One of the most innovative
and promising developments to hit the concert scene in years is a new
program that allows fans to purchase a CD recording of the show they just
witnessed before leaving the venue that night.
But a battle is shaping up between independent artists and several small
companies offering this service -- including eMusicLive, which began
recording shows at Metro, Double Door and Schubas in March -- and concert
giant Clear Channel Entertainment, which patented the technology that makes
the process possible.
Based in San Antonio, Texas, Clear Channel is the biggest concert
promoter in the country. It owns 130 venues in the United States, including
the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park and Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East
Troy, Wis., although it has not yet implemented its live recording program
in the Chicago area.
The Clear Channel program originated in Boston and is called Instant
Live. It's based on new technology that is able to process a CD of a live
recording within five minutes of the end of a concert, producing as many as
50 CDs every 10 minutes.
On Monday, Clear Channel announced that this summer, it will offer some
100 live recordings of various artists who will be taped throughout the
country, including Jewel, whose live discs will be issued in conjunction
with Atlantic Records.
Other participating artists will include the Allman Brothers Band, the
jam band moe., Michael Franti and Spearhead, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic,
the Samples and the Smithereens.
Clear Channel bought the patent for the live-recording technology from
its inventors, and the company now claims it owns exclusive rights to the
concept of selling concert CDs after shows.
"We want to be artist-friendly," Clear Channel executive and Instant Live
director Steve Simon told Rolling Stone magazine. "But it is a business, and
it's not going to be, 'We have the patent, now everybody can use it for
In an interview with the Reuters news service, Brian Becker, chief
executive of Clear Channel's live entertainment unit, added, "We want this
service to be in widespread use and welcome all legitimate and serious
conversations with those interested in licensing our patent. We will not,
however, conduct licensing conversations in public or via the media."
Countered Danny Stein, CEO of Dimensional Associates, the New York equity
firm that owns eMusicLive, "We don't believe that our business practices
infringe on anybody's intellectual property." His company is ready to fight
Clear Channel on the issue.
"We're an enterprise that has patent lawyers that are equal to their
patent lawyers," Stein said. "Basically, they're trying to intimidate bands
and smaller companies. We're in a more advantageous spot than the other 80
people they're hunting, because they're going after a lot of artists and
people with no resources."
Though it's been gaining in popularity, the concept of recording shows
and selling the CDs to fans as they leave the venue isn't new. Bands
including the Allman Brothers, moe. and Billy Idol have done it nationally
for several years. Train did it during a stint at Schubas earlier this year
in a process independent of eMusicLive, and Buddy Guy did it during his
traditional January run at Legends, working with a Chicago company called
Reunited alt-rock legends the Pixies were planning to use a company
called DiscLive to offer the service on their summer tour. But the band is
performing at many Clear Channel venues, and the concert promoter forced the
group to work with its own Instant Live service instead of any rival
"I'm not fond of doing business with my arm twisted behind my back,"
Pixies manager Ken Goes told Rolling Stone.
So far, Clear Channel's declaration of war has not affected eMusicLive's
operations in Chicago, and the company still hopes to expand to other clubs
here and across the country.
eMusicLive charges $10 for a single-disc recording ($15 for a
double-disc) and splits the net profits (usually about $6) with the band.
The CDs also have been made available at select independent record stores,
and MP3s of some shows can be downloaded from the company's Web site,
The clubs -- which get a cut of the gross -- leave it up to the artists
to decide whether they want to participate. Some cannot because their
recording contracts prohibit releasing any CD that isn't sanctioned by their
label. Others opt out because they'd rather do it themselves, or they'd
prefer not to have live documents of less-than-stellar shows in the
Joe Shanahan, owner of Metro and a co-owner of the Double Door, said the
program has been off to a slow start, with CD sales ranging from two to 10
copies a night. Schubas reports similar numbers. Both promoters say smaller
unsigned artists have been the prime users of the program. But they believe
it has a lot of promise.
"I think it's a great idea, and the CDs sound better than most live
recordings I've ever heard," said Schubas talent booker Matt Rucins.
"People often want a remembrance of a special night of music, and this is
much better than a tour T-shirt," Shanahan said. He believes the program
will grow in popularity as artists and fans become more familiar with it and
as eMusicLive moves to the next phase of its implementation.
The company is gearing up to introduce onsite kiosks where concertgoers
can download the show they just saw to a 128-MB USB pen drive (a small
device that can be purchased for about $50), prior to transferring it to
their computer or iPod or burning their own CD at home. The first of these
kiosks just debuted at Maxwell's in Hoboken, N.J.
"It takes 10 seconds, and it's even easier than buying a CD because you
don't have to carry it home," said the company's Stein. "You can bring your
own pen drive, or you can buy one right there at the kiosk if you don't
already have one."