The past few weeks have seen two telling developments in the nascent market for instant concert recordings — official, legal bootlegs distributed to concertgoers just minutes after the last encore.
First, the Pixies got back together. Their first show in twelve years was played at the Fine Line in downtown Minneapolis. I couldn’t get tickets — the show sold out in seconds. But a company called DiscLive contracted with the promoters to record the show and sell limited-edition CDs of it right afterward. Only 1,000 copies were made, and those copies are selling for large sums on eBay. This is a fantastic service, and well worth the $25 cost to concertgoers.
Even better, though, is the secondary effect. After the Pixies’ Fine Line concert, everybody wanted to hear that bootleg. (Are they any good any more? Is their heart in it, or is this just for the money?) And what do we do when everybody wants the same data at the same time? That’s right — we use BitTorrent. In a convergence of some of my favorite technologies, a link to the .torrent file for FLACs of the Pixies show appeared on the twin_cities community on LiveJournal pretty quickly after the concert. Because everybody was downloading it at once, I had it within an hour. (The show was pretty good, by the way.)
The second development is an announcement by a company similar to DiscLive called eMusic Live. As DiscLive is to medium- and large-scale concerts, eMusic Live is to small indie clubs. Instead of having a staff of people to pop CDs in and out of drives, eMusic Live happens with just one operator. Instead of CDs, the music os recorded onto little USB flash drives — the kind a lot of people have on their keychains already. The music costs $10, and they’ll sell you a flash drive for $20 if you don’t already have one. Pretty cool. Most peopel are just gonna rip the DiscLive CDs anyway, so distributing the MP3s on flash drives is more convenient. And it eliminates the cost of CD blanks, CD cases, and hundreds of CD drives at the venue; all they need is a little kiosk with a USB port on the front for you to plug your flash drive into. The only drawback is that these are MP3s, not full-quality CD audio. The article says 110 minutes of audio fit into 128MB flash drives, and that puts the bit rate somewhere between 128kbps and 192kbps — good, but not great.
Companies are finally capitalizing on what nonprofit sites like eTree and Grateful Dead tape traders have known for years — there’s a lot of value in being able to listen again to concerts attended in the past. They’re monetizing memories, but they’re adding value.
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