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Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 10:00 GMT
Are web gigs the future?
Are gigs on the web the future? Send us your comments
Madonna's exclusive Brixton Academy concert became what producers say was the biggest live webcast of all time.

A record nine million fans watched the MSN webcast, mostly from the UK, Europe and the US.

Madonna now joins other stars including Radiohead, David Bowie and Paul McCartney who have responded to the growing potential of internet audiences.

Are web gigs the way of the future? Did you watch the webcast? What did you think?

This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your e-mails are posted below.

It can be enjoyable to watch a concert on TV, the web or video. However, nothing can replace the real atmosphere of being at the event itself. It's just a shame that touts aren't stopped doing what they do. Also, with the pathetically slow links and connection costs in this country it wouldn't have been worth watching anyway.
Paul Charters, England

It gives me the opportunity to ignore Madonna on yet another medium

Matthew Salter, UK

Live web casts - yes. It gives me the opportunity to ignore Madonna on yet another medium. It's a pity that this technology wasn't available years ago when there were bands worth listening to.
Matthew Salter, UK

Flat beer in plastic cups and a ringing in your ears are just two reasons why web casts cannot replace the real thing. The internet is here to stay, along with e-mail and e-commerce but I don't know - there's something about going into a second hand bookshop and doing some real life browsing isn't there?
Allister, Barbados, WI

Web gigs are undoubtedly the future. Unfortunately not many people have got a good enough Internet connection to view it properly. The Madonna concert was said to have been awful on a 56K connection - alright on a DSL though. Until more people have a decent connection it will not become a realistic possibility to have more people viewing over the web. However, watching on a computer will never replace the buzz of a concert.
Sam Furlong, England

A big business enterprise chooses to promote another profit-making machine

Eddie, UK (but Hungarian)
I am interested in technology, but I think a web cast has to have some valuable "content". (Dreadful expression!) By choosing Madonna, Microsoft has reinforced the stereotype that techno-geeks have no taste. She is a mediocre performer and person. I saw her live at an MTV-event. She could not hit the right notes as opposed to REM! Why is she the Queen of Pop then? But it is logical: a big business enterprise chooses to promote another profit-making machine. Why didn't they choose U2 who have a message and artistic integrity? I wonder whether the media slaves would have hyped their gig so much as they did with Madonna. Conclusion: technology is there to serve us. We should celebrate the artist and not the medium. And Madonna is no artist to me.
Eddie, UK (but Hungarian)

What a waste of effort. Isn't there any real talent out there? If you want "bubble gum" music, MTV broadcasts it interminably in a multitude of different languages. Please don't tie up the Internet with this dross!
Tony Hague, England

Personally, I don't think that web gigs are the future but they serve as a good alternative for those who cannot get a ticket for the big gigs like last nights Madonna concert. It definitely shows that the Internet is a huge influence both on our work and our leisure and how technologically reliant our society has become. Watching this or any concert on a tiny screen on a computer is not quite the same as being part of, or soaking up the atmosphere of a gig live in the actual venue.

Watching a gig back on videotape is just the same, it's good to look back on the gig or things that you missed, but it's not quite the same now is it? However, nine million people can't be wrong for that particular Internet fest.
Mark Stanford,England

Until streaming media and high capacity bandwidth is available to all then web-cast concerts will only ever appeal for their novelty value. The quality is just too poor. But then again, comparing a web-concert to a live-concert, will a web-concert ever make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up before the gig starts? The only thing in favour of a web concert is that the beer isn't 5.00 a pint!
Nick, UK

Did people really pay 1,000 for tickets? That is tragic, especially given that goodness knows how many 'celebrities' were able to swan up for free and pay sycophantic and parasitic homage to Madonna. Celebrity has to be the most empty of imaginable achievements - a sad sign of the times.
Caroline, Scotland

I'm off to see AC/DC at the SECC on Saturday, how can a 15-19" screen, limited bandwidth telephone line and little speakers possibly hope to compete with the raw full frontal assault of one of the greatest rock bands of all time in the flesh.
SG, Scotland

Web anything is the future until they invent something better. If you can't get a ticket to a live show, why not watch it on the web? It is not the death of live performance, simply an alternative.
Alex Xeman, NZ

I saw most of the show over the internet. Although the connection was not perfect I would never have been able to get tickets to see the live show. I think webcasts are an interesting and accessible way to show music. As I am in the USA, even if they had shown it on British TV I couldn't have seen it.
AL, USA (but British)

I think the Madonna hype is becoming a bit OTT. It annoyed me that the audience for her Brixton gig were handpicked celebs and journos. It should have been the members of the public who buy her records. Without them she wouldn't be who she is now.
Jenny Hanson, UK

