Why EMI's Launch of Abbey Road Live is a Peek into the Future

EMI have announced the launch of Abbey Road Live, a service that records high quality audio and video footage of live concerts and produces take away CDs, DVDs and USB sticks for concert goers.  Though this may not be as big a headline grabbing story as MSN Music’s attempt to take on Spotify, it is illustrative of an arguably much more important trend. 


Forrester clients and other regular readers of this blog will know that we’ve spent much of this year developing our big idea about Media Meltdown and the associated series of research documents.  (For those not up to speed see this blog post and this report and this report.)  The overly boiled down summary is that traditional media companies are having to reinvent themselves as consumers’ willingness to pay for content nosedives.  Hence 360 deals etc.


But why I like this EMI announcement is that it isn’t just about revenue diversification, it’s about recognizing which of its assets consumers still attach core value to an building around that.  For the music industry, live is one are where consumers still clearly attach a massive amount of value: a ticket for a U2 gig for example can work out more than ten times more expensive per minute than buying the entire back catalogue on CD.  


So in the context of the Media Meltdown, where online availability of content has washed away true scarcity for good, media companies need to coalesce around where consumers retain value (see chart below).


The reason that these events have value is because they are unique – their value comes from the personal experience in the here and now. The EMI Abbey Road Live venture explicitly builds upon this theme by giving consumers the ability to extend that unique experience into their homes and MP3 players.  


Rebuilding the media industries won’t exactly be an easy task, but what is clear is that there are vital assets that can form the basis of new, important revenue streams.  It is not so much a case of media businesses dying as of media companies building new media businesses around their core media assets.


This is a topic I’ll be talking about in much more length at Forrester’s forthcoming EMEA Marketing Forum in London.


I’ll be presenting on the 17th November at 2.00pm on the following topic:

The Digital Transition Of Media: How Media Will Never Be The Same Again

I hope too see you there.


re: Why EMI's Launch of Abbey Road Live is a Peek into the Futu

Mark,I appreciate what you are saying, but I'd be interested to hear why you think this might work now when it has had relatively limited success in the past. This is hardly new; Live Discs/Sonance Entertainment Group LLC, DiscLive/Immediatek Inc. and Clear Channel (with Instant Live, who tried to patent the process in early 2004) have all tried with varying success, and even with major label collaboration. And of course Pearl Jam, Pixies and others have released limited edition live CDs to concertgoers (and we can go back to bootlegs and the Dead encouraging tapers for decades before that). Certainly the video aspect is an added value over previous schemes -- although we don't know yet whether the focus will be on CDs or DVDs as the Abbey Rd. deal gets underway. Does your research suggest that this time around the market might be more amenable to this idea and willing to shell out the extra money after a (potentially expensive) concert? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.Steve HarveyWest Coast EditorPro Sound News

re: Why EMI's Launch of Abbey Road Live is a Peek into the Futu

Steve - I'm not for one minute suggesting that this entirely new. The big deal here for me is a major record label doing this. Sure all the majors recognize the value of live and are trying to get their share via 360 deals. But this attempts to create new additional value by extending product around the unique experience. This gives concert goers the ability to get their music on site at the gig. Pearl Jam, for example, stored theirs up and released on (I believe) a monthly basis. Similarly bootlegs were never available for sale at the gig. The reproduction facilities weren't in place and even if they were the sound engineer would never get away with it!So I completely agree this isn't completely new, nor do I think it is going to radically reinvent EMI's business. But it is an indication of the majors realigning their business in new ways around where value still remains in their core assets.

re: Why EMI's Launch of Abbey Road Live is a Peek into the Futu

I work for an EMI label. I think it could have worked back in 2003 when we started seeing the recorded music buy slides but USBs for concert goers just doesn't make sense to me. I just don't see this as the direction they need to be going.When you consider more than 1/2 the LA recording facilities have failed or are failing, the majors have seen a 4.2 billion dollar slow in sales but the recording software sales are up. Why aren't some savvy industry peeps considering software the new model either through the existing relationships with Apple or just buying up recording software properties and building a social network of fans and artists around the software. Integrate a blip.fm/Hulu.com solution for the industry and you could possibly reduce radio spends as well. I just can't see this USB as anything to get excited about.

re: Why EMI's Launch of Abbey Road Live is a Peek into the Futu

You are right to identify that many recording facilities are struggling to remain relevant in the face of widespread consumer adoption of mid range home solutions such as Logic Studio, Cubase, and the ever expanding lower end of the Pro Tools range.This for me presents a core opportunity to differentiate around core assets such as quality of equipment (e.g. valve based signal processing), skills of engineers etc.I also agree about the need to build platforms around powerful software solutions in the hands of the audience. I agree so much in fact that I argued the point in a recent report! See this post for more details:http://blogs.forrester.com/consumer_product_strategy/2009/09/music-product-manifesto-the-product-features-that-will-save-recorded-music-.html

re: Why EMI's Launch of Abbey Road Live is a Peek into the Futu

Abbey Road live isn't about USBs, DVDs, CDs, social networking, interacting with the gig live, buying merch from your phone whilst at the gig, having the gig made available for streaming and playback straight after the concent, etc etc. It's about all of these and most particularly some of them provided exclusively to those who purchase product. Come-on, do you really think this is about physical product - this is about immersion and experiences. The things the new world value most. That's why this is important - EMI have listened to their market - this is what they value and might actually pay for!