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Mogwai’s On Ustream, And You Should Be, Too

watchersDid any of you follow the whole Old Spice Man nuttiness that went down a few weeks ago? Old Spice used the online popularity of their recent commercials to stage a social media blitz. They invited users from all the major social networks on the web to ask questions to the Old Spice Man, and he answered them via YouTube videos.

The unique thing about the Old Spice Man videos was the speed with which they were released. Someone asked a question on Twitter, and minutes later, a hilarious video response was up on YouTube. Social media experts say this campaign was so successful because there is an ever-growing demand for live and real-time video online.

What Does This Have To Do With Music?

We’ve finally hit that point where our computers and internet connections are fast enough for live streaming video to actually be successful. And people love it. The reality and the intimacy of this type of connection – not just with friends, but with brands and celebrities and political figures – is slated to be the next big thing. Which is why it’s time for musicians to get on board.

And yes, we’ve seen it before. Big media companies and businesses have been hosting live feeds of concerts online since 1996 (Free Tibet!), and DJs have been webcasting jams and shows on video streaming platforms for a while. But now the time is ripe for independent artists hosting live video events, DIY style. No “And now, the iPad brings you Bon Jovi!” brand sponsorship necessary.

Success Stories

mogwaiJust today, Mogwai hosted a live online screening of their new concert film, Burning, followed by a live Q&A with members of the band and the film’s director. Several thousand fans tuned in and chatted about the awesomeness of the event as it was streaming.

By using Ustream, Mogwai was also able to have the screening hosted on 45 different websites and blogs, all of whom – of course – helped them promote the event like crazy. The screening took place to support the launch of Mogwai’s upcoming live album, Special Moves. On their website, the album can now be purchased along with the film, in digital or physical format. The entire promotion was set up by the band’s own label, Rock Action Records. Again, no brand support necessary.

Putting together a live, hopefully interactive media event isn’t simple, of course, and there are big companies out there to do it for musicians. Marc Scarpa, who specializes in organizing live streaming concert events, recently told CNN about the marketing potential inherent in such a broadcast:

“While [fans] are watching they can buy songs, merchandise. They can buy tickets to see that band at another date on their tour. It’s not just about broadcasting a live concert, but making the tour, the album, the videos all part of a cohesive strategy for the band and the audience.”

But You Can Do It Yourself

Lucky for independent artists, the technology is simple, the promotion can be done independently, and the audience is watching. Services like Ustream and Livestream are free (or premium), and bands have been having success with not just concerts, but jams, interviews, live chats, and simply having fun parties where they can hang out online with their fans.

spycamThere’s only two major issues that must be addressed if you’re going to use webcasting to successfully promote an album:

  1. Hype the webcast! Mogwai did a great job of this by working with music blogs, who were thrilled to promote the event. Amanda Palmer has success with her webcasts by running an active blog which counts down to the live events she hosts.
  2. Test your equipment! It’s still a reality of webcasting: anything that can go wrong, will. So set up well in advance, and test your cameras, test your mics, test your cables, instruments, and internet connection, because you’re still playing to a zero-attention-span audience, and technical glitches will lose watchers.

The business of being a music lover has always been as much about voyeurism as it is about listening, which is why live video is becoming so successful. And while bands with an existing audience are going to get more traffic than unknown up-and-comers, the fact is that any talented musician can start building an audience just on the strength of the human impulse to watch. While prerecorded videos are a dime a dozen, the power and energy and weird magnetism of live is where it’s at in terms of promoting music today.

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