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Now In 3D: Live Shows And Backward Thinking

image from singularityhub.com This weekend, The Guardian posed the question, “Can 3D technology keep the music industry alive?” Of course not. 3D films can barely keep the film industry alive.  The very industry they’re supposed to be rescuing in the first place. Whatever backward thinking is fueling this initiative needs to be sorted out. Basically, in searching for more ‘yet to be tapped’ revenue streams that can’t be siphoned off by file-sharing, the record and music industries are looking to release more concerts in 3D.

In the film world, the reason that studios are eager to embrace 3D movies is because they need to get more people out of their living rooms and back into theaters; the backbone of their marketing paradigm. The trouble is that the fidelity of at home theater systems and expansive, higher-quality TVs have improved to the point where it’s causing more people to watch movies from their sofa.  It’s still inconvenient for people to drag themselves to the theater, at a set-time, and shell out high ticket prices for the experience of sitting next to a bunch of strangers. 

In the case of Avatar-3D, people went out in droves to see the film, in part, because the event of seeing the movie and being able to talk about it on Monday—that wasn’t something that people could replicate at home. Since movie theaters can’t make the shows they flog more convenient to attend; they are left running in a never-ending fidelity race.  Bigger screens, more comfortable chairs, food services, and whatever else they can dream up, this is how theaters are trying to beat the experience and convenience of watching a movie at home.

Concerts In 3D

Now, the fidelity of a live concert verses that of one being aired in 3D are two different things.  Live concerts aren’t convenient. But, the event of seeing an artist performing in the flesh, the sea of bodies, and screaming the words to your favorite songs at the top of your lungs—that can’t be replicated at home or anywhere else for that matter. The reasons why concertgoers shell out the money for the show are ones that don’t transfer over to the 3D screening in a theater. Not all of the people in attendance at concerts enjoy these aspects. However, do they not enjoy them so much that they would go to the theater?

Maybe for the young and older generations, but teenagers and mid-tier adults are either going or they aren’t. As well, there’s the issue of those who wanted to see the show, but couldn’t. Either due to lack of funds, access to tickets, or other plans, they weren’t able to attend. Would they consider the viewing the concert in 3D as a supplement for the real thing?  It’s possible.  Yet, this thinking only catalyzes the same problems that are plaguing the touring industry right now, making them more prevalent. Only the biggest acts, with the largest audience could hope to afford the production costs of a 3D film, for the meantime, and they’re the only ones who could expect a modest turn-out. The same fledgling rock idols and divas, whom are already burning up the road, now in a theater.

The record industry can’t make the abundant more scarce. Besides, humans, by nature, are an ungrateful species. Seeing your favorite artists is different every time. Several acts may duplicate the set and song segways from night to night, but the ones worth seeing, keep the show changed up for the fans that follow them from city to city. If you go to the theater, it will be the same show, and even if it’s different, the novelty of 3D will have likely worn off. That’s not to mention the fact that, while the showing may be cheaper than the concert itself, in terms of a film, 3D is still costly in the theater. This isn’t innovation as much as it is throwing money at the problem. Sure, these films, if done right and the logistics timed perfectly, could prove to be a formidable income stream. But, isn’t it about time that the record industry spent that money on new talent, rather than trying to skim the cream of the same acts that they have been milking for decades now?

The Fidelity Belly

Both theaters and 3D concerts fall into what technology writer Kevin Manley calls ‘the fidelity belly.’ When a product or service possesses so little of either convenience or fidelity that consumers are no longer motivated to act, they’ve fallen into the fidelity belly—where people are no longer excited about them.

According to Manley, this place in the market is “the no-man’s-land of consumer experience.” After nearly two decades of writing about the technology sector he began to notice that products or services that only offered so-so fidelity, and were only somewhat convenient, didn’t catch on. Consumers are either willing to make a trade-off between the high-fidelity experience of seeing an artist play live or they’re willing to suffice with the super-convenience of buying the single or watching a few clips on YouTube. It’s rare that will they ever take interest in a product that attempts to full-fill the two sides of the trade-off equation at once.

This is the main problem with concerts in 3D, neither the convenience nor fidelity is good enough to attract a mass-market audience. First, the showing isn’t more convenient than the actual live concert. Unless, of course, the event is overseas or half-way across the country. Then, there’s an argument. Though, is the fidelity of the experience worth clamoring over? It’s not better than show itself, because 3D is a different type of experience. Therefore, a great live show doesn’t mean said artist would create a compelling 3D film. Lady Gaga might cross-over. Nickelback and Rascal Flatts wouldn’t. Metallica is just a matter of time.

Once again, though, the talk of saving the record and music industries revolves around propping up acts and institutions that really aren’t in need of being saved. The Black Eyed Peas, in a 3D tour documentary, filmed by James Cameron.  Great.  Now, think of the projects or tech-companies that money could be used to finance—that might actually address some of the technological and societal shifts that are underpinning the profitability of the record industry. 3D concerts fall into the same fidelity belly as CDs.  The technology won’t save the film or record industry, they’ll still have to answer to the changing of tides or be drown out.

Read On: Can 3D technology keep the music industry alive?


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