GizMag published the following snippet in late December:

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U2 in first ever 3D concert beamed live to a cinema near you
Everyone is probably aware of the early attempts at 3D on the cinema screen using the flimsy cardboard goggles with the red and blue plastic lenses for each eye. This, while being a valid execution of the stereoscopic principle that is necessary to create the illusion of three-dimensional perspective, was in practice a monochromatic, uncomfortable and generally disappointing viewing experience. But the technology is now being dragged into the 21st century as Irish supergroup U2 follow film-maker James Cameron’s lead in embracing state-of-the-art digital 3D technology, with plans for a concert to be filmed live in 3D and then streamed in real time to digital cinemas around the world.

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This is a classic sign that the music industry is finally responding to the effect that digital music distribution is having on their traditional business model.

The music industry has primarily used live concerts as ‘loss leaders’. Concerts were designed to catalyze sales of albums. Now that digital distribution has blown a hole in the margin for albums/singles, the industry will soon be looking to invert this, with music “sales” being used as a ‘loss leader’ in the creation of a loyal fan base, with concerts and concert paraphernalia becoming the primary revenue source.

The key hurdle to this structural change to the standard business model was that – except for the most popular bands (who could charge a premium for concert tickets) – the math didn’t scale. You couldn’t pack enough people into a concert venue each night at average cover prices to make a decent profit – even if a band was prepared to tour full-time.

One solution is to dramatically scale the size of your potential audience, without a corresponding scale in production costs. 

The U2 experiment is about demonstrating that technology now exists to allow audiences to enjoy concert-quality experiences at multiple venues simultaneously, thus dramatically increasing your potential audience (and, thus, revenue) for each concert.

This trend will likely emerge in lock-step with the ‘digitisation’ of cinemas.

Cinemas are gradually moving to upgrade their projection technology, making way for the use of digital files distributed via satellite, rather than cumbersome (and expensive to ship) film reels.

Once a critical mass of cinemas are wired to receive content digitally, expect concert promoters and labels to start exploring how the cinema industry infrastructure can be co-opted for staging ‘mega-concerts’.