The Business: Is Qello The New Netflix For Music? [Tech Review]

Mita Carriman Music/Entertainment attorney, empress of contracts, Okayplayer contributer. @mitacarriman
Read OKP's review of Qello, a new online subscription service that allows you to stream music documentaries and concerts

Qello wants to be the New Netflix of Music [Tech Review] - Stream Music Documentaries and Concerts

Crowd-avoiding music nerds, stand up! For the audio-visually inclined homebody seeking something good (and affordable) to watch in the post-Blockbuster Video era, online streaming services Netflix and Hulu have become the standard destinations. But for the music obsessed (and concert obsessed), a relatively new service named Qello wants you to consider using their service to stream your favorite concerts and music documentaries via your computer, tablet, smart TV or smartphone. We took a deeper look at Qello’s technology and caught up with their Co-Founder Rich Johnson to get the dish on some details behind their story, their service, and whether we can find entries in their catalog for Black Milk, Sleepy Brown or ____ (<– insert your favorite obscure hip-hop/soul artist known for b-side rare’s that you always name drop when having to share your too-cool-for-school tastes in music).

What Is Qello? Launched in 2010, Qello claims on their site that it’s “the world’s leading on-demand streaming service for full length HD concert films and music documentaries, with members in more than 40 countries.”  According to co-founder Johnson, the company came into existence fairly organically:

“My co-founder Brian Lisi had been doing some production of HD concerts, and he was filming a show for a band called Alter Bridge in Amsterdam. At the end of the show he was like – ‘Man, I really wish we could continue having a good time doing work like this’…that was the aha moment and Qello was born at that time…we’re lovers of music.”

How does Qello work? According to Johnson, the Qello catalog is approaching 1700 entries, and their website shares that you can use their technology to  find concerts and music documentaries on everyone from Bob Dylan to Bob Marley via a library covering 30 genres of live concert films from the 1920s to today. Okayplayer’s own Brainchild gave the service a week-long trial when they started offering it through Apple TV,and thought it was good concept, but noticed that the catalog leaned pretty heavily toward classic rock. My own browse of Qello’s catalog revealed notable entries featuring Childish Gambino, Run DMC,  Steel Pulse, James Brown, Miles Davis, Daft Punk and–thankfully!–The Roots. But overall I’d agree with Brainchild; the catalog did seem a bit dominated by rock music. My personal gripe–surprise–no Prince just yet (O purple one if you’re reading this, please get at Qello (or vice versa). We’d love to see you there). Qello’s Johnson chimed in with three considerations that his team uses for their curation process of the catalog:

“We definitely do our best to curate what we think our users are going to want. We have a ton of data on what our users are interested in viewing, so we always take that into consideration, number one.  Number two is the availability of the asset… we want the biggest artists in the world–and the most obscure in the world as well so that we can give everybody a great and diverse experience. If I like old school hip-hop and someone else likes jazz, we want to make sure we give everybody exactly what they want…the most challenging thing is getting access to that genre or type of music because not every genre of music or every band has a concert film that was recorded or a documentary. So we try to give the users what they want, try to source it. And if we can, we usually roll out new assets on Tuesdays on our ‘New Music Tuesdays.'”

So are rock catalogs more “accessible” than hip-hop and soul? 

According to Johnson:

“Accessibility mostly has to do with the size of the following for the artist. If an artist has a huge following then its cost effective to create a concert film, clear a film, and do all the leg work it takes to create an asset. Its not someone at a concert with an iPhone putting it up on youtube. These are all professionally-produced concert films or documentaries and most are produced for theatrical release, TV release or DVD. Its not a four or five  thousand dollar investment. It’s a six figure investment. Sometimes its a seven figure investment. If you look at stuff from Madonna or Kenny Chesney that are assets in our catalog, they were millions and millions of dollars. I wouldn’t say there’s a trend to what we get access to, its really just more: Has there been a business case to create that asset in the past or going forward? There’s a ton of great indie bands out there that I’m sure would love to have concerts filmed, and we’d love to bring them to fans, but sometimes there’s just not a business case yet that gives them the ability to record and clear one of their shows for Qello’s needs. Hopefully thats changing as we get more users and there’s more of a revenue stream that we can pass back to the content owner and the bands.

Okay. But keep it one hunnit–Can we expect to find more hip-hop on Qello?

I’m personally a huge hip hop fan and I’d say we have the largest collection of hip-hop films and documentaries; [larger] than anybody else has.” Johnson shared. “Unfortunately you’re comparing that to a very small sample size. We have the Up In Smoke tour –one of the most classic hip-hop shows ever done, Tupac‘s last show at House of Blues, three Snoop Dogg titles… if they are available or out there, I’d say 70 percent we have. There’s a couple things out there that I really love that we don’t have that we’re trying to get. The A Tribe Called Quest documentary is one we’re trying to get that’s not in there that I love. I think Wu-Tang is going to be pushing out a new documentary soon and if they do that I’m sure we’ll get that. But its not like every hip-hop artist in the world has come out with a concert film that’s out there and we don’t have it, its that they haven’t done it, and/or the licenses haven’t been cleared. If someone came to me and said here’s a list of a hundred  hip-hop titles that Qello doesn’t have, I’d probably turn around and say it’s because 90 percent of these don’t have streaming rights associated with it. It’s a (streaming) rights conversation, not a ‘I don’t want,” conversation. We definitely want hip-hop. Hip-hop specifically is a big genre of ours, a personal love of mine, and a big genre for our customers and users.”

Whats the damage? Qello’s service charge is $4.99 USD/month for an unlimited “All Access” pass, and it’s slightly more cost effective to pay in one yearly lump sum of $44.99 USD. As for “free.99” options, they do have one–albeit very limited in service, but that’s to be expected. For the Qello “free” option, you get one track from every concert and a preview for every documentary.

Taking a note from services like Spotify, Qello allows you to curate your own playlists for the concerts and music documentaries they offer. They also recently created a partnership with Youtube. Two other random cool points I’d throw in is that they have a couple of vintage concerts from Nina Simone and Hugh Masekela. While only time will tell if the Qello’s business model works, they do make a pretty good point in the FAQ: “For a third of the price of a beer at a concert, you get access to everything. It’s a no brainer.” Qello’s co-founder Rich Johnson added at the end of our chat:

If everything goes as planned, we’ll be–and we’re on the way to being–the go-to source for users that want access anytime, anywhere to the largest catalog of HD concerts and music documentaries on a worldwide basis…(we’ll have) access to more platforms and more users…and we hope to get to a point where we we’re able to provide a content producer. The content producers will make more concert films and documentaries. If they do so we’ll bring them to our users, and its a win-win for everybody

>>>For more info and to take a trial spin of their services go to: www.Qello.com

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