Changing The Way Concert Fans Connect: Interview with Big Live

Big live

Are online concert experiences changing the way we connect with each other during regular concerts? And what happens when you add social networking elements into the mix? Will the opportunity to share, chat about and discover live music together online with friends re-define both the online and real concert experience?

Continuing our exploration of virtual, online and interactive concert experiences, we’re going to take a look at Big Live, a social community site that lets fans/users discuss and share there live music experiences while watching them stream-live in real-time.

Back in March at SXSW, Big Live was awarded the 2010 PEPSI / SoundCTRL award for “Most Innovative Business in Music and Technology,” giving them a great start as they look to carve out their own space in a competitive field of online live-streaming music sites.

What Makes The Big Live Experience Unique?

Over the last few months I’ve been checking out and cruising around Big Live to get a feel for it. I created a profile, requested a few friends and watched a couple concerts from the archives. And, so far, I have to say this is a pretty cool way to connect and discover new bands with other fans.

And once Big Live gets through their current beta launch and adds more video content to archives and the community of fans grows, there are a few reasons why I’m excited to experience the site when it hits full-throttle.

True Real-Time Insight Into the Fan Experience

Yes, there are many similar sites that stream live music events: Ustream, YouTube and Vevo, to name a few.

But the way Big Live has integrated the social element makes the user experience very promising and exciting.

And as they create their own brand of online concert experience, I think they have the potential to not only redefine the online experience, but also enhance how fans interact during a real concert.

There’s a lot of things I love about going to concerts. But one of the things I always wished the wasn’t such a large emotional separation and psychological disconnect between fans.

Sure, when we’re at concerts we  always feel the experience through the emotional rush buzzing through the crowd’s collective mind and body.

But rarely do we get to actually “connect” with other fans, or more specifically, see (or read), what they’re feeling. I’ve done some of this through our Live Twitter Experiments for Beach House and Matisyahu concerts.

But with Big Live, there’s a chance to discover more by taking things deeper and being more interactive.

By integrating elements of social networking — like chat and friending — in to the online viewing experience, Big Live gives fans the chance to truly “connect” and share their emotional experiences during a concert.

Yes, watching a concert online versus watching it live in-person are two completely different experiences. And, yes, each experiences has its own benefits.

Real concerts are all about connecting physically with fellow concerts fans with the psychological connection or the emotional awareness of those around us not being as strong a factor.

But with online concerts it’s the other way around.  Since we’re not in the venue and consumed by how the music feels physically, we have a better opportunity to connect with others by expressing our experiences through typing what we’re feeling, inviting our friend to join in the show and making new friends we didn’t know before we started watching the concert online.

And what excites me the most about Big Live’s is how they’re integrating social networking into the mix to give fans the opportunity to connect during a live show like never before.

I also see Big Live as the next evolution in online concerts and the regular concert experience because it’s a fantastic live music experiment where the physical element of concertgoing is removed and the only things that fans have to connect with each other are their own comments, sharing and friending.

And during my own test run on Big Live I got a little taste of the experiment which led me to think about the next interesting element of Big Live.

Big Live

How Do You Give Online Concerts A Narrative Arch?

Besides allowing fans to connect and share experience during the same shows, Big Live also lets fans jump from concert to concert and experience many concerts in one viewing session.

Before we get to our interview with Big Live founder Mike Rudoy, I wanted to share with you what he had to say earlier this year in an interview with Mashable about creating a “narrative arc:”

“It’s really easy to watch an episode of ‘The Office’ in bed on your computer because it’s a passive experience and there’s a narrative arc,” Rudoy said. “If you’re watching something like a concert, there isn’t necessarily a narrative arc. It can be difficult to keep someone’s attention for an hour. So the question was, what do you need in a video platform for someone to be able to stomach long-form video without a narrative arc?”

“…You can recognize who you’re watching a piece of video with, sort on that crowd, and find the person who you might be most interested in speaking with … and making some kind of connection with,” explained Big Live founder Mike Rudoy. “We’re a social networking site and we’re using video as the medium [for] making a connection, as opposed to a fact, like what school you attended, as Facebook does.”

