Total Disaster as Springsteen Tries to Sell Recordings of Live Shows


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.”

(Emphasis mine)

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.

Original Article:

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.”

No kidding.

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 Price
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.

The Quality
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 Wristband
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.

39 comments on “Total Disaster as Springsteen Tries to Sell Recordings of Live Shows

  1. Laurel says:

    I’d GLADLY pay the $40 if the download had a video of the concert too!

  2. Reblogged this on BasketKitchen and commented:
    Great post

  3. […] * Total Disaster as Springsteen Tries to Sell Recordings of Live Shows. […]

  4. joe says:

    I really think you are writing for yourself there. Please stay away from phrases like “The vast majority”, “no one needs” and stuff like that because you are drawing conclusions from your point of view only ! MP3 is not lossless but I am sure you would never tell a 320 kbit file from a wav file. And for the price: Of course Bruce inc. is aware that those files will end up on the internet and that they will be shared for free. Somehow you simply have to fix the costs while people have to get paid.

    • Glenn says:

      Of course I am writing for myself. But I do not think it unreasonable to note that there are a lot of people who agree with me on this issue.

      I think your other point lacks merit. Other artists of similar stature (eg. Pearl Jam) are making tons of money while selling the recordings at a reasonable price. The piracy factor on these recordings is not a major concern.

      • Do you have any numbers about the supposed “tons of money” PJ are making with their live recordings? Don’t get me wrong, I’m just interested in the topic.
        Regarding the mp3 thing, you’re right, it’s not “high quality” audio, but I still have to find a person that can tell a well-encoded mp3 from a flac file by listening at it.

  5. Liz says:

    Is it just audio??

  6. dbf65 says:

    Wow. That’s actually offensive pricing. I’ll be buying 0.

    What an inexcusable miss. So disappointing.

  7. Shawn Poole says:

    I believe this price-structure/delivery-mechanism/file-format is far less likely based on greed than it is based on a motive much more closely associated with Springsteen throughout his career: control. I don’t think Bruce is interested at all in becoming the next Pearl Jam, Phish, etc. in terms of bending over backwards for fans who want to own every recording of every show in the highest-possible quality. This is an attempt at balancing some fans’ desires to own professional recordings of shows with Bruce’s long-stated belief that his shows must remain special, unique nights, very much about “being there” in person with others in the moment(s) of each evening, first and foremost.

    The way things are set up now with the bracelet system, nobody’s being encouraged to collect hundreds of shows in perfect sound quality, which is probably exactly the way Bruce wants it. If you want to take home an aural keepsake of the particular night you attended, or maybe even some other night on the tour, there’s now a way to do it with something that will remain functional/commemorative as a USB flash-drive and/or souvenir bracelet after you’ve downloaded your show. As for the shipping-charges issue, you’ll also be able to buy a USB bracelet at the event itself if you want to avoid those charges altogether. $40 flat (or even $40 + shipping) for a professionally recorded/mixed version of one of Springsteen’s legendary shows, even in mp3 format, remains a major bargain when compared to what many folks have been willing to pay over the years for often-crappy bootlegs.

    Determining “fair-market value” for stuff like this is always a tricky business anyway. One way to clarify the various issues at play here, however, might be to compare concert-ticket prices. I think most fans would agree that the face-value of Bruce’s concert tickets, given concert-ticket realities and the kind of performance you can expect to receive from Bruce and the band for the price of the ticket, is fair/reasonable. Fans probably would continue to maintain this viewpoint even if it were pointed out that other acts like Pearl Jam, John Fogerty, Metallica, Phish, etc. offer lower-priced tickets to their shows. So if we’re not gonna insist that Bruce set his concert-ticket prices based on what, say, John Fogerty charges his audiences, then why should we insist that he set his recorded-concerts pricing/file-format policies based on Fogerty’s or Phish’s policies?

    • mkb says:

      “$40 flat (or even $40 + shipping) for a professionally recorded/mixed version of one of Springsteen’s legendary shows, even in mp3 format, remains a major bargain when compared to what many folks have been willing to pay over the years for often-crappy bootlegs.”

      That may well be the case, but I fail to see how someone can charge more than they would for a properly mixed and packaged live album for what merely amounts to a legitimate bootleg – given the stated turnaround time of under 48 hours, I’d be very surprised if anything more than a basic mastering of the soundboard mix was happening here.

