While the future of the music industry may not be in selling albums, there is still hope for the concert side of the business. Danny Socolof and Jeff Henshaw think they can bring concerts onto the Web with their startup DeepRockDrive. Socolof is a veteran music marketer and Henshaw hails from Microsoft, where he was on the Xbox team. With DeepRockDrive, they want to film concerts in their high-tech Las Vegas soundstage, broadcast them live over the Web, and sell tickets for $6.99 each, splitting the proceeds with the musicians.
The startup—which has raised $3 million in angel funding from Socolof, Henshaw, David Goldberg (founder of Launch Media and the first GM of Yahoo Music), Bill Curbishley (manager of The Who and Robert Plant), and the Becker Family (Brian Becker is the former CEO of Live Nation)—has already quietly recorded and broadcast 45 shows since last September. That was its beta period. Now, on Tuesday, it will be launching itself in a more public fashion with a concert coinciding with the Consumer Electronics Show (which is taking place in Las Vegas next week). It plans on filming more than 100 shows in 2008, plus free promotional shows every Friday.
Here is how it works. The band plays in the soundstage (with or without a live audience). The shows are filmed with five Sony HD cameras, and each Web viewer can pick which camera angle he or she wants to watch. The audience can also vote on the order of the songs on the set list or make their own song requests. They can also send in messages during the show that the band sees on large screens surrounding the stage. Prior to shows (DeepRockDrive calls them socialcasts), bands try to drum up support with digital posters on their Websites and MySpace pages that fans can take and put on their own Web pages. On DeepRockDrive, fans can petition for concerts from their favorite bands, like this one for Flight of the Conchords. If the shows get enough votes, it makes it easier for the bands to decide to fly to Las Vegas to record the show.
While the experience of watching a live show on your computer screen will never match actually being at a live concert, DeepRockDrive is offering a distributed fan base an opportunity to watch a show from bands that might never otherwise come to their towns. For instance, Australian rocker Shannon Noll is going to do a DeepRockDrive concert aimed at expat Australian fans in the U.S. Declares Socolof:
The future of the music business will be hundreds of thousands of artists that have fan bases of between 5,000 to 100,000, not 50 artists that have one million or more.
Socolof is also talking to music labels (both indies and the majors) about possible joint ventures. Traditionally, labels did not have much to do with the concert side of the business, but that is changing. Predicts Socolof:
In the old world, yes, concerts were separate from the labels. In the new world, there will be a different approach in the partnership between labels and their artists. Labels will need to contribute more to the success of their artists.
Maybe. I don’t think the artists want to start splitting concert fees with the labels. Socolof is also not opposed to rewarding fans who turn out to be the biggest promoters of shows, although there is no mechanism yet for them to be rewarded. (Free tickets for anyone who generates a certain amount of sales wouldn’t be a bad start. Flying the biggest fans/promoters in for the show would be even better).
DeepRockDive is starting small. Its socialcasts can support only a few thousand simultaneous viewers right now. That will grow to tens of thousands in a few months. “Our goal is a million front row seats,” says Socolof. Hey, the guy is a music promoter.
Here is an archived video of a band called Socratic. It starts off slow, but you get a sense of what the performance space looks like with large screens filled with live messages from the Web audience: