacturer that took over sponsorship of the New York festival last year as a way of showcasing computer possibilities for the music business.
Last year’s event had a real attendance of about 15,000, but a cyberspace attendance of more than 125,000, she says.
“This is one aspect of how PCs can work in music,” she says. “Being able to take live performances and broadcast them into people’s homes from wherever the artist is. Instead of 200 people in a club, you can reach millions. And fans can communicate [via e-mail] with other fans and even with the artists, as well as make purchases of music while online. It’s the wave of the future.”
Technologically, this future is nearly here. Picture and sound transmission at the moment is relatively crude, and trying to make connection with live music can be a frustrating experience. But the advances of broad-band delivery and cable or satellite modem connections will bring vast improvements and increase accessibility.
“Some major clubs, like the Warfield in San Francisco, the Metro in Chicago and the House of Blues clubs, are already wired for these things,” says Jackson Haring, manager of the band Cracker, which played the Intelfest last year.
But Haring and other new media watchers in the music business note that a high-quality delivery system already exists. It’s called television.
“Right now TV is a fairly good-looking, good-sounding medium, and music has never translated properly,” says Marc Geiger, co-owner of the ArtistDirect agency, which has been a leading force in Internet music services via its Ultimate Band List Web site.
“I’m a massive believer that the Internet will affect everything having to do with music, but least of all live music. You’ll receive your music via the Internet, communicate with fans and artists, get tickets and directions to a gig. But when Tina Turner or U2 did TV specials, how many people watched?”
Liz Heller, senior vice president of Capitol Records and the company’s new media specialist, agrees that while the technology will improve, the viewership may never be big enough to draw substantial advertising dollars.
“There’s clearly no economic model at this point,” she says. “It was and is novel to sit at home and watch a show on your computer. When I can’t go to the Tibetan Freedom Concert or something, I’m curious to check it out. But am I going to stay home and do that for eight hours? No.”