Madonna concert sings of the potential for mobile broadcasts

RCR Wireless News
NEW YORK CITY – The tears, deafening screams and all-around giddiness were nonstop last night as Madonna played a six-song set at the Roseland Ballroom for a select group of wireless subscribers, promotion winners and hardcore fans.

The “Material Girl” took the stage shortly after 10 p.m. to perform some classic hits from her extensive catalog and debut a few songs off her new album, “Hard Candy.” Four of the songs she performed were broadcast live on Verizon Wireless’ Vcast Video while Vodafone customers were able to tune in live around the world in 15 countries.

The carriers said it was the first time a live concert was broadcast simultaneously on mobile around the globe as fans sang along in unison at the venue. The four songs have also been archived on Verizon Wireless’ Vcast Performances channel, which will be available to Verizon Wireless customers throughout the month. Exclusive video footage of Madonna, Timbaland and Justin Timberlake’s remix recording session is also available on the carrier’s video service.

The concert was extremely intimate, especially for Madonna who can (and does) sell out stadium after stadium on tour. Around 100 of the 3,000 people in attendance won the chance to be at the concert via a unique SMS barcode triggered by the download of the artist’s exclusive track with Verizon Wireless – the underground mobile remix of “4 Minutes” by Timbaland – as a ringtone, ringback tone or full track.

In total, Verizon estimates it gave away about 1,000 of the tickets to the exclusive event. Local radio stations also gave away a couple hundred tickets as promotions.

The live, one-to-many broadcast, which was ideally suited for MediaFLO USA Inc.’s network, was oddly missing from the mobile TV service. Jeffrey Nelson, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless, said the carrier decided not to pursue an additional distribution outlet – Vcast Mobile TV – partly because it would have required a complex arrangement with an outside partner and its network.

Moreover, MediaFLO’s reach is limited; it is available on a select number of handsets in about 58 markets. While the event could have been a great opportunity for Verizon to broadcast content concurrently on its 3G network as well as MediaFLO’s broadcast-like network, the carrier seems to be holding off major promotion for its broadcast TV services until the offering reaches greater scale.

Demand for access to the concert was obviously greater than supply, evidenced by the diehard fans who were lining up on the sidewalk outside the venue the night prior (Madonna dedicated one of her older songs to that crew later in the show) and the few scalpers who were asking as much as $3,000 for tickets with no actual face value.

Madonna performed her first song of the night as giddy long-time fans rejoiced in the glow of one of the artist’s few (and nearly impossible to gain access to) small-venue shows. The artist has sold more than 200 million albums over the course of her two-decade-plus career.

As if Madge’s one-of-a-kind presence in an all black outfit with at least 20-hole boots, black pants with sequins and a top that practically left her cleavage spilling out wasn’t enough to keep the crowd at a feverish pitch, Justin Timberlake joined her on stage.

The screams hit a new level and tears flowed liberally as the duo performed their hit single, “4 Minutes,” for the third song of the night.

Following the song, Madonna thanked Timberlake for joining her on stage. “I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be able to make a record with him, Timbaland and Pharrell (Williams),” she said. The latter two are in-demand producers with some of the highest rates in the business.

After three more songs, the performance came to an end rather quickly, leaving fans spilling out of the venue into the street no more than 35 minutes after Madonna first took stage. She never returned for an encore, but that didn’t seem to matter to the hundreds who were still grinning from ear to ear outside.

Magic bus: Verizon Wireless uses recording-studio bus to gain mind share

An early look at AT&T Mobility’s MediaFLO mobile TV service