YouTube Supposedly Killing The Live Album... But Is That A Bad Thing?

from the seems-fine dept

Reader Ima Fish alerts us to a column that mostly bemoans the death of the big "live album" that helped some bands break through, with the article blaming YouTube for the loss. The idea is that, since everyone's going to these shows, taping them and putting them online, it's killing any incentive to put out official live albums. Of course, it's not clear if that's really true. For years, the Grateful Dead allowed taping and swapping of the bootlegs -- and yet still did amazingly well by selling live albums. Also, I still know plenty of bands that put out live albums. Perhaps the bigger issue is just that the whole concept of "breakthrough albums," whether live or not, isn't as big a deal as it used to be. Either way, the bigger question might be whether or not this even matters. As the author of the article finally notes at the end: "As I type this, I've been listening to more than a dozen bootlegged clips of that Yeah Yeah Yeahs show from Coachella off of YouTube. Having witnessed the show live, I am now able to relive it, albeit from the slightly disjointed perspective of someone else's handheld gadget. And guess what? It makes me want to see the band again--and buy their music."


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Ninjalo, May 27th, 2009 @ 8:33pm

    Funny

    The article seems to be against the bootlegging, but then for it?

    Instead of writing a giant article to go full circle, why not just post "Live albums sound better due to professional recording so people still buy them." and save time?

     

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    Designerfx (profile), May 27th, 2009 @ 8:36pm

    piracy?

    I thought piracy was killing the album. Can't the labels make up their mind?

     

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    random, May 27th, 2009 @ 8:58pm

    got one thing to say... MUSE. Check out the HAARP tour which was released on DVD and CD. All the songs are on youtube. The point is there are very few people who actually use the apps to record off youtube and would much rather buy the CD/DVD much better quality and more authentic.

     

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    Clueless, May 27th, 2009 @ 9:27pm

    I had completely forgot about the existence of live albums til I read this. What was the purpose of them again?

    I mean, recorded live shows - official or bootlegged - are just interesting for those who were there. Live albums helped bands break through? What?! When? In the 60s?

     

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      Ima Fish (profile), May 28th, 2009 @ 4:15am

      Re:

      As the article stated, live albums did help rock artists break through. It was mostly because the studio albums were tamed to make them more accessible to fans outside of the rock genrea, but rock fans rejected them because they were so lame, so ironically no one bought them. Finally the band would release their live album to show the world they could actually rock. And rock fans would go crazy.

      Frampton, Cheap Trick, Kiss (Their huge break through was Kiss Alive) etc.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2009 @ 10:06pm

    The swapping of bootlegs and whatnot in the past was done slowly, over long periods of time. It might take a collector years to find a certain bootleg.

    Now I just go to youtube and enter the band's name and "live" and I can find various clips of their shows right now.

    Bootlegging of concerts is the next step down that road of "everything is free", potentially removing another money making sales point in the process, giving "fans" even less reason to spend money on a band. The CDs are free, and now the concert is online free. So why go to the show? It won't be long before the smarter ones will be in there using 3.5G networking to broadcast the concert live. Then nobody will have to pay :)

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), May 27th, 2009 @ 10:39pm

      Re:


      Bootlegging of concerts is the next step down that road of "everything is free", potentially removing another money making sales point in the process, giving "fans" even less reason to spend money on a band. The CDs are free, and now the concert is online free. So why go to the show


      Uh, watching a show online is totally different to being there live. I've seen plenty of shows online of bands I like, and it only makes me more interested in seeing them in person.

      I'm honestly shocked that anyone would think hearing a live recording is somehow a replacement for the real thing.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2009 @ 5:50am

        Re: Re:

        Mike, be shocked.

        A concert is an experience, it is also a hassle for many. The venues are far from their homes, parking is a nightmare, line up for tickets for 3 days, cost a fortune, etc. Many people are already near or at the tipping point where they say "I won't bother".

        Producing a great live album is key to fulfilling the needs of those who don't want to go to shows. As your buddy Trent Reznor about the value of live albums (NIN has released 3). I would suspect that in the case of "and all that could have been", Trent probably sold as many copies of the video as he did tickets to the shows, if not more.