I stayed late at work and I watched it on 300K and it was the greatest thing -- I had no problems. She was truly amazing on stage and I have watched it twice on MSN since then and it was always OK. I wish she would have played longer, but the celeb interviews made me feel like I was 'almost there...."
Bonnie, UK

Nothing can ever replace seeing bands in the flesh

Emily Foster, UK
To me, the most important thing about a live gig is being there. Nothing can ever replace seeing bands in the flesh, and listening to the music in its purest form. Nothing could essentially replace being at a gig in person. Broadcasting concerts live on the web may or may not take off in the future. But in terms of totally replacing the need to go to a gig, it's a far cry from being successful.
Emily Foster, UK

I have a proper life, thank you, and do not need to nestle in my anorak in front of a computer screen unless I'm being paid for it. The tickets should have gone on general sale, not to the overprivileged few.
Andy, England

I have recently had ADSL installed so was looking forward to a good connection but was just as frustrated as everyone else by the sound of it. Could not get a good picture to last long and eventually became so frustrated I decided I would prefer my imagination of what the event was like rather than watch the poor quality version!
Georgina Howes, England

Brilliant for people who live in small countries where stars like Madonna never go, or people who can't afford to go in person

Philip Harding, UK
Surely it is the future! By the very nature of it, a live performance can only be in one place, and it won't be broadcast live on TV in most countries. Now, you can tune in to your favourite stars' sets, live, wherever you are in the world - brilliant for people who live in small countries where stars like Madonna never go, or people who can't afford to go in person. Excellent, I say!
Philip Harding, UK

Although Madonna is undeniably talented she has enhanced her career with carefully planned publicity stunts. The Brixton Academy gig and simultaneous web broadcast were just another in a long line of such vacuous publicity stunts promising a lot, delivering very little.
Andy, UK

1,500 pogoing punks watching the Clash, how can that be experienced on the Internet?

Doug, UK
Watching a gig on the internet is no different to watching one on TV, i.e. not as good as being there. 1,500 pogoing punks watching the Clash, how can that be experienced on the Internet?
Doug, UK

I think that the show should have been on television. More fans would have been able to see it. Yes people could log onto the internet, but what about those who don't have the internet? Also, I tried to log on, but was told I did not have the correct software and it would take me 12 hours to download the correct version. By then the gig would have been over!
Mary Jones, London, England

Lots of people cannot attend the live concerts and if they are not being shown on TV then this is an excellent way for people with Internet access to watch them and obviously technology will improve. But as for feeling sorry for people who paid 1,000 to ticket touts ... anyone who can afford to waste that sort of money hardly needs our sympathy!
Gill, UK

I have waited my whole life to see her and what a place to do it

Steve Whyte, UK
I was lucky enough to go to the party!!!! I knew before I went that it would only be a handful of songs, similar to the New York gig so it was hardly a surprise but obviously it would have been cool to hear more. But what a great performance it was. We just went wild when she appeared from under the flag, right next to us and especially when she dropped into the audience! She looked fantastic, her voice was spot on and the energy was more then electric. I have waited my whole life to see her and what a place to do it. With only 3000 people, it really felt special and I am certain it was one of the highlights of my life! Was I disappointed? Purleeze - she never disappoints!
Steve Whyte, UK

I didn't attend or view it on the Internet but I think it's a disgrace that she said the gig was a thank-you to her fans when the audience was made up of celebrities and not her true fans. Sounds to me like a lot of hype for very little reward!
Holly Stevens, England

Seeing Madonna for 20 minutes at a private gig is a lot better than never getting to see her perform live ever again! I would've loved to have gotten tickets and am quite devastated that I didn't! Bring on another gig - quick!
Narelle Winter, England

I connected with a 56k Europe link at 8pm and watched the whole broadcast apart from when my ISP logged me off after 2 hours. It was the best web broadcast in terms of sound and audio quality and I wish I had seen it on a faster connection. It was better than the McCartney broadcast which I could not access at all. More please MSN and no I'm not Microsift biased - I want an iMac!
Paul Harris, UK

Eventually we decided to give up and just listen to the CD!

Laura, England
To say we were disappointed would be a huge understatement. After trying for half an hour to get a connection, the one that we got was pretty dire. The picture and quality was fantastic during Richard Ashcroft but when Madonna took to the stage, the connection crashed, the images took ages to stream through and we missed the final two songs. Eventually we decided to give up and just listen to the CD!
Laura, England

I was lucky enough to attend Madonna's party! I was at the front and loved every minute of it. Having been a fan since day one, the whole experience was quite unreal for me. She looked beautiful, sang fantastically and performed personably with the vitality of someone half her age. She truly is the goddess of music. The atmosphere was electric and although I think half my ribs were cracked in the crush, I wish it could have gone on and on! Way to go Madge! Roll on the tour!
Michael Black, England

