The live music experience has evolved somewhat over the past century. With the advent of radio, TV and the Internet, fans no longer have to wait in-line for tickets to enjoy their favorite musicians’ live shows – sure, the subsequent broadcast may not always be ‘live’, but it means many more thousands and millions of people can savor the event.
With the Internet’s increasing ubiquity, technology is being harnessed in new and interesting ways to bring the live music experience to as many people as possible.
For those who prefer to mingle with the masses and see a band first-hand, Songkick launched an interesting initiative last year called Detour. Essentially, it’s a crowdfunding platform that lets fans persuade their favorite bands and artists to play in a location near them, though it remains London-only for now.
Then there’s Vyclone (previous coverage), which lets users sync and edit multi-angle videos directly from their mobile phones. It only works with footage captured simultaneously which is perfect for crowdsourced live gigs.
Similarly, Lively was recently debuted at a gig by The Lonely Forest in Seattle. Gig-goers downloaded an app to their mobile phone, and they could buy an audio-only recording of the gig, sourced directly from the mixing desk, for $4.99. Alternatively, they could pay $9.99 to include video, which was delivered (online) the next day. Soundhalo is another music startup that worked with Alt-J at its Brixton Academy show in London, letting fans download videos of the songs directly to their smartphones soon after they’d performed.
The latest company looking to democratize the live music experience is Kickit With, a platform that enables performers to set up a live stream of their shows without any of the technological hassle.
What’s the story?
Kickit With launched in beta around eight months back, with a primary objective to demonstrate demand. “The results exceeded our expectations,” says Hussan Choudhry, Kickit With founder and CEO. “We gained two thousand artist registrations around the world.”
In the period since, around four thousand artists have requested access to the platform ahead of it going live this Monday, January 20, 2014.
During the early beta stages, the Kickit With team focused primarily on unsigned artists, though they claim to have since established verbal agreements with some bigger-name attractions.
During the early Alpha phase which kicked off back in 2012, Kickit With worked with Engine-Earz Experiment at Boomtown Festival, capturing this footage in the process.
To date, the platform has streamed two thousand live shows, each of which was restricted to less than one hundred viewers, given the main purpose was to garner feedback.
How it works
As noted already, Kickit With removes the hassle from the performer’s perspective, by providing not only the platform, but also all the equipment. The first obvious question this raises is how can they grow this – the costs involved with streaming multiple shows from a myriad of locations must surely make this a difficult model to scale? Well, as it transpires, they don’t actually use their own equipment. They tap a partnership with an experienced freelance camera crew.
“They use their own cranes, camera ‘helicopters’ and ultra-high definition cameras,” says Choudhry. “We have a tier structure in place which helps us to distinguish the size of the show, and we can achieve this through pre-ticket sales information.”
In a nutshell, all the top-tier shows – i.e. the most popular ones – will qualify for this freelance film crew. Smaller artists, meanwhile, will have to acquire a wireless-streaming device from Teradek, a company Kickit With is currently in “advanced” negotiations with. Once an artist has generated enough revenue through Kickit With to cover the costs of a Teradek device, they’re provided with one for free. An artist will have to use their own camera, however.
“The reason for this was to employ a ‘qualifying’ structure for our smaller artists as well as the more established artists,” explains Choudhry. “Our agreement with Teradek will be to provide devices branded ‘Kickit With’, and not Teradek.”
So there’s no up-front costs for the artists. Which means the money, obviously, comes from the at-home ‘gig-goer’.
This isn’t subscription-based though. It works just as though you were going to a show, which means you pay in advance (or ‘at the door’), and you can also pay to view a video afterwards on-demand. There’s no set entry fee per se, as the artist ultimately has full control over the pricing structure. Yes, if they plump for ‘free’, there will be ads.
There’s actually two separate portals at play here. The fans’ side is at kickitwith.com, while the artists’ side is at kickwith.us, a platform that provides a dashboard and all the tools for setting up a show, not to mention analytics that serve up real-time data of how sales are going.
From the user’s perspective, they create an account and add some funds to it, from which they can dip in to whenever a gig they wish to see comes up. It’s worth noting that in this shot, these prices are for illustrative purposes – how much bang you get for your buck will depend on how much each artist charges.
Who organizes what?
In terms of who takes on the role of promotions, Kickit With will be actively encouraging the artists themselves to take this up.
“Through experience, we have found that no matter what the popularity of an artist is, they have a dedicated fan base on the Internet,” says Choudhry. “Artists have loyal and close-knit communities through social media, therefore we provide tools which they can use to share their shows on these platforms. We feel the marketing is best coming from an artist, as opposed to us.”
For me, however, the real value in something like this should see the fans taking on the role of chief instigators. Just as we saw with Songkick’s Detour platform, where fans band together to get artists to play in their ‘hood, it would make sense for Kickit With to allow fans to request a gig – this could be direct from a singer-songwriter’s living room, or from an already-arranged venue that had limited ticket-availability. Essentially, fans pay up-front to convince an artist to perform.
As it happens, Choudhry says this is something they’re considering for the future. “It’s one of many exciting developments we have scheduled,” he says.
Lay of the land
Then there’s StageIt, one of Midemlab’s winners back in 2013, which is similar in concept but ultimately different. On StageIt, artists generally perform live directly from their laptop – nothing is recorded or archived either. Kickit With is going for the full spectrum of live shows though, admittedly, it is still very early days for them and many hurdles remain.
For instance, why wouldn’t a band just club together, buy their own half-decent camera and mics, and stream through YouTube?
“Following our market research and continued conversations with artist managers, we found a common trend, that the live music sector has proven to be the most lucrative revenue stream for their artists,” says Choudhry. “There’s a prospect here of having a service that can stream their live shows, one which doesn’t rely on revenue generated from adverts. The latter is the only source of revenue when using services such as YouTube and Justin TV.”
So what Kickit With is hoping to offer, is a fully-fledged streaming and e-commerce platform. A digital auditorium, replete with ticket desk, in the cloud. That only leaves the problem of how to stream a Jack Daniels and Coke, but I digress.
Kickit With has partnered with TransferWise to handle payouts to the various content providers around the world. And for the actual streams, Choudhry says they’ve been working behind the scenes to get the technology up to standard.
“We have developed a unique system which can match, if not exceed, the video quality of all the modern streaming technologies such as adaptive bit-rate streaming, and HTTP live streaming from multiple camera sources,” he says. “This system has been developed completely in-house by Kickit With’s developers.”
Kickit With is targeting bands and artists of all sizes, and it’s easy to see why smaller artists would be willing to use this platform to gain more exposure – be it from their bedroom, pub or street corner. But for bigger acts, well, there are plenty of much, much bigger broadcasters already operating within the music industry – so why would representatives of major acts choose this, over targeting MTV, Yahoo, or the myriad of other platforms that have much greater reach? It’s a fair question in my view, and only time will tell how many actual big-name bands and performers sign up.
Kickit With is a self-funded venture, using funds that Choudhry acquired after selling a previous company, as well as from a government-backed startup loan scheme. The startup will be pushing the full set of features live on January 20.