By Jim McCarthy Jan 18, 2010 0 comments

The Very Bright Future of the Live Entertainment Business

This site, Live 2.0, is devoted to bringing about the future which I believe is not only possible, but likely: the ascendancy of live entertainment as the leader in the entertainment industry overall.

How can such a thing be possible?

Value comes from relative supply and demand.  Over the last generation, the percentage of our lives that are “real” has dropped dramatically, and seeing something happening right in front of us has become the ultimate form of “cred.”  If someone was “there,” we bow to their experience.  If you were sitting at home watching on TV or monitoring developments on webcam, you’re an onlooker to someone else’s story.

Meanwhile, electronic (recorded, broadcast, or otherwise mediated) entertainment has gotten cheaper and easier to get.  When I was a teenager (not THAT long ago), getting the latest from Bruce Springsteen involved a trip to a store and the purchase of a piece of plastic (for about $35 in today’s dollars, by the way) and a trip back home to play it.

Today, I could have that for one third the price it was a generation ago (if I chose to pay at all…different topic) and seemingly could just pull it out of the ether itself within a few seconds.

Cheap, easy to get, ubiquitous.  It’s wonderful, but it doesn’t make me want to pay more for it.

Live entertainment, by contrast, is what people want when they get to have what they really want.  To be WITH the band, to be IN PERSON at Wicked, to HEAR Dane Cook live.  That’s the currency.  And as a result, the value capture in live entertainment has increased significantly, even discounting for inflation, in the last generation.

So the macro-economic conditions for live entertainment are excellent.  Probably the best they’ve been in a century.

But there’s a hitch.  The industry itself faces a choice:  to lead or to loaf.

The downstream tide we’re riding means that some mediocrity can continue to survive, although not necessarily in good health.  But if the industry is to seize the leadership opportunity, it can’t loaf.  It can’t just float along with the favorable tide.  It has to get better, and that means one thing:

Becoming audience-oriented.

First, last, always.

Although it’s slightly more complex than this, it comes down to putting the audience at the center of what you do, delivering a great experience, matching an interesting artistic vision to a group of patrons who want to be taken somewhere special, and always remembering that if you’re crass enough to charge people money to see your show, it’s FOR them.

When we launched this site a year ago, we were lucky enough to be able to launch it at the TED conference with a TED-U presentation.  A re-reading of that is below. It’s four minutes, and I think worth your time. Enjoy:

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