HOLLYWOOD, CA—MTV may have moved away from its original focus, but anyone looking for a fix of music television has any number of options available to them these days. At LiveTV:LA, a new conference established by the Sports Video Group (SVG) and TVNewsCheck together with Variety and Variety 411 magazines, the “Sound+Vision: Perspectives in Live Music TV” panel discussed some of the technical challenges as well as the business opportunities associated with the production and distribution of music and video.
Sharing their insights at the Sound+Vision: Perspectives in Live Music TV panel were (l-r): Peter Kimball, hank Neuberger, Stacey Foster, Salli Frattini, Michael Fellner and Roger Charlesworth. With a relatively finite number of award shows and major sports finals being broadcast, how is a mobile production company to find new business? As Peter Kimball, senior account manager, entertainment, NEP Broadcasting, noted, “The truck that does the Chicago Cubs on Sunday can do a music festival the next day, because we use the same technology.”
Music festivals have become a significant market for NEP since 2006, according to Kimball, with the company covering about 1,000 bands per summer, starting around April. The company annually covers some of the largest festivals in the country, including Outside Lands and Austin City Limits.
One NEP A unit can handle up to six stages at a festival, he said. That density was made possible by the tsunami of 2011, which disrupted tape production in Asia. The broadcast production workflow has since embraced hard drives, eliminating bulky tape equipment. NEP’s Trio Video division has resolved another technical challenge, operating cameras at 23.98 fps for the cinematic look while also being able to transmit at 1080p, he said.
Hank Neuberger, president of Springboard Productions, has been delivering live music, primarily online, for many years. “I have found a wonderful opportunity to produce music festival live streams,” he said, including Coachella, Stagecoach, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and Outside Lands. “We also deliver a number of festivals to cable television; we’ll be doing at least three in 2015 for AXS-TV.”
As Neuberger noted, “Music thrives online. It’s not doing so well on broadcast television.” The metrics bear this out. At Coachella, Springboard, using equipment packages developed with NEP, covers six stages, 12 hours a day, and generates three simultaneous live streams with overnight replay—a total of some 200 hours of programming. The average viewer watches for over 40 minutes, and some for up to an hour, he reported, compared to the more typical web engagement of seven to eight minutes.
Some shows, such as Saturday Night Live, have become well known for their live music. SNL does its best to present the artist in the best-possible light, such as when it recently allowed Prince to play a single eight-minute medley instead of the usual two four-minute songs, a first for the show. But as Stacey Foster, the show’s co-producer, reported, there sometimes have to be compromises. “Some artists only want 2.0, while some are fine with 5.1,” he said. However, he said, “Two years ago, 30 percent of what was broadcast could be streamed. Now it’s almost 100 percent.”
There are challenges with clearances, agreed Neuberger. “There are lots of stakeholders,” he said, adding, “There are lots of landmines.” Often, he continued, Springboard is asked to carve out separate content for video-on-demand presentation. There are different rights and different payments depending upon the distribution medium, he said.
“It’s all about on-demand,” according to Salli Frattini, president and executive producer for Sunset Lane Entertainment. Frattini spent 20 years at MTV, presenting shows such as the VMAs, before starting her own company and producing one of the first music streams via YouTube. There is a move toward short-form content, she said, with festivals often putting out individual songs rather than full performances. The medium— specifically, the lack of universal broadband access—also affects production, she noted, with content creators using less fast cuts and relying more on close-ups.
The visual presentation of EDM shows, which have a huge audience, can be a challenge, said Neuberger. EDM artists are relatively static and typically don’t want to be seen. “We shoot the audience 50 percent of the time, versus a rock band, which is 5 percent audience,” he said.
There has been a decline in live music for DVD, according to Michael Fellner, owner of Fellpro, an independent production company specializing in music and awards shows. But by jumping into an artist’s tour for a week, say, with anything up to 40 cameras, multiple revenue streams may subsequently be generated by editing and releasing content to different platforms, such as television, cable or theaters, he said.
The type of content and the distribution platform are largely driven by demographics, said Fellner. The younger audience prefers streaming, while an older audience is more likely to watch something like a Jay-Z and Beyoncé concert on HBO.
As Neuberger also pointed out, handheld device use is increasing every year. “Forty to 50 percent are watching on mobile,” he said.
Sunset Lane Entertainment