Monday, May 30, 2011

Live Music's Turn

I came across a new live music venue yesterday. It is the size of a living room, has the acoustics of Carnegie Hall, and can be seen by million of viewers (if not more). This location, TRI Studios, has been debuted by Bob Weir from The Greatful Dead. I've been told by a family member that there are more studio's like TRI around and there will be to come, but either way, the model has serious potential.

Traditional live concerts with finite seating capacity and old cost structures rely on cheap energy that allow consumers to travel long distances to see their favorite performer or group. Now, for a fraction of the price, music patrons can watch these live events from the comfort of their own home or office. Home audio and visual technology creates an even better experience. Listening to music on a computer or TV with HDTV or 3-D technology makes the whole live feed concert equation viable.

From an investors point of view, TRI has unlimited operating leverage built into its model. It seems as though the costs involved with putting on the show (booking the talent, operating the location, studio rental, data feed, etc.) will be incurred whether there is one subscriber or ten-million. Those are the kind of business models and numbers we like: each additional dollar in revenue is extremely high margin. Think about it, as the studio operator, how does 5 million $5 tickets sound vs. 20,000 $80 tickets? This setup means money will flow into the sector, most likely from big media starving for growth.

Everyone I talk to says live concerts will never go away, people want to experience the music and the atmosphere. Those people are probably right. Still, I think these live studio concert feeds have a chance of being a major disruptor. It hits on a few key macro themes: high energy prices, proliferation of high quality (cheap) home entertainment, and the growth of online video consumption. In 5 years will we see some of the worlds biggest acts going this route?