shit. there's been a lot of replies in this topic since i started writing this...
It's better I respond publically, so people know why I say these things. I've been a big trader for probably 6 or so years now--especially in the Smashing Pumpkins community (although I've dabbled in many, many others). I've seen first hand how technology has shaped communities--when I first started trading, MP3s were jsut starting out and were basically the equivilent of FLAC/SHN etc. now--too big to send mass amounts out in. And so, we traded by mail.Merlin wrote:Cool! Thanks for starting things off.
Hmmm. I'm interested to know more. I'm new to this, so bear with me.sour29 wrote:Offering whole shows in MP3 would kill a Long Winters (lossless) trading community before it has a chance to flourish.
When you say "lossless" you mean, like, shn or flac formats? Non-lossless you would see as bad? Why?
Also, how does posting full shows vs. 2-3 tracks damage the community?
And finally, what can we do, in you opinion, to improve things for traders as well as—more importantly for the band—more informal, _grazing_ fans (especially lo-speed connnection folks)? They aren't all going to be especially enthusiastic about 15MB/track .flac files, IMHO. :)
Thanks for any advice you can offer. PM or email if you prefer.
First and foremost, perhaps, is the sense of community MAIL trades creates. It creates bonds between people. Opens up conversations about experiences and love for a band, singer, project--whatever. It brings people together who aren't just a faceless username. Sure, mail trades don't necessarily put a face to a person--but they tend to be a lot more communicative and create bonds and friendships, especially when two people get in continuous contact and set up multiple trades over a period of time. When people are downloading MP3s from a site (or even a P2P network group), they don't interact with anyone but a monitor and mouse. There's no sense of community or involvement. And music trading (at least, originally) is about bringing people together who share common loves. I'm in the process of trying to set up several mail trades right now for the shows listed above, and they have led to several conversations with people I probably otherwise never would have been given the opportunity to get to know.
Arguably, mail trades are going the way of the dinosaur, however. As technology grows more advanced, it becomes increasingly feasible (if not downright practical) to trade online. Via Bit-Torrent, DC++, SharingTheGroove, etc. etc. But, because of the large file sizes, many of these trading method's still create--and even encourage--a community. For example, DC++ is a Napster-like P2P sharing program. Each dedicated "HUB" has a chat room where, more often than not, the users of the Hub chat, and get to know each other and talk about the same things as mentioned in the above paragraphs. It's more effective than a normal chat room because the chat window always remains open while a person is downloading--they have no choice. While a person downloads an MP3 off a site or Kazaa or such, there's no encouraged communication. Bit-Torrent and STG.org don't have similar chat programs, but operate on a message board-like format. This encourages people to respond to the release of a show, and can often lead to interesting discussions as well. The advantage Bit-Torrent holds over DC++ is that it's not a direct P2P connection, and allows you to download from many people at once. Another plus to BT is that you are FORCED to upload while you download, so that the music is spread/shared more. Both have their ups and downs.
So yes, obviously, I'm encouraging the use of lossless (flac/shn/etc.) audio. Not only because it creates this sense of community, but also because it ensures that the downloader gets the best available copy of the recording. MP3ing music cuts off frequencies, which straight out lowers the quality of the music. I'll never hear the end of the "the human ear can't pick up those frequencies" arguement, but this is simply not true. Any true music lover will tell you that you can hear a difference--especially in the high-end frequencies (listen to cymbals especially; they are the most noticable). It's like people arguing the vinyl is and will always be superior to the compact disc. Because it allows higher frequencies to pass.
For arguement's sake, though, let's say that we couldn't notice a difference (and I'll pretend that MP3's don't add several frames of silence to the end and beginning of each track, forcing a pop or clicking noise between tracks when burned to cd--not noticable on albums but very noticable on the seamlessness of live recordings) and I transfer the show I taped last night and put it up as a 256kps MP3--pretty high quality, people would be happy, right? So, a Long Winters fan--let's say his name is Joe, downloads my show and burns it to cd. Later, my show is taken off of whatever site or is just not readily available anymore. Joe decides Hey! That was a great recording, and I know people would love to hear it! I'm going to put it back out there. Very noble of Joe, agreed? So, Joe rips this cd encodes it to 256kbs MP3 and puts it back up for download. All cool, right? Wrong. 256kbs MP3 or a track that was originally a 256kbs MP3 means you're really downloading (essentially) a 128kbs MP3. Or about that. And that's if we're lucky and Joe converts his previously MP3 WAV at a high bitrate (such as 256kbs). If he were to reencode those files at the more common 128kbs, you'd be downloading a 96kbps (or worse!) copy of the recording. If someone were to download Joe's copy of the show, burn it to cd, and later decide to do the same thing and rip their copy of the cd, you're getting a third-generation MP3. That would, by and large, sound worse than a Real Audio file.
