No secret here: Google and YouTube, arguably the two most powerful entities on the web, are way, way behind in the live-streaming video space. While they've lagged, UStream and Livestream -- to name just two companies in a rapidly-evolving niche industry -- have made live broadcasting an everyday part of most bands' digital arsenal. The Jonas Brothers and Soula Boy have been on this tip since 2007, third-rate divas broadcast live from the studio, and Mariah Carey's already selling tickets to her concert webcast, which you can watch on your cellphone for $10. Hell, even a couple of Luddites from an old-media company can figure out how to do a low-budget live-concert broadcast. Also, I have Demi Lovato's phone number. BonoTube, what took you so long?
We get the point, though: YouTube couldn't go first, and they couldn't go home. So they went big.
Is YouTube's livecasting U2 from the Rose Bowl going to change much of anything? Probably not. But we're sure that somewhere, someone with millions of dollars invested in the music industry is having a conniption as the largest touring band in the world gives its last profitable product away for free on the internets. Just imagining the look on that guy's face as he watches the YouTube-cast is entertaining enough to make us thank Bono.
Tech wise, this thing's been going off without a hitch -- unless you count the pre-show warmup by a roadie named Rocco, a preamble that for several minutes had us convinced Jeff Bridges was still working in Hollywood.
So how come YouTube's version of live-broadcast video is still weirdly five-years-ago? The site that popularized embedded video . . . declines to provide an embed option for its biggest live event thus far? There's -- gasp! -- a Twitter-powered chat just below the screen, a feature that will be shockingly cool only for people who haven't seen it on Livestream or missed the debut of the CNN/Facebook mashup that's now become standard-issue on UStream. Does any of this matter? Maybe not: eventually, if you had to bet, wouldn't you guess YouTube figures out live video and puts everyone else out of business? God, we hope not.
Also, we'd need a severe U2 geek to confirm, but it appears that there's a separate production feed for the YouTube broadcast -- it doesn't appear to be one-to-one with the live video the tour produces and beams directly to the ginormous screen on the 360 spaceship. We mention this only because we were struck, when the tour hit Gillette, at the degree of visual sophistication and the tightness of the choreography in U2's own live camera work. It's got to be some kind of new standard for concert videography -- we have no idea how they achieve it, given that on some basic level the thing's being live-mixed. YouTube is definitely incorporating the amazing semi-robotic cams that roll around the lip of the stage, providing jittery, quick-zoom close-ups of Bono and the Edge -- but they also seem to have the traditional dudes-running-around-the-stage-taking-closeups-of-guitars. Still totally pro, just not quite as astonishing as being there. (Yes, we just bitched that U2's live video is better live -- feel free to mock us.)
In any case, it's easy for us to rag on this concept -- we couldn't help but noticing that every third comment on the Twitter stream is in Spanish or Portuguese, which suggests that the real value here may be in places, unlike Boston, where U2 doesn't show up every six months. Uno, dos, tres, etc.