UPDATE, JANUARY 22:
Today, Backstreets breaks more news on this subject, and it’s unequivocally positive:
“Backstreets has just confirmed that, in addition to the USB wristband sales model, Springsteen will also be offering direct audio downloads through his official Live Nation online store following each show on the upcoming leg, with no physical purchase required. There will be two options for audio formats: MP3 (320 kbps) or FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). Pricing will match Pearl Jam’s, at $9.99 for MP3 or $14.99 for FLAC. Hard to say fairer than that.”
Needless to say, this is simply fantastic news, and largely addresses each of the issues raised below with Springsteen’s plans as originally revealed. The original article remains below, with several parts of it now gladly moot.
Last week, Backstreets breaks the news that Bruce Springsteen is finally ready to sell official live recordings of his concerts, and he’s planning on doing so on his upcoming tour. Jon Landau, Bruce’s longtime manager, is quoted: “We’re trying to keep the surprises coming…I think we are.”
Today, the program is revealed:
1. Fans will have to buy a “wristband” with a USB drive attached in order to obtain the recording of the show.
2. For each wristband purchased, they can download one show. Want 10 different shows? You’ve got to buy 10 wristbands.
3. The downloads are only offered in MP3 format.
4. The cost: $40 per wristband, plus tax and shipping.
The only accurate characterization of this program is that is a massive blunder on the part of Springsteen, and shows a total lack of understanding of his fanbase and of technology generally.
The $40 price is so far out of line with the industry standard as to be baffling. Pearl Jam charges $10 per show in MP3 format; $15 per show in FLAC format; $16.98 for physical CDs and $20 for FLAC-HD. Similar prices are charged by Metallica. John Fogerty. Phish.
Plus tax and shipping. That’s right, because the only way to get the recording is on the silly USB drive, a buyer has to also pay for shipping (minimum charge $8.95 on an item that requires about $2.00 of postage) in order to get the recording.
And the wristband? A 2 GB USB drive is worth maybe $5. Assuming the buyer even wants one.
Of course Bruce is free to charge whatever he wants for his music, as is his right as an artist. As consumers and fans, we are free to call him out on it. This is just greedy.
MP3s are not “high-quality” audio. This is not up for debate. Advertising these as “high-quality audio recordings,” as listed in the store on Bruce’s official website, is insulting.
It’s perfectly fair to charge a different rate for MP3s and FLAC-HD, as the artists mentioned above do. Offering MP3s only is stupid. Why would Bruce not want his fans to be able to hear the music in the best possible quality? It simply makes no sense.
The vast majority of people buying the shows do not want or need a wristband with a USB drive attached thereto.
If the shows are going to be downloaded from the internet, there is no sensible reason whatsoever to make it necessary to ship a USB drive through the mail in order to do so! One wonders how much of the price could be reduced simply by eliminating this nonsense.
The Fundamental Lack of Understanding of the Fanbase (and Technology)
The takeaway here is that Bruce and/or his advisors, including Jon Landau, simply do not understand Bruce’s fanbase.
Official recordings of live shows is something that Bruce’s fanbase has been clamoring for for years and years. There are tens of thousands of fans who want high-quality recordings of live shows who would be buying two or three or five or ten shows each if the price was fair and the format useful. There are hundreds of fans (and possibly more) who would buy every single show of the tour if he was doing this properly.
$40 for MP3s and a pointless USB drive is just terrible. One is left to wonder how something the fans have wanted for so long could have been implemented so terribly.