Will Live Streaming Stay Alive?
Music and technology are almost inseparable. Entire music collections can exist solely as Mp3s on computers. Music can be uploaded, streamed, downloaded, burned, or synced. It can be played anywhere with iPods and phones. While technology is required to enjoy recorded music, live performance has slipped its grasp.
Live performance is a tradition somewhat untouched by the growth of technology. It is pure and unadulterated sound that hasn’t been melted down and reproduced into an Mp3 or a YouTube clip. The only way to really appreciate the sound of live music is to attend a live show, but this is all about to change.
The second to last weekend of March marked an unprecedented merger between live performance and Internet technology in two different ways. First, UMFTV transmitted the entire Ultra Music Festival for free through Google’s new service, Google Play. Second, Bob Weir’s TRI Studios broadcast “The Bridge Session” a multi-media show and panel discussion. Both were groundbreaking events for the live-streaming experience.
On Friday, I attended an Ultra live-streaming party and joined hundreds of thousands of other EDM fans that watched the UMFTV webcast in their own homes for the first time. With 150,000 people already present in Miami, it could be one of the biggest live streaming events to date (the biggest being the royal wedding between William and Kate).
Of course, watching Ultra and actually BEING at Ultra are completely different. Live streaming has its advantages. There are no belligerent bros to worry about; security checks to get through, or lines to wait in. And you get a front row seat with an amazing view. Even with these advantages, streaming a live performance cannot replace it. The noise created by screaming fans and bad sound quality made the music difficult to enjoy and hard to decipher.
Enter Bob Weir and the Tamalpais Research Institute (TRI) Studios. The Grateful Dead Legend has dedicated the last few years of his life to improving the way we listen to music through the Internet. Weir understands the shortcomings of Internet streaming and wants to improve them. He built the studios in 2011 with live broadcasting in mind. He incorporated the best technology available for video and sound transmission. TRI Studios is ahead of the curve with technology that the Internet can’t even support yet. It produces video quality better than DVDs and audio that is better than television.
On Saturday, March 24, TRI Studios broadcast an unprecedented live-streaming endeavor. I realized as I was leaving my house that night, that I was headed to my second live-streaming party of the weekend. I had never been to one much less two within 24 hours. I was struck by the way technology had infiltrated my passion for live music without realizing it was happening. I was enticed by the promise of free music nonetheless.
TRI Studios streamed a multi-media webcast called “The Bridge Session” that was presented by Headcount.org. Hosted by Marc Brownstein, the benefit featured Bob Weir playing a two-hour set with members of The National and other various indie rock bands. During the set break was a 30-minute panel discussion that users on Facebook could submit questions and have them answered in real time. There were 50 unbelievably lucky audience members in the intimate and dim-lit studio, but; the only way for us normal people to attend was to stream it through Yahoo! Music. The webcast was made available around the country and for free.
It was a completely different experience than the Ultra Music Festival stream the night before. I saw Weir as I had never seen him, a 42-inch, high definition face standing right in front of me. I believed I was in his studio and he was in my friend’s living room playing just for us. If UMFTV had the same capability for, I would’ve believed I was in Miami if someone had told me.
The gap in technology between TRI Studios and other live streaming sites like UMFTV will fill as it becomes more available. Any streamed show, even on YouTube, will look and sound completely real. Streaming will become the closest thing to a live performance possible. If you can’t make the show or afford a ticket, watching on the Internet will be a viable option. But even with all this technology, live streaming will always fall second best.
Technology will never be able to duplicate one important part of live music. It is what keeps us coming back show after show and year after year. It is why most of us fell in love with music in the first place. The belligerent bros, the security lines, and packed venues are all worth it. The energy. The way music sounds as it enters your eardrum directly from an instrument. The feeling of dancing in a crowd of strangers and enjoying every second. The blurring of reality into fantasy as a musician transports you into their world. It is a high like no other and irreplaceable by the Internet. Even with the best technology available, there is nothing like buying the ticket and taking the ride.
See it for yourself: TRI Studio’s next webcast will be on April 17th showcasing Lucan Nelson & The Promise of the Real.