Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is digital culture killing live events?

Er - no. At least that's my opinion. Of course, I would say that, since I'm currently head of a profession that thrives on speaking to live audiences. But even within the world of professional speaking, the advent of video conferencing, holographic presentations and TED videos have suggested that the era of the live event is drawing to a close.

But consider other trends. There are more large concert venues in the UK than there were 20 years ago. Every band that ever existed seems to have reformed for sell-out tours (driven by the fact that digital downloads have made it difficult to make money from products). Many of the most popular TV shows (X Factor, Britain's got Talent, Michael Macintyre's Comedy Roadshow) feature live audiences. Summer festivals are thriving. West End theatres are full.

That's not to say that the web hasn't had an astonishing impact. What I find fascinating is the way in which the web has created opportunities for performers to generate a following, and drive audiences to live events.

Personally, I think there's nothing to beat the emotion of "being there", whether it's a Take That concert at the 02, a rugby international at the Millennium stadium, or a late-night gig in a comedy club. Long may it continue.

What say you? See it live, or see it digitally?


Sue Richardson said...

An interesting question Alan. Far from 'killing' live events, I think the opportunities are being increased by the digital revolution.

Sometimes people say the same sort of thing about the printed book - that with the advent of the ereader and the iPad as well as the smart phone the book will disappear altogether.

I don't think so, because people will always love to have and hold a printed book. Reading without any need for technology will always have its place next to the need to absorb information from digital sources. And the accessibility of information these days has been a fantastic leveller - however challenging any of us find school and qualifications we all have the most extraordinary university at our fingertips in the web. And through its use we can all learn in the way that suits us - of course by reading but also by listening to podcasts and watching video.

There are two things that result from this - one a hunger for more information that may well have us turning for books. The other is a need for great speakers, or experts who can speak, to provide us with the content we seek.

And how will these people set up their store front and learn their craft? By speaking in front of live audiences of course.

One of my favourite TED talks is this Seth Godin one - no doubt you've seen it but it's always worth another watch. And the great man's message is surely enhanced by his humour - I believe this wouldn't have been half as funny (or effective) without the 1000-strong audience there to react to him. Sadly, I wasn't there. But it hasn't stopped me enjoying it and learning from it over and over.

Alan Stevens said...


Thanks for your detailed comment. I agree with your take on books too. Yes, Seth's talk is excellent, and the presence of an audience is an important part of the experience, even when watched on video. I remember once seeing a stand-up comedian who had been recorded on video in a studio doing his act. It was barely funny, and you could see the pain on his face as he delivered line after line to no-one.