The second article I ever had published was a piece on one of my favourite bands, Pearl Jam, and their decision to sell a digital download & physical CD bundle online as a way of giving fans the best of both worlds in their album purchase.
Last night I was lucky enough to be in attendance for their performance in The Point, Dublin and just like last time the gig was astoundingly superb. At midnight as I exited the venue I had the same feelings as any music fan would as they left an enjoyable show; I wanted more, I wanted to be at the beginning of the show again and I wanted to be able to listen to the nights unique renditions constantly for the next month.
During the Binaural tour in 2000 the band, long time advocates of the bootleg scene, experimented with their own official bootlegs, releasing copies of every live concert during 2000, all recorded straight from the soundboard at the various venues. For me this meant that I could (and still can) listen to my first ever proper gig (which just happened to feature one of my favourite bands ever) at my own leisure.
Since the Binaural tour the band have modified their set up and now rather than releasing physical CD’s they instead offer MP3 or FLAC downloads of each show (here). Customers will also recieve art work for each concert as well as concert photo’s; all for either $9.99 (mp3) or $14.99 (FLAC). Needless to say I am waiting patiently for the latest Dublin show to come online.
With ventures like this and ones previously mentioned Pearl Jam have shown themselves to be one of the most web-friendly bands going. They are offering fans DRM-free concert tracks, professional photographs and artwork and all for a reasonably small price. Let’s not get naiive here, someone is bound to be making a profit but who says a company or group can’t make a profit without ripping off their fans and followers?
Looking at things rationally the bootleg scene has been an issue since the creation of the portable tape recorder; you can go into any independent music shop or any p2p client and you’re bound to find countless recordings of live gigs, quite probably done from the middle of a screaming crowd. Confiscating recording equipment from fans (which nowadays could be anything from their phone to their mp3 player) or trying to take down retailers and websites offering bootlegged material has proven to be a pointless exercise; there is a demand by fans who attended and those who could not to hear live shows. Pearl Jam are sensible enough to realise this and so have decided to give the fans what they want in the best possible quality. I’m certainly willing to pay a small fee to hear the Dublin gig again, especially if it means I can hear the band and not just some shrieking fan standing in the general proximity of the microphone. Just for the record concert-goers are still permitted to make personal recordings of Pearl Jam gigs if they want, once their techniques are reasonable and fair.
Companies, bands and individuals could learn a lot from this example; Pearl Jam are offering their fans high-quality versions of something they want and are probably making money on it too; they’re selling something that no-one else can offer and so it’s a win-win situation for both fans and the band. Their move from physical live CD’s was probably due to the production and distribution costs entailed in creating literally hundreds of different albums on a rolling basis and it’s a business model that seems to be successful.
Now if you don’t mind I’m going to go listen to the 2000 gig again while I wait for the 2006 to turn up online!