I watched part of it at work with a superfast modem. It was a frustrating affair with pictures and sound 'bufferin' (loading and therefore stopping). But I was happy to be part of it nevertheless. I think this is certainly a great publicity stunt from Madonna. But again it shows that she is pioneering and has her finger close to the pulse of time. Good on ye Madge, we love you.
Annelen, London

The web will never replace live music acts

Sharon Rosales, UK
Having just come back from a Jools Holland gig, the web will never replace live music acts. The sweaty atmosphere, the frenzied applause, and being in the presence of true talent, that is what live concerts are all about!!
Sharon Rosales, UK

I think I've missed something here. How is this webcast better than just broadcasting the gig on TV?
Tom, UK

This "nine million" must be a hoax. Is there a way to check this number?
Ad van Oosten, Netherlands

I entered 2 completions without success but would still try again as she is a great performer.
Jacqui Long, London, England

Does this mean that the music industry advocates the use of the Internet to publish and promote its media? Fantastic, stop suing Napster!!
Richard, UK

Excellent gig! I successfully managed to listen to the streamed audio version, practically without any loss of connection. Great concept...
John, UK

I was lucky enough to win tickets to see Madonna

Gemma Wallin, UK
I was lucky enough to win tickets to see Madonna. Admittedly her performance was short and sweet but she proved that she is still a fantastic performer and I for one can't complain.
Gemma Wallin, UK

Who is Madonna?
J. Israel, England

What a performer. Spends half an hour on stage and sings 6 songs to a hand- picked celebrity audience and says it's for her fans. Pathetic!
Joe Prosser, UK

Please stop hyping Madonna. There's plenty of up and coming talent that deserves the support of the media, not some established should be a 'has been' and would be if it wasn't for the hype. I speak as someone from the eighties generation when she first emerged.
S. Dalton, UK

Good to see the technology finally taking off

Chris Boyne, UK
Good to see the technology finally taking off. Readers might be interested to know that a British band pioneered the whole webcast concept over 4 years ago - the Shamen ( They were also the first band to have a decent website and the first to release music online. Now sadly no longer, they have forged the path and left it for others to follow as they always did.
Chris Boyne, UK

Tried and failed to get a connection. I did manage to see the dreadful Texas beforehand though. The sound quality was poor and the picture kept freezing and jumping. When Madonna finally came on the whole thing crashed. If this is the future of pop concerts, I might get into opera.
Kurt, UK

The world's biggest superstar gives a free concert for fans in London - essentially to promote her already successful album - and what does everybody do? Moan, moan, moan, moan, moan. Some die-hard fans would've given anything to have been there for the occasion, not worrying that Madge only performed six songs. That's six more than she's done in the last seven years and six more than a lot of people have done for free. And remember, anyone who spent money on tickets did so out of choice - not because Madonna wanted them to. I watched the gig on the internet and thought it was fab - apart from the inane witterings of sycophantic celebs - and it made me want to be there even more.
Jane Davis, UK

Superstars feed from those who humble their own achievements

Sandi Ashworth, New Zealand
Who needs this? How could anybody spend the time and money watching some jumped-up egotist strut their stuff for a disgusting amount of money, when their income would probably exceed the GDP of a Third World Country? Superstars feed from those who humble their own achievements. Superstardom and Hollywood glitz are nothing but outrageous and shameful slurs upon society's failure to measure human worth at a realistic calibre.
Sandi Ashworth, New Zealand

We watched the event outside the Academy. Someone (I think they call themselves Hyperdub) had turned the largest computer monitor I have ever seen towards the window on the first floor just next door. When Madonna came on stage inside, there were over 200 people outside watching this little screen. This is the real future of web broadcasts - illegal misuse to get the pictures to the real people. Respect to the Hyperdub crew for providing a real public service
UR, England

Isn't Madonna getting a bit old for this sort of behaviour?
Charlie Cmok, Switzerland

After sitting for what seemed like hours of boring chit chat I gave up and decided to watch it another day, when I can actually see the bit I wanted - Madonna, and hopefully get a smoother picture as there'll be less traffic.
Martin Mace, England

The targets that Microsoft set itself were very ambitious

Luke Coleman, UK
As an Internet professional working in this area, I would say that the targets Microsoft set itself were very ambitious. Throwing any amount of money at such a huge project in such a short amount of time will not completely solve the issues surrounding bandwidth availability at the server end. As I understand it, the fastest connection possible was 700kbps, which is near enough DVD quality in theory, but if you have many users trying to access that amount of information, the data is going stream through pipes as if it were a golf ball being sucked through a hose. One must also consider that it was available only on Windows Media Player, currently the weaker of the two most popular live streaming formats. However, this is the way gigs are going to go. Infrastructure will begin to be built into venues and the revenue streams (excuse the pun) are easy to see, which is rare in this industry. Once we all have ADSL, events like this will occur without such a fanfare, and hopefully the edge network servers will become better used to handling demand.
Luke Coleman, UK

