Communications and Society blog: By and for students in Marist COM 201

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Life, Concert Bootlegs, and Everything

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A week or so ago, I went to a concert in New York City. The Pixies, a highly influential alternative band from the late 80’s/early 90’s were having another reunion tour (they had one in 2004). They were playing Hammerstein Ballroom, and the first thing I saw when I walked in was a merchandise stand. It didn’t seem out of the ordinary until I saw just what they were selling. They were selling pre-orders of the soundboard recording of the concert for a whopping $25. And this was not a new phenomenon for myself. The Smashing Pumpkins did the same thing at a concert I went to last Fall.

Here’s the problem I have with this. Concert bootlegs for decades have been a community driven project. Deadheads recorded concerts in the 60s, Springsteen fans recorded concerts in the 70s and 80s, Phish fans recorded concerts in the 90s, Radiohead fans recorded concerts in the 2000s, and so on and so forth. The caveat here is that these recordings were free.  And that was the point. Fans would trade tapes of concerts and build communities around these recordings, and the artists actually encouraged such activity. Today it has evolved into uploading the concerts onto sites like MegaUpload or Rapidshare so everyone can get them. Sure, they’re not always in the greatest of quality (although there are a handful of soundboard recordings out there, which by the way are all free as well), but why should they cost anything? They’re live recordings of songs that have already been made. The product that was being sold was the live experience, something that could never be pirated or recorded.

So what kind of message are these bands sending by doing such things? They’re already charging outrageous prices on top of appalling Ticketmaster “convenience charges.” Now they’re killing what bonds fan communities together so they can make even more money.

I walked the streets of Manhattan giddy to see a band I had loved for many years, but thought I would never get the chance to see since I missed their original reunion tour. When I actually got to my seat, I almost felt like I didn’t want to be there. I felt like the band saw me and everyone else in that concert hall as sacks of cash.

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Written by nfugitt

December 5, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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