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Digital Phish

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Though the Dave Matthews Band is much better known to the casual music fan, Phish has assumed Dead-like proportions for the hard-core jam band fan. Following the Dead ethos of emphasizing live over recorded music, Phish is now offering downloads of many live shows via their LivePhish.com site. Phish may be hippies but they are very much corporate hippies: this music is not free by any means. Here are a few of their FAQs:

    What are Live Phish Downloads?
    Live Phish Downloads are an extension of the multi-CD Live Phish series launched in October 2001. As with the CDs, the downloads feature complete, unedited, mastered shows from Phish’s extensive archives. The download format is a natural progression for the serious collector and the new fan alike, offering an opportunity to listen not only to older shows, but to shows from a current tour very soon after they’ve happened, mastered directly from the soundboardHow much does it cost?

    How much does it cost?
    The price of each show is based on format and length. Each show is available in two formats: MP3 (standard) and Shorten aka SHN (premium). Most shows are two sets, but some (like New Year’s Eve for example) are three sets. Two set shows cost $9.95 for MP3 format and $12.95 for SHN. Three set shows cost $14.95 for MP3 and $18.95 for SHN. Batches of shows may be offered at a discounted price. For example, you can preorder all four shows from the New Year’s Run 2002/2003 at one discounted price.

    What do I get?
    After completing the purchase process you may download the entire show in the format you’ve chosen. Individual tracks or sets are not available separately – you may only purchase shows in their entirety. For those who wish to burn the shows to CD, we have created printable PDF files for the CD labels, booklet and tray liner. You’ll need to use a PDF reader such as the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to print the files. The color files are printable on ink-jet and laser printers, and use NEATO templates, available from Phish Dry Goods or directly from Neato. In addition, jewel cases, ShowCase binders and ShowCase sleeves – all the supplies that you’ll need — are also available from Phish Dry Goods at the above link.

    What’s the difference between MP3 and SHN formats?
    We have chosen the two most popular audio formats among the Phish online community: MP3 files are the standard format, and Shorten (SHN) files are the premium format. With both MP3 and SHN files you can continue to use your favorite audio applications and CD burning software. For a list of recommended software, look here. The standard MP3 files, encoded at 128 kbps (near-CD quality) are easy to download, easy to burn to CD, easy to transfer to portable players and sound great. However, MP3 files are compressed and therefore may not sound quite as good as the original source recording to a critical ear. MP3 files are versatile enough to use on both your computer and home stereo system. Many portable players that play digital music files can only play MP3 files. For fans who desire higher fidelity, we also offer a premium format. Shorten is a “lossless” compression which means that the source audio file is compressed, but without sacrificing any of the audio information contained in the master recording. An extracted Shorten file sounds identical to the original source (44.1 kHz, 16 bit stereo). The hi-fi Shorten files are much larger files and will take longer to download. These files are for audiophiles who want the best sound quality. Shorten files must be extracted (uncompressed) to .WAV files to burn CDs or to listen to the files, although you may listen to Shorten files with a special plug-in for Winamp (PC). Be sure to check compatibility with your favorite software or portable player. Please see the software FAQ for more information. New to downloading? We recommend starting with the standard MP3 format.

    Why is SHN more expensive than MP3?
    SHN downloads are more expensive because they cost more to deliver to you. A show compressed in Shorten is typically five or more times the size of a show in MP3, and therefore costs substantially more to deliver over the Internet.

    Why should I pay for what I can get for free?
    Primary advantages of Live Phish Downloads over audience recordings are: pristine soundboard quality, faster and more reliable downloading and quick turnaround. In most cases, shows will be available for download within forty-eight hours. Each show is carefully indexed and comes with printable booklets (containing liner notes), tray inlays and CD labels. The files are served by a robust delivery network capable of serving thousands of simultaneous downloads, ensuring the fastest and most reliable download experience for the user. We also offer quick response customer service to help sort out any problems that may arise. That being said, audience taping has always been and will continue to be a defining element of the Phish experience. Live Phish Downloads offers an alternative, convenient route to obtaining live recordings and is in no way intended to supplant or undermine the taping community.

    How does Live Phish Downloads affect your taping policy?
    For the most part, our taping policy remains unchanged. As with other official Phish releases, you may not copy (except for personal use) or trade files offered through Live Phish Downloads. We have made one significant change to the Policy that bears noting. The Policy now allows for audience recordings of any show to be traded person to person or through online repositories, whereas previously it was forbidden to offer audience recordings of shows that had been officially released through online repositories. This change applies to live shows released on CD as well as via download.

This statement should be read by everyone in the music industry – it’s the path to financial success in the face of free file sharing, the bottled water vs. tap water philosophy:

    Why should I pay for what I can get for free?
    Primary advantages of Live Phish Downloads over audience recordings are: pristine soundboard quality, faster and more reliable downloading and quick turnaround. In most cases, shows will be available for download within forty-eight hours. Each show is carefully indexed and comes with printable booklets (containing liner notes), tray inlays and CD labels. The files are served by a robust delivery network capable of serving thousands of simultaneous downloads, ensuring the fastest and most reliable download experience for the user.

Phish sees no incompatibility between allowing their fans to tape their shows for free, and charging for premium service: RIAA, get the clue.

Pearl Jam is also selling CDs of their live shows via their website.

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
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