Saturday, August 09, 2008

Live Concert Recording in San Diego

I have always been into going to live concerts. For many years now I've paid my money at the door and enjoyed the show. Venues come and go, bands come and go, and sometimes a really amazing show happens and you are just floored. The problem is that too often the awe of the show wears off and my short term memory can't really recall the details of every riff or drum solo. You have no physical memory of the event and you rely only on your ticket stub / photos to recall the show. About 6 years ago I decided I'd look more into live audio fan-recording of concerts. I had heard of it's prevalence in the Jam Band community (starting with the Grateful Dead in the 60's), but in the early 2000's I never saw on the internet live recordings floating around of small touring bands at The Casbah, or quiet singer/songwriters at Twiggs. I figured if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

Around the same time, a digital library project was starting in San Francisco, CA called It was started by an old dead-head who made a money-bin of cash by selling Alexia internet to in the late 90's. He had the lofty goal of archiving the entire internet. Brewster Kahle's Wayback Machine allowed anyone to type in any URL and see the 'old' versions of that page since the beginning of the internet. It grew from there archiving / scanning entire libraries of 1900's books, old software, early audio recordings, and an open-source section where people could put up whatever they wanted. I was most interested in his sub-collection called the Live Music Archive. The idea being simple: 1) Everything would be 100% legal and above board. All bands would give consent first, and then fans would be able to upload whatever live recordings they had of that band. 2) Fans would upload these live recordings and they would be hosted for free, forever. 3) it was all non-commercial recordings only. No studio stuff allowed, no official live releases, just live fan-recordings for free with the band's blessing.

So with my new Creative Nomad hard-drive player/recorder and a set of microphones I set about talking to bands / getting approval / recording the shows I went to so that I could have something to listen to later as well as something to share so that the small local San Diego bands could get to a fresh set of ears in Tennessee or Japan, all for free.

The funny thing is, there are a lot of small bands that really are supportive of fans taping their shows. Any exposure is good exposure, and most bands are really honored that you care enough about them to commit additional time and resources to record / edit / publish their live music for them for free.

A quick run-down of San Diego bands that I know of on the Live Music Archive include: Jason Mraz, Grand Ole Party, Tristan Prettyman, Bushwalla, Scarlet Symphony, !Society!, Apes of Wrath, Swim Party, Calico Horse, UV Tigers, She Blonde Swede, Pete Thurston, Annie Bethancourt, Anya Marina, Carlos Olmeda, Steve Poltz, The Truckee Brothers, Dirty Sweet, etc. The list goes on and on. Venues like The Casbah, The Scene, Twiggs, Lestats, and Winston's have shows up and even big venues like 4th & B sometimes allowed recording, as long as the band OK'd it first.

All in all, the LMA has currently 51, 982 individual concerts by 3,024 bands.

Some paid alternatives for live recordings exist in San Diego as well. I think it has been discontinued, but in 2003/2004 I bought several live soundboard shows from The Casbah's See A Show, Buy A Show" (SASBAS) at M-Theory in their local bin. Live Nation / ClearChannel has experimented with InstantLive a way to sell a soundboard recording of the show immediately following the performance, but again, not much band / show selection. Some venue soundmen also record the live performances to either playback through the house speakers, or to sell to the artist for a small fee, or for free.

Regardless, I think the thing to remember is that the live shows we go to, whether recorded or not, really have a magic energy to them. Memories of a show are priceless be it a photo, a live recording, or a setlist from the stage. Keep going to shows and supporting the bands that work so hard to put on the live music we love to enjoy.


Sara said...

This really is a good blog entry... great information. Roger and I had a inspired conversation one night to record and sell back live shows for extra cash (splitting with the band and house). It really never got far.

Tyler said...

Glad you liked it Sara. I guess it is good to mention that in the world of live-fan-recordings, the mantra is that the recordings are always FREE and to sell them is really the ultimate sin. Giving them to the band to sell is okay, but to take any profit from it whatsoever kind of is like taking money from the band. the band has the talent / performance, so it isn't right to profit off of that. Just my take anyway. Always give away the live recordings! :)