I saw Madonna at Brixton academy her performance was fantastic! She picked the best venue in London as everyone was able to see her clearly. Although had I not been lucky enough to have won tickets I would have been upset that I could not buy tickets as I do not have a computer at home. However she said last night in an interview that it was only a taster of her tour next year. The only thing that upset me is that we were not allowed to take any photographs. Does anyone know if the concert will be shown on television or if it will be released on video?
Christina White, UK

It was great to have a Madonna concert going on in one corner of my screen while I wrote a report and sent emails

Larry, US (but British)
Being 5pm in New York when Madonna came on stage, I was still at work and thankfully the company bandwidth is somewhat better than what I have at home! It was great to have a Madonna concert going on in one corner of my screen while I wrote a report and sent emails. I would obviously have rather been at the concert in person but when you live in another continent, I think that this is the next best thing.
Larry, US (but British)

Although there is no substitute for actually being there and feeling other peoples excitement as well as your own, its a good way to allow fans to see their favourite artist, without having to pay extortionate prices to ticket touts!

No I didn't watch it, but like any live broadcast it would have been only a poor second to being there. I hope the technical possibilities won't dissuade performers from what they're supposed to be doing - which is live gigging.
Phil, UK

Between 8.15pm and 9.30pm we were trying to log on to one of the servers on the MSN website to join the concert, this was completely unsuccessful, I know it was popular, but surely should they not have been more connections available. It would be interesting to know how many more people had the same problem.
Stephen Harrison, UK

I tried to watch on the web at various times between 8-10pm. Clicked on every possible link. Never saw a thing. Probably some Microsoft bias against Mac users!
Steph, UK

In this situation where tickets were impossible to come by, a webcast made sense

Mark B, UK
In this situation where tickets were impossible to come by, a webcast made sense, although I salute anyone who saw the whole thing at 1,000kb uninterrupted. In other situations though, you really cannot beat the real gig experience; getting sweaty, po-going at the front, missing the last train home etc. Finally, all of this attention on what was basically a PA set by Madonna was ridiculous. Anyone else who tried to get away with a 25 minute set would have been bottled off! Stick to recording, Madge!
Mark B, UK

I'm not surprised MSN crashed like it did. With 9 million viewers, over a space of 20 minutes! But I have to agree, with people about the quality of the pixels, it was as clear as you can get on-line. The concert was great but it was only 20 minutes. But like they say "short but sweet". To tell the truth I couldn't spend more then an hour at my desk anyway and the bill isn't going to be huge either, so I was ok with it only lasting as long as it did. But lets hope she does another concert with more tickets and that they are more easily accessible to the public!
Benn, England

Fabulous show, shame about the poor quality of the broadcast. Even with ADSL, images were poor resolution and very much only a set of stills, not dvd quality. In the end I found myself wishing I could just watch it on TV instead!
Nicky, UK

I was there in Brixton! Nothing can replace the fantastic performance live before your eyes, but the sound quality at the Brixton Academy was not at it's best. I have since played back the webcast from MSN's site and I can finally hear what she was saying to the audience - clearer than it was when I was stood in the crowd.
Edward Russell, UK

Show was brilliant. She didn't play for twenty minutes it was half an hour. Everyone was told from when before tickets were released that she would only do five songs but in fact she did six including old hit holiday which was a brilliant bonus. It was great to see her so close up and will never happen again. Remember this was a free concert for fans. I loved it and will never forget this wonderful experience. She looked and sounded better than ever.
Brad Mace, UK

I'd be pretty fed up if I knew she would only be on stage for 29 mins!

Andy Byrne, United Kingdom
I only saw clips of it on the news this morning but I'd be pretty fed up if I knew she would only be on stage for 29 mins!
Andy Byrne, United Kingdom

If the ticket money went to charity, fine. I should think the only people disappointed at the running time were the people paying those prices. I'm not a die-hard fan but haven't been disappointed by either of the last two albums.
Kenneth Henry, UK

My niece in England emailed me after the event how much she had enjoyed watching on the web live. I wish she had informed me about it beforehand as I would have certainly watched it with her.
Aunty, Australia

I tried watching on the web and gave up in frustration.

Raj, UK
I tried watching on the web and gave up in frustration. In principle it seemed fine - but I feel sorry for the people who paid 1000 to ticket touts to see her play for 1/2 hour. Surely, that isn't really a thank you to the fans - more like a get quick rich to the touts.
Raj, UK

I was disappointed that she played at all!
Kevin Sheerstone, Canada

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29 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Madonna's new hit record
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