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Livestreaming makes music festivals free and hassle-free

You could pay hundreds of dollars to see Paul McCartney and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or you could see them for free. More music festivals are livestreaming their concerts without charge as the ultimate marketing tool. For music fans, it's a chance to rock out from the best seats in the house.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers play at San Francisco's 2013 Outside Lands music festival. Sylvia Borgo/Garcia Borgo Photography

The summer music festival season is in full swing. In San Francisco, that means the three-day Outside Lands music festival, which this year featured the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Vampire Weekend, and Paul McCartney.

The festival packed in 65,000 people a day. But those who didn't want to shell out the $250 for a 3-day pass, wait in line at the Porta Potties, or spend hours staking out a spot of grass by the main stage could still see the big names acts -- and for free.

Now playing: Watch this: How live streams could change the music festival experience

Festival organizers partnered with live streaming platform Ustream to provide a free, live webcast that could be viewed worldwide on desktops, laptops and mobile devices.

"We have a multi-stage webcast. People will be able to watch, just like they're here at the festival, be able to watch from home," explained festival organizer Rick Farman, co-founder of Superfly Presents. "It's a sold out event this year, so we're happy that a lot of people who just can't come out or buy tickets can be able to get some experience of the festival."

The live Webcast from Ustream and Springboard Production involved feeds from cameras placed on the three largest stages, three video production trucks, hundreds of feet of cable, and a production team of more than 150 people.

"Typically festivals would broadcast the same footage they would show to the left and right of the stage. In this situation, we're taking multiple camera feeds, multiple audio signals, mixing it all specifically for the web broadcast," Ustream senior sales engineer Gilad Gershoni said.

Mega-COW deployed by AT&T Jared Kohler/CNET

Festival-goers could also tap into the live stream on their mobile devices if they could get a strong enough cell signal. In an effort to stem customer complaints about spotty cell coverage at big events, AT&T and Verizon put up mobile cell towers called COWs or Cell on Wheels, more than doubling what they provided last year. AT&T's setup included something called a mega-COW, which was the largest COW they ever deployed in Northern California and accounted for about 50 percent of the overall equipment AT&T deployed.

Several times at the festival it took awhile to load the Ustream Outside Lands page and access the streams on my Verizon iPhone 5. However, I was able to easily pull up the livestream of the Phoenix performance on my phone while I was watching Nine Inch Nails on the main stage -- so it did pass that test.

Expect to see more music festivals streamed live for free. With about 11 million people tuning into Ustream's broadcast of the Bonnaroo music festival, concert promoters see the live Webcasts as a way to give viewers at home a taste of that they're missing and hopefully inspires them to pay for tickets in the future.