Check your facts, folks

It’s taken me a while to blog about my Phoenix column from last week, “Recording Swarthmore History,” in which I advocate for the school to dedicate itself to recording, preserving and sharing online events which take place on campus. I’ve gotten positive responses to the article so far. Andrew Abdalian says that there are no tapes of the Nirvana show on campus, which is disappointing. I went to Olde Club this Saturday night and did some taping with my camcorder of the bands playing there, the Love Pumps and Manticore, and the Love Pumps already gave me permission to post their show to Archive.org. Rock on! Now I need upload that video…

I must confess, however, that I neglected to check one “fact” in my column, since I wrote the article on the plane to San Francisco, and didn’t have enough time to ponder it once I returned to an internet connection. Sadly, it is not true that They Might Be Giants actively encourages people to share their live concerts on sites like etree.org, although many popular bands including And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, 311, Godspeed You Black Emperor, the Grateful Dead, Guster, Phish, and Tenacious D do actively encourage sharing and archiving, according to the Archive.org List of Trade-Friendly Bands. It wasn’t unreasonable to think that TMBG might also support sharing of their concerts, given TMBG stunts like “Dial a song” and the fact that they both provide free mp3’s and sell mp3 and FLAC digital downloads on their site, which is “artist owned and operated.” They are rather enlightened.

Unfortunately, they are selling mp3 downloads of many of their live concerts, which they specifically ask fans not to share: “Do us a favor and do not distribute these to the internet – we all need new boats.” It’s likely that they wouldn’t appreciate fans sharing inferior recordings of the same shows, or even sharing recordings of different shows, if they have to compete with them. However, the people at etree.org did ask permission back in 2003, and it seems they have not yet received a response one way or another. Perhaps it’s worth asking again, just to try to get TMBG to take a clear position?

At least we can take comfort in the fact that TMBG sells you good old mp3s, not DRM’d copy-protected crap that will only play on your iPod. It could always be worse…

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