The Times They Are A Changin’ (Still)

If there’s been a single dominant theme in this column over the years, it’s been change: the rate of change (fast and getting faster), the impact of change (technical innovation fueling business upheaval and driving production and workflow overhaul), the benefits of change (lower cost, high-quality gear), the direction of change (digital everything, networked together).
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FRANK WELLS
fwells@nbmedia.com
If there’s been a single dominant theme in this column over the years, it’s been change: the rate of change (fast and getting faster), the impact of change (technical innovation fueling business upheaval and driving production and workflow overhaul), the benefits of change (lower cost, high-quality gear), the direction of change (digital everything, networked together).

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While we’ve chronicled the negative impacts of change on our reader’s lives (plunging budgets, increased competition, fading business models), we’ve also kept an eye out for success stories, for proof that talented, clever people can find a way to keep working and even excel in spite of, or perhaps because of, change. That’s the hallmark of a Pro Sound News story, actually: the profile of one example of success born of perseverance, insight, talent, tools and maybe a little luck.

Sometimes, even folks who’ve been along for the whole ride can give an example of a way forward. A case in point is the Grateful Dead, which wrapped its farewell tour celebrating 50 years as a band with a five-night pay-per-view (PPV) live event (granted, the credit for the innovation and business model should go to the event production company, Live Alliance—livealliance.tv). Cited as “officially the largest syndication of a live music event in history” by Live Alliance, the tally was 400,000-plus cable/ satellite subscriptions and online streams noted just after the concerts, with the numbers then expected to rise with Video-On-Demand through several more days of availability via satellite and cable.

In 1999, a Backstreet Boys concert generated 160,000 PPV buys—the previous record holder. Live Alliance put together a coalition of media companies to pull off the record- breaking achievement, including DirecTV, Dish Network, iNDEMAND, Vubiquity, Bell Canada, Rogers Canada, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and YouTube (for its first-ever paid music-stream event). Thus, the event was available on most any web-connected media device, worldwide, in what Live Alliance dubbed “360 distribution.” The actual number of viewers was higher than the subscriber count, of course, once you allow for listening/viewing parties and other multi-viewer usage.

While there will be some old-school physical media follow-up, no doubt, the magnitude of the live and on-demand views is staggering. Not just any act can repeat this performance, but it’s heartening to see successful innovation, nonetheless.

Speaking of change, this is my last issue with Pro Sound News. It’s been a fabulous 15-year ride, but the time has come for version 6.0 of my career.

As for Pro Sound News, it’ll be in good hands and filled with familiar faces and bylines. The NewBay Media Pro Audio and A/V Group team is made up of individuals that I’ve been proud to call colleagues and that I will always call friends. That group includes Clive Young, who’s been here longer than I have and is the anchor of the magazine; Strother Bullins, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working productively with in various capacities since the late nineties; Steve Harvey, who is an utterly reliable content-creating machine, and a major factor in any success I’ve had in publishing; and Tom Kenny, once a competitor, more recently a partner and always a comrade in the endeavor to make this a better industry. Behind the scenes is a crack production team made up of some of the finest people I know; you benefit from their hard work every month and they make the rest of us look good.

As for me, I’m not leaving pro audio, so for those of you with whom I cross paths regularly; I’ll see you soon, wearing one of a few new hats.