Live-streaming goes mainstream at music festivals

Associated Press Modified: October 11, 2012 at 8:46 am •  Published: October 11, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Music festivals are booming, and so is one alternative to paying soaring ticket prices to spend a long weekend packed among 50,000 or more typically sweaty concertgoers: watching the performances online for free.

At the Austin City Limits Music Festival, about a third of the nearly 130 bands on a lineup that includes the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Black Keys and Jack White will have their sets broadcast on YouTube. That's a record for the three-day festival that starts Friday. Just six years ago organizers began webcasting with a single feed and struggled to persuade artists to even participate.

The same was once true at trendsetters like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. But as Austin City Limits marks the unofficial end of the big-festival calendar in the U.S. for 2012, this year might also go down as the year when live-streams started crossing into mainstream.

Take the year's most talked-about performance: Tupac Shakur rising from the dead as a hologram at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in a resurrection that was live-streamed from the California desert and talked about around the world.

The rock band Delta Spirit will be among the first acts up on Austin City Limit's YouTube channel.

"It's never going to equal seeing it live. But it's cool that it engages more people," Delta Spirit lead singer Matt Vasquez said. "We're a generation of content, aren't we? We love to fill up our days with as little space as possible."

Promoters aren't trying to sell live-streaming as a substitute for the you-had-to-be-there experience of concerts. Especially since, in many cases, you still very much have to be there to catch some of the biggest headliners: Neil Young & Crazy Horse and Weezer are among the performers in Austin this weekend whose sets won't be broadcast on the Web.

Nor do live-steams pose any threat to attendance or profits. Three-day passes for Austin City Limits this year ran for $200 and sold out within an hour of the day the full lineup was announced.

But festival live-streaming has come a long way in a short time, even by technology standards. Organizers of the country's biggest music festivals declined to reveal the size of their online audiences. But at C3 Presents, which puts on Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits, the number of live-stream viewers has climbed into the "high millions," said Courtney Trucksess, director of sponsorship.