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Concerts on Yahoo play on as industry struggles from festivals' drain on live music

LOS ANGELES--Sometimes the struggles of an industry can bring music to your ears. And your screens.

Live Nation's partnership with Yahoo to stream one live concert every day is a rare win for music fans. The series, which began with the Dave Matthews Band in mid-July, offers free, high-quality concert footage in a way that helps the companies providing it, since selling ads is more profitable than concert promotion.

The deal opens up a new revenue stream for Live Nation, which reported second quarter earnings Thursday that fell short on profit but beat Wall Street's revenue expectations. And for Yahoo, premium video ad prices could be a cure for its plunging display ad rates.

Concerts globally are having a down year as a larger number of big acts sacrifice their own tour dates to play at popular festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza, according to an analysis by the trade magazine Pollstar. And while Live Nation's events are doing better than the industry overall, the company takes a tiny slice of concert proceeds even as it invests in improvements to apps and websites to attract more people.

On the Yahoo Screen app featuring the new Live Nation channel, advertisers like Kraft, Kellogg's, Citigroup and Sprint are running pre-roll advertising and in-stream overlays. Given robust demand for the commercial time, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino told investors in May the streams would be “a positive revenue channel almost (from) day one.” He went further Thursday, saying he expects to expand programming with Yahoo and other distribution partners to help accelerate advertising revenue growth.

Another beneficial element of the deal: Live Nation isn't paying for the rights to the content. Artists, whose incomes are hurting from a decline in digital downloads, are happy to allow their concerts to be streamed, mainly to promote future ticket sales and song downloads. Plus, the performers get to keep a copy of the show for re-use and DVD sales.

“We're getting paid in promotion and the fact we don't have to hire our own crew” to shoot the concert, said Brian Klein, manager of Los Angeles-based indie pop band Fitz & The Tantrums.

On Aug. 20, John Legend will reprise Marvin Gaye's album, “What's Going On?” in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Legend's manager Ty Stiklorious believes it might cost US$500,000 to shoot such a one-time-only event. But in exchange for Legend receiving a copy of the recording in about a year, Yahoo will cover venue fees, songwriting royalties, crew wages and pay for the 50-piece orchestra that will accompany the R&B singer.

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