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Tech Savvy: I got two tickets to...well, anyone!

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Hey there, Tech Savvy fans!

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a huge music fan. I enjoy hearing music from all different genres, and for the most part find something to enjoy in almost every form of music. One thing that I think everyone can relate to is music, and it can bring people together to share in something in common. Music has been available in many different formats over the years — vinyl, cassette, 8-track, CD and now MP3. You can watch videos on YouTube, and it seems everywhere you go, there is something playing in the background. All of these usually culminate with the ultimate musical experience — a live performance. I think everyone will agree with me that there are few things to compare to the vocal power of hearing “The Phantom of the Opera,” the delicacy of a string quartet, the elegance of a ballet, and of course, the unbridled power of Metallica in full force. Each of these has appeal in different levels to different people, but it boils down to one thing — the experience.

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In addition to seeing all of the mentioned above, I’ve traveled to see Jethro Tull, B.B. King, and other artists that have been able to extend their careers because of their ability to stay on the road and give audiences that experience that they crave that can’t be delivered in a CD or DVD. Musicals and theatrical productions have been made into blockbuster movies, but to me they often are not 100 percent up to par with a great live production.

There have been singular elements in tech that have given glimpses into what a new live experience would be like in the modern age, but until fairly recently there has not been a widespread use of tech to recreate or replace this experience. However, some of the factors involved have now changed that are allowing these options to become accessible to more people and I think this is an area that will rapidly expand.

In the past there were two main factors that limited the use of tech to promote live events. Accessibility and cost. The accessibility came from the user side of things — high-speed internet access and good equipment were not in everyone’s homes and therefore would make for a poor experience. Cost, while also a user factor, was compounded by the fact that artists could make a significant amount of money putting on shows. Another factor, though this is somewhat remedied, is that artists also thrive off of the thrill of a live performance — the audience interaction, the cheering, the atmosphere of adrenaline. Now, thanks to the near household use of high-speed internet and equipment upgrades, listeners now have the ability to experience live online streaming, and the artists are creating ways to fine tune the experience to create a concert event like no other.

This past week I, along with several others, listened to a concert by a band called Koine. Koine is a regional band based out of Milwaukee. They are sometimes called “The Church Band” as they have primarily focused on contemporary versions of traditional church hymns. If you haven’t heard their music check out their website (www.koinemusic.com) to see what they are all about. Apart from enjoying their music, the concert was unique in the fact that we didn’t travel to Milwaukee to see them; we didn’t even travel out of town — we watched their concert online through a platform called StageIt.

StageIt is an online program that allows artists to set up concert times, set a “cover charge” and allow interaction through the concert. From a user standpoint it was a piece of cake to use. I created a free account, connected my credit card, and then booked my ticket to the concert. Rather than using dollars to buy tickets you buy credits, each concert varies in the amount of credits you need, and you can also choose to “tip” the artist by giving them additional credits. This is a tremendous feature for regional and local artists who are trying to promote themselves. They may give a free concert and then allow people to tip and make a little money — they save cost on traveling and the listener is given a unique experience.

The concert by Koine was no exception. The StageIt program allowed me to log onto the show ahead of time so I didn’t miss anything, and they also utilized the chat box on the side to interact with the virtual audience. They gave shout outs to people they knew in different communities, thanked people they hadn’t seen before, and were able to answer questions about upcoming albums and physical tour dates. To me this was a huge plus, don’t get me wrong — it would be thrilling to have your name called out on stage at a stadium concert — but the odds of that happening are pretty low...with events like this the audience definitely feels more connected to the concert, and it is easier for the artist to see how they can interact with their live listeners.

It ended up being about a 60-minute concert, with an encore and everything, and I would definitely chalk it up to a great experience. I am sure I will still try to see some actual live-in-person shows, but this was a great experience into a live platform online. I highly encourage everyone to check services like this out. Google+ has also been working with artists to help them promote live online shows, although I have not experienced one of those yet. They are fairly inexpensive, you get great selection, and you don’t have to fight traffic and parking to enjoy a great show.

Some tips if you do decide to check it out:

High-speed internet. This is a must, have a good connection and make sure it’s stable. We watched the Koine show over wireless with a decent connection, but I would even suggest getting on a wired Ethernet connection if you can for stability. If you’re fortunate enough to be on fiber, like the CTC fiber we have at home, then you should be in great shape. A good rule of thumb would be if you can stream YouTube or Netflix without it needing to buffer, you should be fine.

Video and Audio quality. Make sure your devices are capable of handling the program. One downside is that StageIt wasn’t available for use on my iPad or Android phone. Not a deal breaker, but if those are the only devices you have... then you don’t want to invest in accounts or credits. Also, get a decent set of speakers to listen to. If you think listening to recorded CDs out of a tin can sounds bad… this won’t be much better. Get some decent amplified speakers with good low end and you’ll be much happier.

Time. Give yourself a little extra time to make sure you have everything set up and working. Better safe than sorry and you will still save more time than trying to find parking space.

Share. Share the experience with a friend. Sure it’s cool to make it feel like a one on one experience with the band...but the social nature of music makes it much for fun to enjoy with others.

Online live performances will become much more commonplace in the near future, and can only see them getting better. Now is a great time to check some options out and test the waters while things are still inexpensive.

Happy Listening!

BTW: If you enjoy Koine’s music they will be at Christ Lutheran Church in Baxter at 7 p.m., July 16. Keep watching for more information, or check their website, www.koinemusic.com.

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