Live concert recordings on USB sticks

Note: this post is part of the R/WW Files on Online Music.

[di]rec | Live concert recordings on USB sticks

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.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

21 Responses to “Live concert recordings on USB sticks”

  1. Wifly says:

    What about the addition of wifi to some of these usb thumb drives? Has anyone seen this product yet?

  2. Buck says:

    Funny thing, they already have a camera that records your entire ride at one rollercoaster that I know of, it is called “Volcano” and is at the Virginia ‘King’s Dominion’ theme park. Cool stuff!

  3. hmmm its make to too much easylie life for us πŸ™‚ Thanks for this post “last100 team”

  4. Jeremy says:

    Ok, I’m all for new mediums but tell me again what the benefit is over CDs/DVDs? Both can be customized for a specific event and there are faster and cheaper ways of replicating and customizing CDs than USB drives. USB drives aren’t by any ways cheaper to manufacture especially when screenprinting or pad-printing designs on them is involved. Anyone else want to clue me in on this? From my standpoint, as a consumer and possible merchant of such products it doesn’t seem viable at all.

  5. Johneigh B says:

    The band Umphrey’s McGee has been selling their live shows on CDs immediately after the show for about 2 years now, so this is nothing new. While USB drives my be an attractive gimmick, a blank CD is going to cost substantially less. They bring a few CD-Burning towers and just crank them out after the show (Each packet contains 3 or 4 CDs, depending on the length of the show, and they can crank out a few thousand copies within a half hour). Like Jeremy said, the USB drive isn’t a bad method, but if you are trying to make money, CDs are the way to go.

  6. Chris Dawson says:

    I think one issue that will come up is production costs. It is fairly costly to produce audio and video for an event like this, and this means you have to factor in production costs when recording an event. And, there is probably a hardware investment to make these USB keys at the venue. This means you will probably only see this at larger venues, so you will only get videos from very (already) popular bands. We’ve been thinking of this, and our open source podcasting device software solves this cost problem: take any PC and we’ll convert it to an automated podcasting device. Plug in a USB key to start capturing, and remove it to stop and publish. This means any venue, large or small, can offer recordings of their events to any band. We are putting this into nightclubs and venues around Portland, OR with our partner Tables Turned, and would love to work with other promoters or venues around the US and world. Tables Turned recently captured most of the events at the “PDX Pop Now!” festival. Check us out at

  7. chet says:

    The band Sirsy ( started recording certain gigs a couple of years ago. The difference is that they take the time to mix and equalize everything (and throw out the not so great stuff I suppose) and then you can “Build Your Own Bootleg” by selecting tracks from the list of available recordings. $1 a song, burned to CD.

  8. bmc says:

    Metallica have been doing this since 2003 and they actually take the time to mix it and make it sound good. the only drawback is sometimes it takes a couple of days to a week to finish it up and they even give you label files check it out pretty impressive and a good way to make money a lot of bands should do this.

  9. LC says:

    wifi on thumbdrive: In singapore such a service exists. about $20 for 5gb of data. Good for working but certainly not for heavy duty surfing.

    The USB recording idea is great, but how long does it take to make one? It would be nice if there were vending machines that fans could go to place a pre-order for these sticks before the concert starts, and just collect & go at the end, instead of copying huge chunks of data for fans after the concert ends. imagine if thousands of fans want this….
    these vending machines could be hooked up to the sound system to record the music…

  10. christ says:

    i think this is financially doable. i did a quick google search, and someone is selling bulk usb drives for 7.99 a piece for a 32 meg stick. i was looking in my itunes, and many of my albums will fit into a drive that size. if some one was doing a serious bulk buy of these things, i bet they could get them for 5 or 6 bucks a piece. sell the thing for 15 dollars and youre making some money.

    i think this is a brilliant idea. alot of people would buy a recording of the show they just saw, where as they may see the standard CD and think that they could get a better deal for it at walmart.

    and the best part is that unlike CD’s, if you don’t sell all of them, you can erase them and record a new show next time.

  11. No Way says:

    “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.”

    Nope, bootleggers are not all steady-cammers and knock off men, usually they are direct digital copies sold through themselves at a much lower price. Now that the live songs are in pure digital, direct downloading and uploading will also remain digital and in theory flawless and I wouldn’t be suprised to see someone, somewhere selling the identical original product at one-tenth the price.

    Sure it won’t be from the concert you just watched, but it will be near identical otherwise.

  12. John says:

    Thumb drive memory is probably sickeningly cheap for a company doing any kind of volume sales. You can get 1gig sticks for $10 as a consumer if you know where to look. NO reason why they can’t get these drives for chump change.

    Like Chris mentioned, the price will be in the production of the content.

    Jeremy: I doubt anyone would screen print on the thumb drives unless it was the company making the sale and they were all the same. Even if they did it wouldn’t affect price that much. This would be an extrememly cheap way to do things. Besides being able to hold more data than CDs they would be much quicker to produce. The data could be loaded on immediately… in time for you to snag one on the way out the door if you waited 5-10 minutes before leaving.

    A competent two or three member team of live, on-site editors could make this happen at each show. I would readily choc up $15 for a professional audio copy of the show i was just at. For video who knows how much more… T-shirts sell for ridiculous amounts after all.

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    Hey diggers, can’t get laid? Check out and watch hot chicks strip and fuck eachother!

  14. I think music on USB is a great idea. Doesn’t necessarily have to be live just a great design that matches the look of the band. USBs are used in schools these days so they’re ripe to become a fashion item.

  15. David says:

    Einsturzende Neubauten did this I think in 2002-2003 on their tour, they burned every concert to cd. There’s no reason to have to mix the show or anything, it adds unneeded cost and wouldn’t be worth doing to every show. The soundboard records the entire show, all they would have to do is export this and out it on usb. My only concern is, will it be lossless, and will it be drm?

  16. Dave says:

    I was at a Barenaked Ladies concert last winter, and they sold the concert on USB stick for about $15. mp3s of the songs on a stick. Simple, but the best ideas usually are. You pay for the concert-on-a-stick before the concert, and take the receipt to the table afterwards and get the stick.

    BNL also offers each individual concert online a couple of days afterwards, but I guess this is best for those who have immediate gratification issues πŸ™‚

  17. Rob says:

    The point about making them pay for the concert USB before the show is a good one as it allows you to know how many need to be produced.

    As for developing bands who might look into doing this, consider the time after the show fans are waiting for the drives to be finished as an opportunity to mingle – even make that part a selling point for purchasing the usb drive.

    And while a usb drive may still end up costing more than a CD, the re-usability of the drive alone would make it worth purchasing for many folks. An artist branded drive could also entitle fans that come to future shows to a reduced cost for that show’s recording as well cultivating a “taping” fanbase

  18. chicob says:

    It is only natural that this is the way music will be sold most music is transferd that way..

  19. Ashley says:

    Based on the above coments some of you might be interested in what we at Aderra are doing.

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