As one might expect, the Dead have joined Phish, Pearl Jam and others selling concert CDs:
- Every concert is recorded and digitally transferred to compact discs that can be ordered at the concert venue and shipped within a week and a half.
It’s like going to the same concert over and over again. And it could well be the future of album sales for “performance” bands like The Dead, for many reasons:
Cost: A three-CD set of a typical performance costs $22. Compare that to the usual $17 or $18 charged by music stores for a single disc.
Incentive for the performers: Most bands like The Dead receive less than $1 for each album sold. By controlling the recording and marketing of their work, they now earn up to $8 or $10 an album.
This means a band does not have to sell a million records to make a decent profit. It can sell far fewer. It also means that less “commercial” songs get recorded. Finally, it should encourage start-up bands that can’t afford to record with a major label.
Back of the Bus CD Burning
A simple laptop computer with not-so-simple software is the key. Dennis Leonard, The Dead’s audio mixer, who is nicknamed “Wizard,” sits in a tiny room or even in the back of the band’s bus, mastering the recorded tracks and storing them in digital files. He can “burn” a CD from his computer or collect the digitalized tracks and send them off to Chicago for duplication. It’s that easy.
“They’re much better than the free downloads from the Internet,” said Leonard. “Online MP3 files are compressed and don’t provide nearly the range as a CD.”
Someday, he believes the recordings will be digitally downloaded from a machine at the concert site only moments after the last song has been played. Fans will actually be able to listen to the concert they just attended on their car audio system, driving home.
The faithful seem to like the idea. So far, about 25,000 CDs have been sold. That’s about 2,000 for each performance during The Dead’s summer tour. Do the arithmetic, and the band pockets a quarter-million dollars. Call it “supplemental income,” as they have already earned most of their money from concert ticket sales. Tickets go for $52.50 a head – or Deadhead, that is. [ABC]
I love this idea, and it tangibly rewards bands that play well live. It will also give bands added incentive to vary their set from show to show.