In some ways the Big Live experience reminds me of being at festivals like Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Rothbury or Coachella.

During those festivals many shows are going on simultaneously.  And as you watch one show, you often feel the need to go check out another show because you don’t want to have to choose between the two. So usually, like most fans, I do leave that show to head to another in hopes of discovering something else. And in the process I end up discovering a third band unexpectedly.

That said, in some ways Big Live is mirroring virtually what most concert fans are already experiencing at music festivals.  And I don’t think one way is bad or good, I just think that jumping around from show to show, virtual or real, is becoming the reality for most fans.

But, again, with Big Live, you don’t have to jump around if you don’t want to. You can stick with just one show. Which is nice because I know sometimes I like to bounce around and other times I like to stick with one show and see it all the way through like I would at a venue as opposed to a music festival.

So, does the Big Live experience give fans the best of both worlds? Does the ability to truly connect with other fans emotionally and psychologically replace the physical connection we feel during a real show? Possibly.  It all depends on how much fans choose to connect with each other and whether fans prefer to connect physically or emotionally.

Either way, I hope fans do make the most of the opportunity to connect with each other via the social networking elements because I think the Big Live experience give us a great chance to discover more about the wonders of concert genealogy.

Interview with Big Live founder Mike Rudoy

Now it’s time to see what Rudoy had to say when I asked him how Big Live will change the real concert experience, why he chose to integrate social networking, and which of his all-time favorite concerts he would like to re-experience via Big Live.

Live Fix: What impact do you think Big Live will have on the off-line or real concert experience?

MR: We’re focused on the online experience right now and less concerned about the off-line experience. Big Live can help deliver a great experience to fans who can’t access or afford tickets — a major pain point in the concert industry. I think eventually connecting the off-line and online experience between fans would be fantastic, however that is a roadmap item. We are focused on creating an enjoyable and fun online experience.

Big Live incorporates elements of popular social platforms like Facebook, YouTube and forums. What other online technologies inspired you to create Big Live? How do you plan to evolve your vision?

We want people to discover content based on what their friends are consuming in real-time. To us, this is the best discovery engine. The first step is to understand what your friends are doing and the second is to join them and engage. We are focused on marrying a media experience to the social networking experience. We think there is a lot of data (for content owners and consumers) to be unlocked with a successful implementation.

One of the goals of Big Live is to make the concert experience more about community through the online social experience. What have been some of your most memorable moments at concerts where you connected with someone you didn’t know? And how are did you draw from those experiences to create Big Live?

I connect with people at shows who are directly standing next to me. The problem here is that that person might not be the most relevant in the venue to me. In an online platform, we can help make the perfect connection.

How do bands get featured on Big Live?

They can play in one of our venues (to be later released), their label or management can contact us, or they can contact us themselves at!

How do you develop the live events that are featured on Big Live? Is there a production plan, or a crew, for each concert?

We are not in the production business so most of the content we get is from 3rd parties.

If you could go back and use Big Live to experience some of your favorite concerts, which concerts would you pick and why?

The Strokes first shows at Mercury Lounge. I am a big fan of the band and these shows were the genesis of a new scene. I am fascinated with the origins of major movements, especially in music. This also applies to the birth of Chicago house music, the early days of CBGB, festivals like Woodstock, etc. Hedi Slimane, the rock and roll photographer sums that up in the title of one of his books, “London: The Birth of A Cult” which is centered around Pete Doherty.

If you could take one element of your favorite concert you experienced as a fan and use it to inspire the creation and development of Big Live, what concert and band would it be and why?

Jay-Z, Blueprint Lounge Tour. This was a small tour of small clubs when he released his classic album The Blueprint. Intimate and focused!

As a fan, what “Little Things” have you noticed during some of your favorite concerts?

I love the moment a when a band comes on stage. By far my favorite part of any show. The peak of excitement and drama.

Thank you to Mike and his team for taking the time to talk about Big Live and his concert experiences.

We’ll continue to keep you updated as the Big Live community grows, develops and officially launches in September. For now, go check it out and sign up. My user id is LiveFixChris and feel free to friend me.

What have been some of your favorite virtual concert experiences?  How has a virtual concert changed your real concert experiences?

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