It’s 11:03 pm PDT, and I’ve spent the last 90 minutes listening to a U2 concert that ended about eight hours ago: fan-taped, uploaded, and posted online. U2 is cool with this. The audio is on Kevin’s site. He has lots of bandwidth.
I don’t normally listen to bootlegs but this is the opening concert of the tour. Right now, I’m wrapping up a 14-hour day that I spent updating two web sites, posting the setlist live as it happened on Twitter, digging through YouTube, Flickr, Twitpic, Yfrog, and any other source possible for photos and video, sending out emails to U2 fan mailing lists, and so forth. You can see the results on U2tours.com and @U2 (scroll down through “Bits & Bytes” updates). And I’m not tooting my own horn; I’m tooting my friends and co-workers horns — the @U2/U2tours.com crew was amazing today — posting the setlist in @U2’s forum, spreading the word on Twitter, sending me stuff they found first, and so much more.
All of this made possible by technology that, if I stop to think about it, is mind-blowing. This was my humble setup today:
Probably hard to see, but on the main monitor there I have Tweetie open and a web browser. On the web browser I’m watching live / almost-live concert video streamed by fans via Qik.com. Srsly. There were four fans (that I know of) sending video right from Barcelona to my office. That’s frakkin’ crazy. And then I take what I saw and heard and post it on Twitter and on U2tours.com, and Lisa Z. (from @U2) posts it in the @U2 forum … and tens of thousands of U2 fans know what’s going on immediately. Bono says something, it’s online a minute later (if that). At the same time, I’m watching Twitter and dozens, maybe hundreds of fans inside the stadium are also posting updates. Retweet that stuff, and the world knows.
In 1997, my first “online U2 tour,” we would rush to the hotel room or our house after the show and post the setlist on the web and send it to the U2 fan mailing lists. You’d get the news within a couple hours after the show, maybe the next morning in the worst case scenario. It was amazing.
In 2001, friends inside the arenas would call and you’d get to listen to a few minutes of the show (and the audio was terrible, frankly), then they’d call again on the way out of the arena and recite the setlist. Fans would know what happened within 15-30 minutes of the end of the show. It was amazing.
In 2005, friends inside the arena called and you could listen to the whole show, and the audio was actually listenable. On opening night, three friends at the show called me, Michael, and Scott separately so we could hear. Then the three of us not at the show hopped on AIM together and chatted together about what we heard over the three separate phone lines. It was amazing – one of the most fun nights of my U2 fan life. You could pretty much post the setlist as it happened — literally within seconds of a song starting, it was on U2tours.com. But you had to wait until the next day for audio and/or video.
And today, live video (and audio) from inside the stadium as the show is going on. Photos all over Twitter and Flickr during the show. Thousands of fans giving and getting the scoop on every detail. The setlist posted as it happened, and broadcast to tens of thousands of fans around the world.
During the concert today, Sean pulled up a chair and sat next to me so he could watch everything — the videos, the pix, the live updates. I know I was more amazed by what was going on because I remember what it was like years ago. I hope I explained it well enough that he could appreciate it, too. I imagine someday, 10 years from now perhaps, he’ll be updating some web site (will they still exist then?) with links to every fan’s personal video/audio/photo web channel (we’ll all have them for our daily lifestreaming) and maybe he’ll look back and remember what it was like “in the old days” when he sat next to his dad to experience a U2 concert that was happening 5,407 miles away, but seemed like it was right in our hometown.
Technology is amazing.