The most promising aspect of #couchtour, Williams said, is a band's ability to empower their audience, to nudge them toward some sort of greater good. "It can either lead to the maintenance of the status quo, when it comes to societal ordering and change," he said, "or it can lead to transformation of the status quo. But one doesn't know. It depends what the band is doing."
Live-streaming may have the capacity to achieve some sort of large-scale societal change (imagine what Woodstock might have been like with live-streaming and Twitter). But it rarely happens, if ever. "Usually when you have this kind of mass-media pop culture, it's disseminated from one to many," Williams said. "What's going on here is an exchange between people, but it's largely an exchange within the group itself." Anyone not part of the group won't get exposed, however, to the exchanges happening within the group, unless considerable word of mouth spreads outside the community. "But pretty much, [the exchange is] going to be constrained to that fragment of the audience."
Contemporary music, Williams concluded, has become standardized to the point where it doesn't mean anything anymore, and record companies are glad to see that happen.
"It's totally de-politicized," Williams said. "It has nothing to do with the drudgery of life or how to get over it. It just has to do with sex and violence."
Except for musician-activists like Tom Morello, the former Rage Against the Machine guitarist. "He's bringing his groups out into the street to work for change." (Morello is a registered StageIt artist.)
Nice #couchtour ripoff KFC... #couchgating... Meh... — @joshkorin, Jan. 12, 2013, 11:29 p.m.
So why don't more bands and venues live-stream shows, and why are the ones who do still reluctant to monetize it?
"There's not really the technology that's cheap, ubiquitous and easy-to-use for this yet," Harding, the former Billboard editor, said. "What you see so far are big events — Jay-Z presented by AmEx at Madison Square Garden — and that takes a lot of money to handle."
Harding said bands rarely see much return on investment: the quality is too poor, or their fan bases are too small. "No company yet has come up with the technology yet that can be installed in every club, super-easy to use and cost-effective. Nobody's struck the deal yet to make that happen." She has researched numerous companies with pilot projects (including StageIt), but none of them seem capable of taking the next step.
"I think it's coming really soon," Harding said. "I think 2013 is the year that this stuff really starts to take off in a meaningful way."
CT.COM MINI PODCAST: #couchtour
Listen to Mike Hamad discuss the #couchtour concept in this short CT.com podcast
Streaming Acts: clockwise from upper left, Phish, Jay Z, Louis C.K. and Ryan Montbleau.