        Because concerts are such a hassle, many people just decide not to go. Having the show on the net might actually give them one more reason NOT to go.

        An additional NIN sidenote: A number of years ago, when the intenet was young, the NIN site would occassionally feature a single track from a live show, as the tour progressed around the world. For fans, it was a taste of things to come, for those who didn't yet have tickets it was a perfect sampler to encourage attendance. Yet, had Trent used his current mentality and released a full tour video from the very first show, it would have likely backfired, fulfilling the needs of some people and making them not need to buy tickets anymore. We don't know for sure because it hasn't happened, but it certainly would have changed the dynamic.

        With concerts being the big payoff in the "Masnick" world, I would say that anything that hurts that bottom line would be a real issue, no?

         

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          PaulT (profile), May 28th, 2009 @ 7:27am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You're really saying that if NIN had released a video of the full show, that people would not have bothered turning up for the real thing? What an idiotic statement. By that logic, nobody who buys a live DVD ever attends concerts by that band - simply not true.

          Besides, the experience of going to a gig is only about 50% down to the music. The crowd, the atmosphere, the sharing of the live experience is something that can't be replicated by sitting on your couch. If you think it can, you're doing it wrong.

           

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          ProphetBeal, May 28th, 2009 @ 7:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Yet, had Trent used his current mentality and released a full tour video from the very first show, it would have likely backfired, fulfilling the needs of some people and making them not need to buy tickets anymore. We don't know for sure because it hasn't happened, but it certainly would have changed the dynamic."

          Actually is has happened (or at least came very close). A few months ago Trent released over 400 GB of HD concert footage. Somehow I doubt that hurt his concert sales at all.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2009 @ 9:22am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            yeah, except it was for a tour that was already finished and done with. At that point, it isn't any different than a live album, except perhaps that Trent can afford to give all this stuff away rather than turning it into another live album / income stream.

             

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          ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 28th, 2009 @ 9:17am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "A number of years ago, when the intenet was young, the NIN site would occassionally feature a single track from a live show, as the tour progressed around the world."

          Right, and the reason he didn't do more was as much because of the limitations of the infrastructure as it was his personal philosopy. A video of an entire show would have taken *days* for most people back then.

           

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          Mike Masnick (profile), May 28th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          A concert is an experience, it is also a hassle for many. The venues are far from their homes, parking is a nightmare, line up for tickets for 3 days, cost a fortune, etc. Many people are already near or at the tipping point where they say "I won't bother".

          Yes, a concert is a hassle for many. But a live recording is still not a substitute for the experience. Never has been.

          Because concerts are such a hassle, many people just decide not to go. Having the show on the net might actually give them one more reason NOT to go.

          Again, there's no proof of that. Notice what EVERYONE else here is saying: they went to a show because of the live video. It's the same thing we wrote about with Joe Bonomasa a few months ago (which you made fun of at the time): having those videos online INCREASED attendance at his shows nearly 10X.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2009 @ 3:14pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Mike, if you want to look for people who went to a show because of a live video, polling them at the show is a great place to find them. But that same video might be watched tens or hundreds of thousands of times. How many people didn't go as a result? You would actually have to ask them.

            A survey of people doing something isn't exactly a complete sample.

            "Yes, a concert is a hassle for many. But a live recording is still not a substitute for the experience. Never has been."

            Yup, but it they are 51% for going, 49% for not going, and seeing the video makes them lose a little bit of interest for going, then it is a tipping point. For those whole find live shows a hassle, the live show DVD is often the best way to enjoy the show without the hassles. A decent quality video of a concert might be enough to stop many people from going.

            Don't think of it in and of itself as a yes/no thing. The old "straw that breaks the camel's back" is more appropriate. It is easy to dismiss something because it is too small of a thing to make a difference, but again, you aren't considering context and situation.