This is especially a problem in Live Recordings, which (frankly and by and large) tend to sound poor to begin with. When you start compromising the quality of what is already a poor recording...well, let's just say you'd probably be better of spending your time and bandwidth elsewhere.
However, let's say I offer my recording up in FLAC format. Joe burns it and later offers it in FLAC format as well. Then Kathy downloads Joe's copy and burns it. This is not, by any means ideal (there's a lot of factors that go into ripping and burning cds that ensure a completely flawless recording), but in theory, Kathy has an exact duplicate of my copy. That means her download is the very best it could possibly be, no matter how many generations it has gone through before it has gotten to her. This is simply not the case with MP3s. Ultimately, it comes down to ensuring that the quality remains optimal and consistant.
This is not only for the listener, but for the taper as well. I paid, probably, $120 Canadian to see the Long Winters last night. Between costs of taping equipment, tickets and transportation, that might be a conservative estimate. Furthermore, I spend the concert WORKING to make the best possible recording I can so that the listener can enjoy my recording to the utmost level. I can honestly say that I did not enjoy the Long Winters show as much as I would have if I had not taped it. If I had not taped it, I would have been singing along, and dancing and partying like it's 1999 again. But because I put my enjoyment asside, there's going to be countless Long Winters fans who are going to be able to listen to my recordings and watch my DVD and enjoy that concert--including me. But after all the work, effort and personal sacrifrices (and I know it was my decision, I'm not trying to make myself out to be a martyr by anymeans) to create the best looking, best sounding repreduction of a live performance (something that could never be recreated exactly as it happened even if you filled the room with all the same people and played the exact same setlist), why would I want my hard work and efforts being spread amongst fans in any less quality that i intended for it to be? Why would any listener want to subject themselves to a copy of it at any less quality than it ought to be?
Let me draw a metaphor--you go to the grocery store for apples. You can get ripe, red, perfect apples for $1 a pound. Or you can get what WAS ripe, red, perfect apples, but now has small bites taken out of it and is slightly bruised in some areas. These apples sell for $0.50 a pound. Now they're cheaper--and they're certainly still edible--but is it not worth that extra fifty cents to get the better apples? Sure, you could get twice as many bad apples for the price of the good ones...but why would you want to?
Which leads me to your next question. 3 tracks of MP3s of recordings offered at TheLongWinters.com is the bitten and bruised apple. People buy a couple--maybe a couple of different flavours. They'll buy some Red Delicious (let's say these are MP3 samples of the 05/29/03 recording), they'll buy some Granny Smith (MP3 samples of 10/16/03), and they'll buy some MacIntosh (WMV samples of 06/06/04). They get to "taste" these recordings, and with these tastes, decide which are worth the "extra 50 cents." Or, which recordings would be worth the time and effort to a) hunt down and set up a mail trade, or b) dedicate the time and bandwidth to a larger, lossless copy of the show.
It's tricky, and the reason why I request the whole shows not be MP3'd is simply these: people by and large take the path of least resistance. If they don't taste the sweetier, riper apples, they don't know what they're missing and are content with the crappier ones (I know I'm beating a dead horse with this analogy...Sorry). People will download the MP3s and be content with them just because they don't know any better. If there's 100 Long Winters fans and 95 of them download the crappier recording, that's only 5 people who get the experience of trading, the sense of community, the best quality copy, etc. etc. More importantly, perhaps, that means only 5 people get something in return. When you download a bootleg, you don't have to offer anything in return. In mail trades, you're more likely to get shows if you have one to offer the other trader. Let's say someone from Spain e-mails me and says "Hey, I got this great recording of the band last May. I'm interested in your DVD. Can we set up a trade?" That means that I get a great cd, and he gets a great DVD. We both have TWO recordings of Long Winters shows, while downloaders only have the one they downloaded. PLUS, that gives the guy in Spain another thing to trade with. Now he can offer both copies of his DVD and of his recording to other traders which will allow him more bargining power and access to other shows held by other tapers that the MP3-traders will never get.
I've seen MP3s kill trading communities. Bands I really, really enjoy (such as, let's say for example, Placebo and Silverchair) have no communities to speak of. Sure, their shows are taped, but they are then released in MP3 and lossless copies of great shows are either impossible to find or extremely hard to come by because you have to dig through all the people who have downloaded and burned MP3 copies of the shows. That's if and only if Lossless copies still exists. Let's say the taper tapes over his Master copy, and he was the only person with a non-MP3 sourced recording. Now I, a big music and Long Winters fan, am no longer able to get an assurredly good (or at least best) quality copy of a great show.