    • Mr. E. Train says:

      One way to clarify might be to compare concert ticket prices, if you were talking about concert tickets. But, we’re not. By your logic, then we couldn’t compare prices of albums between artists because we’re not insisting that Bruce charge the same as Madonna. You can’t just cherry pick your artists to suit your argument.

      Additionally, the avoidance of shipping and tax only applies to those who are in attendance at the event, so it’s only applicable to the areas Springsteen appears in. Shipping to Europe at $15 is more than Pearl Jam charges for one mp3 show.

      This is an outmoded delivery system based on a fanbase who are casual music fans at best, for an artist who performs the same setlist every night. Rob Thomas might be a heckuva nice fella but he was the wrong guy to get technology advice from. In 2014, it is absolutely ridiculous to ship something that is going to be used to download something from the internet. There is no reason for the bracelet.

      You also have no idea at all whatsoever what Bruce wants. If Bruce didn’t want people to collect his live recordings he wouldn’t have allowed E Street Radio to exist, much less encourage it, much less listen to it regularly and ask his assistants to contact people in the fanbase to get him shows he’d forgotten about. You assume that a recording of the show makes it less special or discourages people from attending, or assume that that’s what Bruce believes. This from the same guy yelling, “Bootleggers, roll them tapes!” That’s pretty rich.

      • Shawn Poole says:

        E Street Radio was given permission by Bruce to “play whatever you can find.” What he didn’t say, however, was “Here’s a bunch of professionally recorded/mixed soundboard recordings from all of the shows on my current (or past) tour(s.)” In my original set of comments, I never claimed to actually know any of Bruce’s thoughts on this matter. I simply offered some informed speculation. And comparing the download pricing to concert-ticket pricing is completely appropriate, since we now live in a post-Live-Nation-Ticketmaster-merge environment. One result of that merger is that there’s as much of a monopoly in concert-souvenir merchandising as there is in ticket distribution. That’s one of the reasons why Bruce and Jon Landau both vocally opposed the merger from its inception. Given the new realities of the merger, I also think it’s pretty irresponsible to publicly attack Bruce for the price-level of each download-bracelet, less than 24 hours after the bracelet system was announced, without some thorough research on Live Nation’s role in setting the price as compared to Bruce’s role.

      • Glenn says:

        It’s Live Nation’s fault that this costs so much? That’s rich.

        Bruce’s name on the merchandise. Bruce’s store. Bruce’s website. Bruce’s responsibility, period.

      • mgbesq says:

        You’re so mad at Bruce Springsteen over something he sells! Grr!

      • Shawn Poole says:

        Right now, if you go to Bruce’s official online store (accessible directly from and then scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll see a notice that reads, “© 2013 Live Nation Merchandise is a division of Live Nation.” Same deal at the shows, Glenn. Why do you think that Bruce and Jon Landau, not known for often speaking publicly about such “inside-baseball” stuff, both vocally opposed the Ticketmaster-Live-Nation merger deal? It was, and now is, that bad. It has negatively affected every aspect of the concert industry from artist management through merchandising through ticket-pricing, etc. Visit the archived “Fight The Merger!” page ( for details (in reverse chronological order.) And now Bruce, like everybody else, has to conduct his business under it. The only reason things aren’t as bad as they could be is that when so many people are so affected by such a bad economy, even a monopoly has to give in somewhat on at least some of its more ravenous desires.
        I honestly don’t know any of the inside details of this bracelet-download deal, but in less than 24 hours many people tried and convicted Bruce on it without an ounce of real investigation or even an utterance of the words “Live Nation.” I refuse to join them.

    • mgbesq says:

      Agreed. This seems like a terrific opportunity for folks to not participate if they don’t feel compelled to. My guess is The Boss will sell some wristband bootlegs, sell out whole tours, put on great shows, and continue to write good songs. Commenters here are reacting as if this series impacts them in some involuntary way. Boss inc isn’t infringing on anybody’s rights and nobody is entitled to recordings on any terms than the ones put forth. Lighten up.

  8. Of course 320 mp3s are high quality audio. Yes, it’s not lossless. But you don’t hear any difference to flac at all.

    I agree with the rest though. He should have done it the Mule way. Take a look at That’s how it’s done right.