             

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      DTS, May 28th, 2009 @ 12:10am

      Re:

      Why go to the show? It's like getting an autograph from the band in person, versus getting a photocopy of their autograph. It might result in a rough equivalent but the experience is stark in contrast.

       

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    really, May 27th, 2009 @ 11:37pm

    really

    Taping a live show? That's gotta sound horrible.

     

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      Doctor Strange, May 28th, 2009 @ 12:47am

      Re: really

      You would be surprised, actually. There are people who are practically "professional tapers." I knew one guy who would go to a tremendous number of shows where the bands permitted taping. He brought with him a netbook-style computer, some simple audio equipment, and a couple very expensive mics on a big 20 foot stand. He would constantly check and adjust levels during the show until he got it just right to make sure nothing got clipped. He would then rush home, and lovingly break things into discrete tracks and probably perform some very rudimentary mastering on them, and then stick them out on a site like sharingthegroove.com. His recordings were nearly indistinguishable from "official" releases off the soundboard.

      Bands like Dave Matthews Band, in the tradition of the Grateful Dead, have allowed and encouraged live taping and trading. Additionally, they sold both live and studio albums, and despite the fact that bootlegs were available, they did sell quite a few live albums. When the Internet got big, it became clear that no more personal interaction was needed to trade tapes. DMB did have a policy for a while where they nicely asked fans to get copies of live shows through direct fan interaction rather than just downloading them anonymously over the Internet. Nobody cared, of course, and everybody just downloaded them. I'm not sure if they ever rescinded the policy or not.

      Now, they have released a large glut of official live albums, and another set of less-remastered recordings off the soundboard, called "Live Trax," of shows they think are especially good. There are now 15 "Live Trax" albums. I used to be an avid collector of all of this stuff, and bought both their live and studio albums, but then it just became an inundation. There are too many live albums and too many Live Trax recycling content, and so I just don't bother anymore. I haven't bought (or downloaded, or traded) anything of theirs since their last studio album a few years ago.

       

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    Derek (profile), May 28th, 2009 @ 12:10am

    The Dead

    When I was in college in 95 a friend had a bootleg of a Dead album that he played while we were driving up to go snow skiing. I was hooked and ended up purchasing all the studio albums and seeing them 5 times before Jerry's untimely death. Until then I had heard OF them but not actually listened to their music. As you have so succinctly put before; the music is the hook to get us to purchase the real scarcity. All those music companies sold scare plastic discs before...those days really are gone, even if they don't realize it yet. Anyway, the bootleg from a '72 concert got me to spend several hundred in the mid 90's. That my friends, is power.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2009 @ 1:06am

    i really doubt it

    sounds like the MPAA's claims that ppl taping movies i theaters are the main source of piracy.
    even though I download a fair bit of music (through lets call them alternative channels) i rarely if ever download movies, (i did download the Phantom menace because the screaner was online b4 the Canadian release and i did go see it in the theater on the 1st day) I could even understand some1 downloading a Taped movie if he really cant find better quality.

    but a taped live concert? whats the point your neither going to enjoy the sound quality nor the video quality if you really like the band your going to want the DVD to watch/listen on your home theater. The only ppl who would settle for the youtube version are ppl who don't care that much for the band.

     

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    Josh, May 28th, 2009 @ 5:44am

    concept albums

    What about concept albums? Ones that were meant to be listened to in their entirety such as Quadrophenia. The per track purchasing that occurs eliminates the concept of album in a sense, it's all about the singles. Granted, it's been about the singles for quite some time, but the record companies didn't have a great way to distribute them after the death of the 45 and before the birth of itunes.

     

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    PaulT (profile), May 28th, 2009 @ 7:20am

    Yeah, I went to Sonar in Barcelona last year and was blown away by Soulwax. I pre-ordered their live album/DVD set, and guess what I did in the meantime? I watched the YouTube videos, which I also showed to some impressed friends. Soulwax lost nothing from me, but may have gained ticket buyers in the future.

    I've also watched a lot of Daft Punk videos to see the famed pyramid stage, something I've been unable for various reasons to see "in the flesh", mainly because they haven't played a show within 500 miles of my location. Watching the videos makes me want to see them live if I ever get the chance, something I'd probably be less intent on doing if it weren't for the videos.

