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Meet The Man Who Live Streamed The First Concert With Ben Harper

Scott Roulet at the SIIA 2015 Summit in Miami (Image via SIIA)
Today, we take music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Soundcloud for granted, despite their relatively new existence. The growth of digital consumption over the past decade has far exceeded any other period in the music distribution timeline. We decided to take a closer look at how music streaming services came to fruition, beginning with the very first platforms. One such platform was Virgin Jamcast, founded by Scott Roulet in partnership with Virgin Entertainment. In 2000, Virgin Jamcast became the first platform to live-stream a concert over the internet broadcasting to over 18 million viewers. We sat down with Scott to get his take on how streaming has evolved throughout the years.
In the late 90’s, there was a significant rush to find ways to use the internet to stream content. While feasible, streaming was difficult on the web because of bandwidth limitations. Getting both high quality video and audio at the same time was a complicated, unreliable process. This changed when Virgin Jamcast was launched, joining the Secured Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) to transmit entertainment over the internet through TV airwaves within a protected environment. Virgin Jamcast was a joint venture between WAVO, a Phoenix-based technology firm, and Virgin Records. “In the beginning, there was large effort by the music industry to convert music into a high quality digital format,” Says Virgin Jamcast co-founder Scott Roulet. Several formats existed with MP3 as the most popular. Early streaming services began to lobby musicians and record labels to convert to MP3, which was much easier to distribute across the web. MP3 was also more feasible to stream at a time when high speed broadband was an anomaly.

Roulet recognized the inevitable fact that eventually, all content would be streamed and downloaded⎯ not sold via hard copy. Unlike successor companies, Jamcast sought to build a platform that worked with the record labels, rather than fought against them. “We decided that the best way to motivate the labels to endorse the distribution of digital music was to help with live events,” Says Roulet. “This was because live events were always a cooperative effort that the labels did not autonomously control.”


Virgin Jamcast launched their first concert webcast in April, 2000, held at the Bercy Arena (Now AccorHotels Arena) in Paris. Ben Harper headlined, and the event broadcasted to over 18 Million viewers, spread across the 5 continents. At the time, this was the largest ever audience for a webcast. Jamcast was ultimately absorbed directly into Virgin Entertainment following the end of the dot com boom. But the service pioneered a technology that gave rise to the future of digital music consumption.


Watch An Archive Of The Webcast:


About Scott Roulet:

Scott was a Co-Founder of Virgin Jamcast, a joint venture between Virgin Records and WAVO Corp. After Jamcast, Roulet founded several media technology companies, most recently BBN Networks. Today he is an advisor, investor and consultant for innovative companies in media and advertising technology. Read more about this story on the Duplici Blog.

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