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Upcoming Industry Conferences
Streaming Media West [19-20 Nov 2019]
Esport & Sports Streaming Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
OTT Leadership Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
Video Engineering Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
Live Streaming Summit [19 Nov 2019]
Streaming Media East [5-6 May 2020]
Past Conferences
Streaming Media East [7-8 May 2019]
Live Streaming Summit [7-8 May 2019]
OTT Leadership Summit [7-8 May 2019]
Video Engineering Summit [7-8 May 2019]
Content Delivery Summit [6 May 2019]
Streaming Forum [26 February 2019]

Streaming Live Concerts: Backstage with TourGigs

This article explores what it takes to pull off a live multi-camera concert film, backhaul a compressed stream from a crazy location, and deliver it at scale to users on multiple screens. It also looks at different monetization models, rights management, policy enforcement, royalties, and why some shows go perfectly well and others go perfectly wrong.

TourGigs began filming live concerts in 2011. Since then we’ve compiled a catalog of 58 full-length concert films, with more than 200 in the pipeline. In the beginning, we sold the shows primarily on physical media. We put quite a bit into disc packaging and artistic design, and worked closely with the bands and artists to produce the packages. We sold them through an e-commerce storefront as well as offering them as digital downloads.

We began live streaming in 2013. Streaming now accounts for 85% of all of our business. We offer these live streams almost exclusively on TourGigs.com, although sometimes we work partners to put the live streams on different host websites. The TourGigs model is primarily to monetize these shows through Pay-per-view delivery, and our average price point per show is $12.99.

Even though we film and stream festivals (Figure 1, below), we don’t throw our own. We don’t stage events, book bands, or anything like that. We go into an event that the band is already performing at and work closely with them. Typically, we cover the production costs for the live stream and then we share the revenue on the pay-per-view receipts.

Figure 1. A collage of shots from festivals and other concerts filmed and delivered by TourGigs

Our Production Approach

Our style is a multi-camera live shoot. It’s not uncommon for us to have 10 or more cameras on a switch. We’ve also covered multiple stages simultaneously at festivals. We have a great deal of production capacity that we’ve built up over the past couple of years. We currently have a full-time staff of 14 employees and this is growing quickly. This includes our editors, our software developers, operations staff, production crew, customer support, and sales and marketing.

Our motto is to travel fast and light and to be unobtrusive. We have to get in quickly to set up and lay cables. Most of the time we don’t get a lot of space allocated to us, but this fits with our production approach, which is a fly-on-the-wall rock documentary style. We don’t want to have jibs flying all over the place, or big podium cameras right in front of the stage in the pit where they’re going to obstruct the view and detract from the overall concert experience.

We bring high aesthetic and technical values to our productions. We view our pay-per-view streams as a premium product. At the same time, we strive hard to control production costs, which creates a sort of balancing act between high production value and sticking to a budget that allows us to easily cover costs and turn a profit by selling pay-per-view streams.

As with any live event production, there are a lot of moving parts, and we don’t get retakes. We get one shot. If we mess it up, that’s it. The band isn't going to wait to go on stage for us to get our act together. There are thousands of fans in the audience who have paid a ticket to see a concert, so we don’t really have complete control over the stage production. We’re just there to capture it. We have to make sure our approach aligns with the actual stage and concert production.

Our Live Streaming Production Flow

Figure 2 (below) shows a simplified block diagram of the components that go into one of our shoots. I would categorize everything that we do at the venue as “onsite.” Then we have to get from the site to our ingest points in our network. We have our own video platform. It’s partly built around the Wowza streaming engine. We also take care of our own host website. Many of these components run in the cloud. RackSpace is our preferred cloud vendor, but there are a number of cloud vendors out there. We outsource ecommerce to a payment gateway because we don’t want to handle credit cards or PCI compliance directly, which can be kind of a nightmare for the scale of our projects.

Figure 2. TourGigs production flow

We make heavy use of the CDN. We do all of our transcoding but then we pump the data to the CDN for edge delivery. We’re also concerned with the last mile of delivery to end users. In addition to the bands who hire us, we have hundreds or thousands of end users that have paid to watch our streams, and we need to make sure that they’re having a good, compelling experience. To back all this up we’ve got an offsite operations and monitoring team to look for signs of trouble as well as communicate back to the onsite team if something needs to be changed.

We also have customer support. This is a new addition to our group but a very important one. When we started, one of the founders had his cellphone number up on the website. When we started doing pay-per-view streaming, people were calling him directly if they had trouble with the stream. He would be at the show, working on the production, answering his cellphone, and doing customer support. We realized very quickly that this was not sustainable, so we added a VoIP PBX system and support queues. Now we bring staff in to support the live events in an on-demand model, which has worked out very well.