We’ve just received word of a promising-looking new online music outfit out of Australia whose main premise is to help bands sell tickets to online shows, which they can then webcast using their own equipment to fans worldwide, or just in specific regions. PlayFi is a fairly standard online music store that lets fans set prices for MP3s and sell them while giving 30 percent to PlayFi, which is the standard deal.
We’ve seen plenty of online music stores, as you probably have too. PlayFi’s works pretty well, with a clean design and the ability to preview tracks (again, standard). What interests us more about this service is the live online music aspect. Although live music and online music are the two most powerful trends in the music industry, delivering both simultaneously in the form of a live online concert has proven to be, as they say down under, a “sticky wicket.” The main problem is that any online live music service has to fight so hard for its right to party, so to speak, because it has to please a multitude of rights-holders — artists, labels, publishers, managers, venues, promoters, tour managers, videographers, sound guys, etc.
PlayFi cuts through all that clutter rather neatly, by putting the band themselves, rather than the venue or some other entity, in charge. They decide to use PlayFi, secure the rights, make sure everyone’s happy, hire their own videographer and sound guy (or handle that themselves), and then just use PlayFi to sell tickets and stream the video.
Yes, the bands (or their people) are responsible for streaming the video and audio from a live venue or practice space (PlayFi recommends at least 10Mbps upstream on a wired connection). PlayFi recommends hiring a pro A/V geek to ensure high quality, so that fans enjoy the show and recommend the next one to their friends. The company says it can recommend videographers in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, in case they don’t know someone with that skill set.
PlayFi also knows that splitting the revenue from these tickets will still be a bit sticky from a rights perspective.
“The distribution system makes it possible to split revenue between band members, the venue, videographers and anyone else who has entered into a revenue sharing arrangement with the performer,” according to the website.
For fans, using PlayFi is simply a matter of finding out about a show, and committing to buy a ticket. However, they are not charged until after the show. Audio and video quality can vary, depending on the band’s equipment and A/V expertise, because they can use anything from a webcam with a tinny-sounding built-in mono mic to a high-definition 1080p video feed with stereo condenser mics.
Regardless of quality, fans can chat with each other using an included live chat feature, which even has a system for “virtual applause.” Fans can also request songs and tip the artist above the cost of the ticket (which can be free). They can also buy the currently-playing song, or band merchandise — T-shirts and the like.
After the show, artists can sell the video right alongside their music in the PlayFi downloads store, giving them a new income stream, as well as providing fans with a way to catch the shows they’ve missed. Or, if they want, bands can keep the video themselves and upload it to YouTube to give away for free (i.e. they keep the rights).
Of course, streaming high-quality audio and video can be expensive, and PlayFi is not giving that away (see membership plans). Artists can start with a free account, but that comes with zero hours of live video; plans range all the way up to $495 per month, which comes with 3,000 viewer hours.