Note: this post is part of the R/WW Files on Online Music.
In July, I blogged about a new company planning to sell recordings of concerts on USB sticks as you leave the venue. Since then I’ve actually found articles proposing a similar idea that dates back to 2004, although I believe it was a slow starter then. Nowadays, USB sticks have surpassed floppy disks and even CDs as the most popular way to physically move data around, plus they have a much higher capacity than they used to, and are more physically robust.
This is an excellent way of making money out of every live recording an artist makes — usually only one live recording is sold on through CDs/DVDs — and I think people would love to have a recording of the gig that they were actually at, rather than buy a recording through a record store of one random concert. The USB keys could be customised with artwork from the current tour, or contain video footage and photos from the show, which in-turn would make them more collectible.Not only does this let artists and promoters monetise their events more effectively, it’s also one in the eye for the commercial bootleggers. If the concert recording is availabe to buy legally then this weakens the appeal and strength of the bootleggers product, an illegal copy, which is probably going to be of poorer quality than the official product.
I think that the immediate delivery of a recorded event, whether it’s a rock concert, an opera, a sporting even, a play or a West End musical, is likely to become more and more prominent as technology becomes more efficient and the costs come down. I can easily imagine being able to take home a recording of a Formula One race or a football match. In theme parks, instead of having your picture taken as your roller coaster carriage tips over the brow of the biggest hill on the track, on board cameras will record you for the whole ride, as well as external cameras recording the carriage’s progress.
As always, Digital Rights Management (DRM) plays a part. I’ve found no definitive answer to whether or not these recordings are sold with DRM or not, but I suspect the label/artist will decide in each case. It has been reported that Canadian group, The Barenaked Ladies, are selling their concerts without DRM on USB sticks, along with albums in the same format. All live recordings are also available for purchase online, and without DRM.