All you need is broadband and speakers to recreate the concert experience at home. Priyanka Joshi on the latest in live music.
Pankaj Prakash, a 17-year-old student of New Delhi’s Sri Venkateswara College, claims to have attended over 20 rock and pop music concerts. But the last of these concerts that Prakash attended had no swaying crowds, his feet were not stamped upon, he did not have to leave his car parked safely at some friend’s place nor did he have to pay a bomb for the tickets. “I merely had to ensure that my broadband connection was paid for and the laptop was connected to good speakers when I logged on to Shankar Mahadevan’s webcert,” says Prakash. Conceptualised by Artistaloud.com, a unit of Hungama Digital that promotes original and unreleased music, live web concerts or “webcerts” have become the new craze among live gig enthusiasts.
All users have to do is log on to Artistaloud.com, and watch. The site has music from more than 155 artists who have contributed over 500 songs. Artistaloud.com began in June 2010 as an experimental platform to highlight unreleased music, but over the past year and a half it has become a channel connecting artists directly with fans.
The business model is simple. Hungama gets online sponsors to foot the artists’ fees (which is reportedly less than what they charge for a live show); it has also roped in technology partners like Nokia who have built a mobile application to stream webcerts live to owners of Nokia devices. Hungama also publicises the webcert over social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc) and through SMSes. The artists often perform in a studio or a small venue with a single camera and this footage is streamed live. "Production-wise, we keep the setup simple. Of course, we do not compromise with the sound and lighting equipment but we manage with fewer cameras to keep costs under check,” explains Sidhartha Roy, COO (consumer business) of Hungama.com.
With every live web event, Soumini Paul, general manager of Artistaloud.com, claims she learns a little more about her digital audience. The first webcert, held at Xtreme Sports Bar in Mumbai with artists such as Shibani Kashyap, saw just 10,000 browsers log in. But as many as 35,000 people logged in to hear Himesh Reshammiya online on September 29.
“The webcert is a combination of brand-building, artist promotions, generating a digital following for the artist and giving users a concert-like music experience,” Paul explains.
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The platform has become a hit among musicians too. Indie artists, Indian music groups and rock bands are now queuing up to feature in forthcoming webcerts.
Earlier this year, when Bangalore-based Swarathma, one of the most talked-about bands today in the music circuit, sang live on ArtistAloud, Swarnali Pai, an ardent fan of the band, sat mesmerised in front of her laptop along with 19,000 others. “The best part was that the band was taking requests and feedback via their Facebook and Twitter feeds, operated by bassist Jishnu Dasgupta during the gig. It was so much more fun than a live show,” she points out. For fans like Pai, every time the band quoted Twitter comments as a part of their interaction with the audience, it added to the frenzy.
Within minutes, Swarathma received little over 300 tweets — some e-applauding the band and others making song requests — turning the platform interactive in the true sense. Dasgupta of Swarathma notes, “We believe in engaging our audiences both on and off stage, and the webcert gives us an awesome chance to do both at the same time.”
Shibani Kashyap, the first singer on ArtistAloud’s webcert, says, “It was an out-of-the-box idea, and an experience that felt really ‘different’, for lack of a better word. You knew you had over 20,000 live fans on the other side of the monitor screens and yet none that you could see. It took a few minutes to get used to but the interactivity felt awesome.” She adds that webcerts are more of “an emotional fulfillment for an artist than a purely remunerative medium,” and hopes that as mobile and Internet expand the audience and the artists are benefitted.
The recent Himesh Reshammiya webcert was streamed live not just on ArtistAloud but also on Facebook, YouTube, Dailymotion and the mobile platform. The singer acknowledges, “It’s so cool to perform live on web and be able to reach thousands of people via the Internet. It’s a new experience performing for the webcert as one can interact with audiences on a real-time basis even though they are not in front of you.”
After 12 successful webcerts, Paul admits that there’s such thing as complacency when it comes to online entertainment. “All the webcerts that we have done till now tell us that we cannot afford to bank on the belief that just because we did it once, it will go the same way the next time. Also, one of the best ways to engage with consumers is to constantly evolve and add new elements or artists that they can connect with,” she says.