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Live Recordings Becoming Big Biz

“You say it’s all about control
And nothing should control you
If no one ever gets to close
Then you’ll have nothing to live up to”
(“Wrong” – School of Fish)

The central issue for copyright holders is that they are going to have to learn to love, or at least live with, giving up some control of their products: people simply don’t want to have to deal with copy-protection. It’s inconvenient, it reduces the value of the product, it encourages illicit activity, it’s a big turd in the punchbowl. We just mentioned that at least part of the reason SACD and DVD-Audio aren’t selling is that they are copy-protected and CDs are not.

At least these people are doing it right:

    SHORTLY after Phish, the improvisational rock band, finished its New Year’s Eve concert at American Airlines Arena in Miami, perhaps a couple of hundred people remained at play in the private suites that lined the hall. Brad G. Serling, as big a Phish fan as they come, joined them briefly but soon had to depart for the bowels of the arena.

    ….Later in the day, from a hotel with a faster Internet link, he uploaded the concert files to the Internet. And so, by the morning of Jan. 2, Phish fans worldwide could pay $11.95 to download the New Year’s Eve concert from Live Phish Downloads, a site run jointly by the band and Mr. Serling’s company, Nugs.net.

    Mr. Serling had also joined forces with three less-prominent bands – the Radiators, the String Cheese Incident and Yonder Mountain String Band – to post recordings of their own New Year’s concerts at another site, LiveDownloads.

    ….As other technology companies scramble to match the success of Apple’s online music store, iTunes, which sells songs for 99 cents each, a different online-music economy is emerging around the sale of recordings of live performances – often with no restrictions on how they can be played or shared.

    Since it was established in late 2002, Live Phish Downloads, which now offers audio files for about 50 Phish concerts, has generated more than $2.25 million in sales.

    ….One way that selling downloads appeals to fans is by offering music files that are not crippled by limitations on where and how many times the file can be copied. Such so-called Digital Rights Management systems are used by many traditional online music stores. But most of the budding concert download sites, including Live Phish Downloads, sell unrestricted files.

    “The No. 1 issue that most of the music industry has wrong is D.R.M.,” Mr. Serling said in an interview last week at his home in Los Angeles. “Why make it harder for people to buy your product? The answer is fear, and you have to get over the fear. What would you do if you walked into Tower Records to buy the new Dave Matthews Band CD and the guy behind the counter said: ‘Here’s your CD. It’s $18, but you can only listen to it in your den on one stereo. You can’t take it to the car. You can’t put it on your iPod.’ You would laugh at him and walk out, right? It’s the same thing here.”

    ….Now, from a spacious house in the Hollywood Hills, with a microwave antenna pointed at a receiver somewhere in the flatlands below, Mr. Serling is just trying to stay ahead of his new competitors. In addition to a deal with the Dave Matthews Band, Nugs.net has reached a broader agreement with Musictoday, a company run by Mr. Capshaw that provides Internet services to more than 250 other bands, including Metallica and the Rolling Stones.

    Musictoday already offers services like Web stores, ticketing and fan club support to its artist clients. Now, Musictoday will also offer those bands a downloading service powered by Mr. Serling’s operation. For Nugs.net, the Musictoday deal is meant to expose the company to hundreds of bands without having to hire dozens of salespeople. [NY Times]

Give people what they want the way they want it and they will happily pay for it – hmmm.

About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i saw something on the tube about this a while back (i think it was about the reconstituted Dead)…the amazing part came when they interviewed some record exec who expressed concert that these live recordings would “compete with a band’s existing catalog”

    further proof that there aren’t many fans of music running the companies.

  • Eric Olsen

    give Elektra credit for supporting Phish on this