Rocketman is going with the stream.
Content Futura 2023 · Part 4 · A blog series · 16 weekly episodes — 1000 words/post (more or less) from 09/01/22–12/31/22 · For (almost) all players in the entertainment and media industry, streaming matters more than ever. The streaming revolution has been in full swing for a while already. But, at the same time, it has just begun. From now on, it might even matter more than ever before.
Today, I spend my early morning hours as part of the audience at Dodgers Stadium in LA, virtual attending Elton John’s final US concert while hanging out on my cozy sofa in Central Europe. Disney+ did fans like me the favor of providing a live stream of Elton John’s historical LA performance (pre-retirement, his last one ever on US territory), a follow-up to some of John’s most iconic, career-defining concerts in the same setting. What a great way to start the day. Elton was on fire! Awesome.
“So far, so good. What’s new here?” you might wonder. And, yes, absolutely: broadcasted live events have been part of our entertainment menu for decades — on TV, radio, and online or in-game — pay-per-view or being part of standard free TV programming. Nevertheless, IMHO we did see a relevant new element of entertainment streaming added this morning that is worth mentioning, so the industry should take notice of it more than of any brand-new innovation. That is the taken-for-grantedness of how this concert streaming integrated into a bigger marketing picture, got initiated, and eventually happened as such.
Landmark live shows indicating miles stone career events like Elton Johns 3-Night-In-A-Row-Dodgers Stadium gigs (November 17, 19, 20, 2022) have been a big thing in any musician’s career since the invention of Rock’n’Roll for good reasons. Over time, the corresponding appreciation for these shows resulted in associated product offerings, mainly released as follow-ups to the original event (like double Vinyl, DVDs, CDs, etc.)
As his company Rocket Entertainment called it, Elton John’s “LA takeover” took a different strategy to monetize the once-in-a-lifetime concert event. With a traditional industry practice of selling out the same mega-size venue consecutively (meant ca. 50K+ tickets sold each night for three nights), Rocket bolted together a super up-to-date streaming- and online-direct-sales strategy to monetize the Singer’s/Songwriter’s recording and merchandising rights.
Rocket Entertainment sold the right to Live-Stream the 3rd and forever final LA-Show of Elton John to Disney+ — including the entire show becoming part of the platform’s library offering. However, they didn’t try to sell the concert recording/broadcast itself as the main product. Instead, the stream itself was rather lowballed in terms of promotion by all parties involved — but promoted just enough to make its way into the awareness of those fans interested in Elton John and his music at heart to take notice. Hence to reach that part of the audience that is enthusiastic enough to literally buy into the actual offering that was provided by Rocket beyond the music: Local offerings across Los Angeles as well as extensive LA-Show-Merchandising, equally promoted and sold via Elton John’s Website internationally.
Hence, Elton John used the ability to access a global streaming opportunity at the best available quality in picture and sound to mainly promote his brand, music, and merchandise sales. Sure, Disney+ does pay for the broadcast and streaming rights, but the marketing focus is clearly beyond making the concert footage the center of what the artists want to sell beyond his music.
Sure: A songbook like that of Elton John is considered almost public domain — so many hits! Plus: his global Farwell Yellow Brick road offers only a few variables in terms of tracks on the playlist changed. (Indeed, the LA show tracklist this morning was pretty similar to the concert in Frankfurt/Main I attended in person spring of 2022). So, from the POV of a skeptic, the streamed live performance offered nothing new (at least if ignoring the historical context). And yes, one can see some devaluation here of the music itself, as it is not the music that is sold primarily but instead using the music as a vehicle to sell merchandise. But, while the second statement renders void the first one, both show how much the success of streaming has changed the monetization of live music events.
Elton John is undoubtedly one of many artists using the opportunities that streaming provides to sell his music and merchandise to his fanbase. But today, his “LA take over” stunt might have been another watershed moment in the history of live entertainment content becoming a streaming commodity. The differentiation between his key offerings today is the ability (opportunity) to pay (several) hundred Dollars / Euros to attend the live show itself on the one side and a radical discounted (almost: given away) streaming offering on the other side of the story. Together, both offerings support on-location sales and global online sales of related artist merchandise through the artists’ websites while maximizing fan engagement.
Sure, such a “macro” approach works best for household names like Elton John. But 1): it would not have been so easy even for a global music brand like him to create such a way to monetize on his creativity even five years ago as it is today (more competition on eye level within the streaming world like Disney+ against Netflix helps!) and 2): the growing customer base for streaming overall has already and continues to open more opportunities to follow such paths of the self-paced staging of ones own output/content up to the point where it will become a tangible commodity; just like — for example — sound storage mediums once have been.
That’s why the future will see almost any event/show/concert/play happening on any thinkable live platform, becoming accompanied by some form of live streaming / on-demand streaming. Thanks also to the necessary technology becoming part of almost every app/platform relevant out there. No matter how large or small the target audience, no matter how niche the fanbase is. Eventually, streaming will become a standard co-element of every live performance. Even if it means the USP will be that there is — “Extra! Extra!” :-) — no streaming for precisely that one respective show. (“No cameras in the audience that night!”)
Don’t you believe me? Can’t you see this happening (yet)? Well, think of all A-List on-stage talent that has yet to use streaming to leverage their career. Then do the numbers with all B-, C-, and D-level artists and all beyond such categories. Finally, think of the total market size. Still not convinced? Think how CDs changed from pricy High-End-Format for High-Fidelity audio to a daily giveaway glued to newspapers and magazines.
I, for one, am looking forward to joining you for the (live) stream of your favorite neighborhood artist soon.