There was an interesting article in FACT last week about a club in Berlin starting to trial GTI (Geo Track Identifier) that allows rights organisations to get a better idea of what DJ’s are playing in the club and then distribute rights to producers whose tracks are being played.
This got me thinking about the role of beacon technology in the live music scene.
Here at Movement we’ve been playing around with beacons (probably like any other interactive agency worth their salt) since Apple’s priortisation of them in iOS 7. They represent a real move from Apple and Google (Beacons are supported on Android from v4.3) towards a more seamlessly connected world. Beacon’s 101 is this; they’re small, relatively inexpensive objects that transmit signals via Bluetooth Low Energy technology. These signals can be picked up by apps configured to look out for them and can respond in a number of different ways, such as opening loading pages, playing videos, emitting sounds etc. Smartphones can also be configured so they’re the ones transmitting the signals, ready to be picked up by other smartphones within range but let’s park that for the moment and focus on the beacons themselves.
Naturally there’s a fear that beacons will resurrect the intrusive Bluetooth days of old, appearing as a slicker and more attractive way of encouraging consumers to purchase goods. The result of this handy convenience is that sales go up, product familiarity increases and brand loyalty then ensues. Or so the story goes. A lot of what this thinking does, however, is limit the possibility of what this technology offers; the chance to get hyper-relevant messages and content to people when they’re likely to be filled with desire, outside of the relationship of forcing a direct conversion within a retail scenario. There’s a great example of beacons being used to this effect by The Museum of Modern Art in New York which uses audio clips and gets people to navigate the virtual mines without setting them off. It works because it’s contextual and augments the physical environment with the help of our ubiquitous smartphones.
Getting back to beacons and live music… Imagine a scenario where a promoter, artist, or club could place beacons in their venue/ site and transmit content such as set lists, exclusive mixes, live sets or videos exclusively for those that attend. It would, of course rely on an app to receive the signals being transmitted but my guess is that a good proportion of those attending live music events today have at least one dedicated music app such as Spotify or Soundcloud on their smartphone ready to be pinged.
Beacons also have the potential to become digital notice boards allowing interaction within certain environments. Imagine navigating a festival, going from stage to stage and being able to collect sets from the acts you see (and maybe those that you missed because of your annoying mate who really wanted to see Example). Maybe people upload videos of themselves singing all the songs you missed for you to enjoy when you get to the stage. Maybe a festival sponsor could incentivise people doing this in return for something good, like a drink.
Lots of people are far too quick to condemn the music industry and blame digital for killing traditional music sales. If I had a pound for every time I’d heard “you can’t make any money from record sales nowadays” I’d genuinely have about £40 by now. Like any disruption to an industry, it’s simply forcing people to think about new ways of doing things, and look for new relationships between technology and art, encouraging creativity through necessity and vice versa. I think beacons can help bridge the gap between live music and the non-live music scenarios. I, for one, would be interested in listening back to events that I’ve attended effortlessly broadcast to my smartphone without having to do a thing. See it as a reward for buying a ticket in the first place. I dare say this would make me more inclined to go to the venue, festival, promoter’s event again given the desire was there to attend in the first place. Jesus I might even buy the recorded material using real money.
If Spotify, Soundcloud and the other big app players with large user bases tie up with artists and promoters to get venues to install beacons, there could be an interesting content distribution and interactive experience model to explore that rewards those who pay to experience live music.