DMB fan site
January 13, 2003 9:01 PM   Subscribe

AntsMarching.org, a Dave Matthews Band fan site, posted almost 500 high-quality audio files of live recordings of the band's concerts to their website after Christmas. When previously only those who were of technical-mind and knew where to look could download shows, AM dumped every fan with the ability to click a hyperlink into the mix. Today, the band updated their tape trading policy, saying that any trading actions that don't promote fan interaction, specifically posting audio and video files on websites, are strictly forbidden. While it is my assumption that AM.org is the major player in provoking this move, my question is this: Is it wise for bands who credit their success to tape trading and word of mouth, and encourage fans to record and trade shows, to essentially ban the practice from the internet? Is it fair that you either trade through the mail or don't get to have live recordings when the internet has so much potential? Is it impossible for digital music trading to foster community?
posted by tomorama (19 comments total)

 
Chryst, the Christian heavy metal act, is pretty cool with it.
posted by four panels at 9:20 PM on January 13, 2003


"Is it wise for bands who credit their success to tape trading and word of mouth, and encourage fans to record and trade shows, to essentially ban the practice from the internet?"

Ask Lars. He's the expert.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:39 PM on January 13, 2003


I can kinda see their point, actually. Just downloading what you want willy-nilly doesn't really encourage interaction as much as e-mailing someone and setting up a trade and getting a dialogue going.
posted by Vidiot at 9:43 PM on January 13, 2003


I have yet to see an example of fan trading, sites, etc hurting sales for a band. I'm sure it must exist, but so far I have yet to see one.
posted by rudyfink at 9:52 PM on January 13, 2003


Well, they're not saying anything about online downloading hurting sales. Actually, when they released their album "Everyday", they released the first single to Napster. This is why some fans are yelling "hypocrites!"

They're saying they don't want anyone to post audio or video files of live performances online because that defeats the purpose of trading live performances... setting up trades via traditional mail and getting to know other fans.
posted by tomorama at 10:01 PM on January 13, 2003


Dang. There've been a few MeFi folk saying they like DMB. If I'd known there were some live recordings, I'd have given them a listen. If I liked 'em, I'd have gone to a concert, were they ever around.

Ah, well. Mark me down as a potential fanboy, lost.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 PM on January 13, 2003


Well, Dave Matthews, I understand your reasons for wanting to do this, but good luck with all that ... can o' worms. I think the artists who don't embrace this are going to look as silly as Lars did in Napster's entrance pool. AFAIK, the remaining members of the Grateful Dead, whose fans started this whole taping trend years ago, don't care about online trading. It's a hell of a lot easier (and cheaper) than buying high-quality decks and spending hours duping tapes. The word of mouth factor is severely hampered by discouraging online "fan interaction." Yes, snail-mail has that special touch that really adds so much in getting to know someone from a distance. The handwriting, the type of paper used. The tasty envelope glue, the paper cuts, the rising cost of postage. Maybe they could put a waiting period of mandatory interaction between traders if the trade is facilitated online. Or, the traders could be forced to go to a little introduction party with "Hello, my name is ..." tags on, and after this initiation would be allowed to trade online. That would be special.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:53 PM on January 13, 2003


My browser just ate a well-reasoned and elegantly worded post referring to such sites as the Live Music Archive, Dick's Picks, On The Road, FurthurNet, and LivePhish. I'm too lazy to reconstruct it now. The bottom line was: I see their point, and they're not alone. There's a real difference between trading, even online, and the wholesale warehousing of shows. There are also legitimate financial concerns at stake.
posted by muckster at 12:32 AM on January 14, 2003


I realize what they are saying. I just don't think that the argument holds any water. Fundamentally, I think this is a move to constrain scope of trading rather than to protect community integrity.

Do links destroy community? I say no. I agree it is true that links negates the social necessity of asking someone. I disagree that removing that element causes the community to fail. Trading is still a "link" to material but of a far less dependable and accessible kind.

The only difference I see is a general user does not have to specifically socialize before the information is given. I see this as a benefit because it broadens the point of access and lowers the cost of experimenting. Instead of having to find someone to conduct a transaction with a user simply follows the link.

I would argue that the community is based around the information (musical content in this case) and not the trading interaction. Fans will still discuss, enjoy, and trade music even if they get it off of links.
posted by rudyfink at 12:37 AM on January 14, 2003


One of my favorites, John Wesley Harding, has for years allowed fans to record his shows and trade the recordings.
posted by planetkyoto at 1:16 AM on January 14, 2003


The ironic thing in all this is that almost all of the hard-core, serious traders will not go for trading of shows in mp3 format. (mp3, of course, being a lossy format degrades the quality of sound in the communal archive; for people who religiously note every type of mic, reel, deck, etc used in the recording, transfer and distribution of the tapes, slopping it all into mp3 is sacreligious.) See etree.org for more info.