In fact, especially with Placebo and Silverchair, the best quality copies are the ones pressed by bootleg manufacturs (they are almost always sourced from Radio). That means, if I want a great sounding copy of Placebo's gig in Paris, I have to find a store selling silver-backed bootlegs and shell out $30. Now, $30 is a lot for a cd, but it's a price paid for ALL THE TIME (check e-bay for silver-backed bootlegs, if you don't believe me). Of that $30, how much does the taper get (for the efforts and work he put into getting the show taped)? $0. How much does the band get--the people who deserve to make the profit seeing as it's their music and their show--of that $30? Again; a big fat 0. So now, Rainbow Music Bootleg Inc. (that's a made up name, I think, and any coincidences are purely coincidencial, etc. etc.) made ~$29 in profit for something of an exact quality I'm proposing could be made available to the public for FREE. As it should be.
I could easily make loads of money off taping shows. I could probably pay two or three months worth of rent for my apartment selling The Long Winters DVD of last night's recording. I could, at least, make enough to pay off the financial expenses that went into taping the concert--but ethically, taking money for a live recording is wrong. Again, it's the band's music, the band's performance, and if anyone deserves the money--it's the band. Not me, I just had to be there with a video camera and a bit of skill. Offering high-quality/lossless copies of show publically (to get back on topic) gives an alternative to people who try and profit from the band. After all, who's going to pay $30 for a bootleg with crappy artwork when they can download it in 3-5 hours readily off the internet? At equal or better quality, no less? Or, if they're on low speed connections, the price of a blank cd, an envelope, and a stamp? $3, $4 maybe.
I understand it's not feasible to host FLAC files, or DVD quality videos... but that's why I suggested 2-3 track samples in lower quality formats. That way a) the band gets to promote the material and the live act; b) everyone can download samples of multiple recordings; and c) casual fans will have a plethora of downloads that aren't limited to one recording, one concert or one stage in the bands career. The casual fan who is unwilling to spend the $4 to trade, take the time to download or whatever prevents them from entering the community would be able to download their own "mix compilation." 3 tracks of one show (an old one, that may feature something that hasn't been played in ages, such as Copernicus), 3 tracks of another show (maybe this one featuring our beloved Sean on keys and back-up vocals), 3 tracks of yet another show (perhaps this one an acoustic performance?), and finally, 3 more tracks (let's say this one is a typical show of the current tour).
I believe this option to be the best, because it displays to the casual fan the many sides to and diversity of The Long Winters. Not only that, but they might listen to the three acoustic tracks and go "damn! i'm not a big Long Winters fan, but this show is excellent. I want to get the rest of this recording." In an instance such as this, everyone benefits: The Long Winters have a potential new fan, the downloader gets a new show, and the trading community gets a new (if even only temporary) member.
Offering whole shows in MP3 format follows the old proverb "why get a cow when you get the milk for free?" It will kill the trading community, or at least marginalize it tremendously. And, I can say with a straight face that I believe community is important to this band. If not, they wouldn't be so friendly and helpful to fans like myself at shows. They wouldn't have a message board on their website, and they certainly wouldn't regularly visit and post on it. The trading community not only makes up a (potentially if not already existing) fair portion of the Long Winters community, but also provides potential exposure.
Let's say I want a Nirvana bootleg, but I have nothing to trade but a Long Winters show. I e-mail a Nirvana trader for a trade, and he says to himself "Well...I'm really only interested in trading for Nirvana shows, but the tape this guy has is a good one and I'd like to make sure as many people hear it as possible. Hmmm...And he's offering me a Long Winters recording? Isn't the the new band of that dude from Harvey Dangers? They're a pretty cool band. Maybe I'll check it out." That is exposure for the band, and another potential fan. Would this Nirvana fan have coincidentally stumbled across TheLongWinters.com and downloaded random MP3s? Not likely. And it's benefits to the band such as these that, I feel, makes being taper-friendly a very powerful tool for bands. As an asside/example, I got into Death Cab For Cutie because a good friend of mine taped their set and accidently burned too many copies. He gave his extra to me and said "check these guys out. you may like them." Two months later, I ordered their entire discography from Barsuk.
This is what I'm trying to encourage for The Long Winters. I -LOVE- their music with all my heart, and have spread the word to as many friends (and their friends) about the band as I can. I've even created a few more fans. A healthy trading community is essentially this on a wide (even global) scale.
So, after some two hours of typing, I think I've more or less got my point across. Sorry it's a novel but I feel this is a very important topic, and feel very strongly about. As a huge Long Winters fan, I truly believe I'm doing the best thing for the band and its fans by encouraging lossless and mail trading, and using mp3s not only to sample the band, but to sample the recordings themselves.
Any questions, comments or arguements are welcomed. Like I said, I'll be glad to help get this thing off the ground in anyway I can, and I'm only trying to make this the best that it can possibly be. Thank you.