Would you pay to see Blondie live in your livingroom?
Amazon is hoping its Prime Live Events, featuring Blondie, Texas. Alison Moyet and Katie Melua, will lure subscribers
Debbie Harry from Blondie: the band’s Amazon-promoted London Round Chapel gig next week will also stream exclusively on Amazon Prime. Photograph: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/Getty
There is a new player in the live-music business and that’s great news for old bands. The arrival of Amazon’s Prime Live Events is very much about leveraging acts who’ve already done the hard work when it comes to building an audience.
In this case, the buzz involves big acts playing in small rooms in front of Amazon Prime subscribers. Blondie, Alison Moyet, Texas and Katie Melua are the first ones on the pitch, all due to appear at small London venues in the coming weeks. Amazon will film each of the shows and whip them online to be screened on Prime Video for those who don’t grab tickets for the shows.
You can see what’s in it for both sides. For Amazon, this is a page from the content playbook and an addition to the estimated $3 billion it has spent on original film and TV shows such as The Grand Tour and Transparent. The aim is to persuade people to pony up for an Amazon Prime subscription, and it hopes having Debbie Harry play in a small room is going to help that membership drive.
For the bands and their agents, this is about cash rather than exposure. You can be sure that Amazon is paying handsomely for the privilege of having large bands play in these intimate settings (tickets are £150 a pop for the Blondie show).
These smaller spaces are probably better suited to live music than the enormodromes the acts in question usually play. More people would rather see Blondie at London’s 750-capacity Round Chapel next week than supporting Phil Collins at the Aviva Stadium. Then again, judging by the non-stop barrage of ads for the latter, that gig might be better suited to a smaller space too.
It’s the exclusivity which Amazon wants and are paying for because that’s what will shift those subscriptions. Hardcore Katie Melua fans (I never thought I’d get to type the words “hardcore Katie Melua fans”) who want to see ther at all costs may well sign up for Prime so as not to miss out on the experience.
Should the initial run of events prove successful, Amazon plans to roll this out in other countries with the possibility of a gig a week down the road. It’s great news for acts of a certain vintage and their agents, because these acts have the established audience and networks which helps Amazon flog more subscriptions.
It’s also proof that all new money into the business tends to flow in one direction, because very few of those flashy content plays ever take newer acts into account. Time and time again over the past 15 years, countless ventures such as Amazon Prime have attempted to leverage music’s appeal to flog their wares.
With one or two honourable exceptions, such as the Red Bull Music Academy, all the action revolves around established acts. If newer acts are involved, it tends to be those with heavyweight management and agents already in place.
It’s striking that the only big players still willing to regularly take a punt on new talent are the record labels. Despite been written off time and time again, they’re still the go-to guys when it comes to developing new musical talent. They’re the ones developing and honing the acts Amazon will be paying big bucks for down the line.