In my experience, though, DMB traders are less likely to be concerned with these issues; maybe because 25 decades of non-digital transfer has ingrained certain habits in the Dead community.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2003


Yeah, pretty much every show you download comes with a warning in the text file:

"DO NOT ENCODE THESE FILES TO MP3"

The difference between this situation and bands like Phish selling their shows through services like LivePhish is that Phish still allows trading and downloading of fan-recorded shows. The reason people are paying to download from the official LivePhish site is that those recordings are soundboard quality. If you don't want to pay, it's perfectly fine with Phish if you trade for or download analog-sourced recordings. With Phish, the only shows you are not allowed to trade are those that have been officially released on CD.
posted by tomorama at 2:27 PM on January 14, 2003


By the way, the audio archive this post is about is not mp3-sourced. It's an archive of SHN shows - smaller than wavs but bigger than mp3s, with lossless compression. Each show runs close to a gig in size.
posted by tomorama at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2003


lupus, I think antsmarching.org was actually offering SHNs. Oops, tomorama beat me to it.
posted by muckster at 2:31 PM on January 14, 2003


Is it fair that you either trade through the mail or don't get to have live recordings when the internet has so much potential?

The question isn't really "is it fair," the question is, "is it within the group's rights to do so?" The answer is likely yes. DMB is more generous than most bands in granting fans permission to make copies of live shows and trade them for the mutual benefit of fans. Allowing the initial recording is the granting of a license (for something that would ordinarily not likely be considered fair use) and a copyright owner is allowed to put whatever darn strings on a license that the copyroght owner wants. If you don't like the license terms, don't enter into the agreement. (I understand the fair use/Audio Home Recording Act implications of making single tapes for friends and family, but that again is very different from posting on the Internet for the world to download, as the Napster court held).

Not to mention, it does make some sense -- DMB allows the recording to build a strong and loyal community of fans, and it has succeeded thus far. It is a fair reading of the tea leaves to say that posting without the normal interaction of trading degrades that goal, while at the same time potentially degrading the market for DMB's own live albums (trading with hard media = barrier to doing so = incentive to keep to a minimum for all but the most hard core fans, vs trading electronically = little/no barriers = tons of casual downloads cutting into sales). And as for the Napster argument -- a calculated release of a single song via trading to build buzz and create a market for legit purposes of spurring purchaes of the entire album is VERY different than the whole DMB catalog in a variety of live performances at a click of the button.
posted by IPLawyer at 2:45 PM on January 14, 2003


(Whoops. Sorry for the mp3/SHN mistake.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:02 PM on January 14, 2003


I think this is lame (then again, maybe I don't. Dave Matthews, such a nice guy and all). But I saw Dave Matthews on Queen Anne ave N giving a guy a jump start (at least it appeared that way) in his Subaru Forester (at least it appeared that's what he drove) the day before Thanksgiving.

It all appeared the way it appeared. But at least I believe right?

I don't like Dave Matthews' music much. But he appears to be a genuinely nice fella.

At least that's what I believe to be true judging from appearances.
posted by crasspastor at 12:21 AM on January 15, 2003


I give the policy 30 days. It's no more workable than what the RIAA is trying to do. You can't stop technology. Your only good bet is to ride the wave.

As has often been pointed out these trading communities encourage fan devotion. The headline of a recent NYTimes article (which I won't link, because it's now in their paid archives) was "They Buy All the Albums, but Trade Concert Bootlegs."

Another important factor is that this trading encourages the development of ethical communities which are more likely to respect artists rights and reasonable boundaries. The reason the Dead first allowed taping was because (a) they were libertarians and hated trying to stop it and (b) they wanted to regulate it -- put it in a tapers section where other fans don't get bothered. The move largely worked. Tapers get what they want, and they respect the boundary by staying in the tapers section.

If a band makes unreasonable demands, they won't be respected, and this in turn breeds general disrespect for the ethical boundaries. It's unreasonable to tell people to trade by postal mail but not on the net, so people will ignore that request. Once you have a trading community of people who don't respect the band and their requests, you get things like people trading dubs of commercial CDs. All of a sudden the band is starting to actually lose money, rather than make it, from the trading scene.

I give the policy 30 days, maybe 45. It'll certainly be changed by the end of the next DMB tour.
posted by alms at 6:56 AM on January 15, 2003


from what i read somewhere else posting these files on ftp servers and furthernet are fine. but they don't want you to be able to download just by clicking a link of a website.
posted by hazelmeg at 7:12 AM on January 15, 2003


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