     

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    PaulT (profile), May 28th, 2009 @ 7:21am

    Yeah, I went to Sonar in Barcelona last year and was blown away by Soulwax. I pre-ordered their live album/DVD set, and guess what I did in the meantime? I watched the YouTube videos, which I also showed to some impressed friends. Soulwax lost nothing from me, but may have gained ticket buyers in the future.

    I've also watched a lot of Daft Punk videos to see the famed pyramid stage, something I've been unable for various reasons to see "in the flesh", mainly because they haven't played a show within 500 miles of my location. Watching the videos makes me want to see them live if I ever get the chance, something I'd probably be less intent on doing if it weren't for the videos.

     

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    hegemon13, May 28th, 2009 @ 9:17am

    Not even close

    A professionally recorded and produced live album is a completely different product than a poor-quality, tinny, low-resolution recording from someone's cell phone, further reduced in quality by the conversion to Flash video. This is a really stupid claim.

     

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    Dan, May 28th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    Resources

    Just look at the music section on archive.org. Some of the taper recordings are of great quality - however there really isn't any comparison with a mastered soundboard version.

     

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    LostSailor, May 28th, 2009 @ 10:23am

    The Dead were still copyright supporters

    Using the Dead here, while instructive, should not imply that the band were not supporters of copyright; they were.

    The Dead generally discouraged taping until the late 70s, when they began to sell special tickets to a "tapers" section located behind the soundboard. During the period from the late 70s to their disbanding in 1995, they only released a handful of live albums from recent shows, two of which were largely from the same shows: Reckoning (acoustic) and Dead Set (electric) from a series of shows in Winterland and Radio City were released in 1981; Dylan and the Dead was released in 1988 (and taping was only allowed of the Dead's solo portions of that show, not the parts with Dylan being backed by the Dead), and Without a Net in 1990. There were three additional releases of much older archival material in the "From the Vault" and "Dick's Picks" series.

    Over that period, tape trading gradually began to gather steam and it really wasn't until the late 80s and early 90s that it became really widespread. Even then, it was a somewhat complicated process, governed on the honor system. The deal with the band was that tapes could only be traded free of charge, not sold, and largely the fans and tape traders policed themselves.

    The Dead were never a great studio band and, frankly, their records never sold particularly well. They made their money off of touring, a grinding process that likely contributed to Garcia's death.

    That said, the Dead were still copyright supporters. They would aggressively go after anyone who was selling unauthorized copies of their shows. Early on in the digital age, some sites set up downloads of soundboard copies of tapes as well as copies of the commercial releases of their archival material. The Dead sued a number of these sites for copyright infringement, and eventually reached agreements with them.

     

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    SeanG, May 28th, 2009 @ 2:02pm

    So really, what was the last band to actually break big on a live album? Frampton, Cheap Trick, Kiss? I'm 33 and I can't remember a single band I've been a fan of first getting big on a live album. Well, maybe Primus. I can't think of anyone else. Almost every album cited in the Slate article is over 20 years old.

     

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    zellamayzao, May 29th, 2009 @ 7:35am

    hassle

    I think it is very true about the hassle being a reason to not go to a live show. My fiance pointed out a solo show of a lead singer of one of our favorite bands in Hobokken, NJ. We live in Delaware at it was like a 2.5 hour drive one way. So 5 hours on the road, ticket price, the prolly 1.5 hour set. That makes a long night. I would have LOVED to see him live and solo but it just wasn't worth the hassle even thought tickets were only 12 bucks.

    But also to add to those that say listening to a live album or dvd only makes you want to see a band that much more is true as well I believe. I have AFI's live dvd and Ive never been able to catch a live show but have been a fan of theirs for years. When I watch it, it makes me mad I haven't seen them yet and can't wait until they come 'round the east coast again.

     

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    sprearson81 (profile), Jun 9th, 2012 @ 6:33am

    This can only be a bad thing in my book.

     

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