  9. SR says:

    Totally agree with this blog. At $40 a show will just be bought and shared across fan sites ( not that these things aren’t available anyway) the USB is ludicrous. I thought it was a ‘virtual’ wristband, just a pass to click and download. At $5 or $10 I’d maybe by a show with a rarity at $40 forget it. Good news for jungle land, crystal cat & co their market is secure as this has been executed so poorly.

  10. @vfeneboss says:

    1) Agree with the Video downloading missed oportunity…If BS keeps on getting on new technologies..why not Images, He and his music is much more than simple MP3 sounds
    2) He loses the chance to join a gift or merchandising that links music downloading with files´ storaging…2GB USB are old fashioned,, If it would be 8,16,32GB it´d be more useful 4 fans like me, that always get pendrives at job
    3) Anyway, 4 me it is a nice article not 4 paying MP3 but for my daily work..Donot think pay 4 more than 2 soundconcerts without Video. I love YouTube and watch the esthetic and performance,

    Greetings from Barcelona (SP)

  11. Denis Davey says:

    As an avid consumer of bootlegs I would love the possibility of buying video and audio of the concerts. I have to agree that the price appears high. This system will probably be a success though as Bruce is one of the most bootlegged acts in the world.

    • KMNH says:

      Appears high? There is an understatement. I’ll stick to bootlegs. Forget the wristband, offer lossless downloads, price at about $20 per show, and I’ll buy many shows. At $40, this fan of 38 years will buy none. This is just an insult to his fans, though it seems like they (BS and mgmt) no longer care, blatant $$$ grab. This is also making me consider future ticket purchases, something I never thought I would do with BS. Just no respect to the longtime fan. Sad.

  12. AJ says:

    Great post. I totally agree. If only Bruce had talked to Eddie Vedder instead of Rob Thomas…

  13. Henry says:

    Obviously I am a Bruce fan…but am always amazed at a large part of the fan base. The guy’s music has been a huge part of my life but at some point let’s get serious. $40 plus shipping for that format? Then I see the comments….and realize the cost could had been $90 a show and most of the “Bruce does no wrong” pundits would still be defending him. The guy isn’t perfect. He has and will make more career mistakes. He has been on the wrong side of issues too. Hey, he’s the greatest live performer ever and up until 2002, his crafting of albums were beyond reproach. He’s a hall of famer for sure….but not God.

  14. maurozz says:

    C’mon, this is an hoax, isn’t it ? It cannot be serious.

  15. Johhny B-Good says:

    Some of you guys are unbelievable greedy! You should be thankful enough that Bruce is still playing and touring, plus that he cares enough to start this new initiative. Instead you want everything according to “what the mighty fan base wants and think is fair”. Wake up people! This is business and it has been way too long since this music was only for the working-class people. You think the wristband is too expensive? Then just don’t buy it. Oh, but you really, really want it? then download it from any pirate site. Believe me, it doesn’t make you any less of a fan.

  16. Kathryn says:

    I completely, totally agree.
    I was so excited when I initially heard.
    Now I am completely stunned. He’s always seemed to be so in charge of things. How could he have let this one get away???

  17. Caita says:

    Bruce-Do you need help? I will help you on your laptop so we can get this straightened out. Just a joke, folks.

  18. Yeah, he’s taking the piss. FLAC files don’t cost any more to produce, and 3 hours’ worth would still fit on the 2 Gb USB drive. Even $20 seems like a reasonable price for something like that. I’d think about paying $40 for a 1080p video of a show. But for MP3s? I don’t think so.

  19. mgbesq says:

    This seems like it’s designed first and foremost for the merch table, not the internet store. $40 seems like a pretty average price for a concert totem. It’d be a lot cheaper to email .pdf’s of the tour program too, but nobody’s suggesting that’s a technological blunder.

    • Glenn says:

      There’s no doubt that this item was conceived with the merchandise table at the venue in mind. But the price remains out of line, even if that was the case.

      I go to plenty of shows as the casual fan, seeing the show in my city only. I frequently buy the recording as souvenir, when offered. I’ve never had to pay anywhere close to $40 for it, and it’s never been MP3-only.

      • Shawn Poole says:

        The $40 merch-table price was probably set with a “perceived value” in mind. This is, after all, a Bruce Springsteen concert-download that’s being sold. With all due respect to an artist like John Fogerty, much of whose music I love just as much as Bruce’s, one of his concert-downloads won’t be perceived by most music fans (and not necessarily just Springsteen fans) as being as valuable as one of Springsteen’s. Therefore, whomever’s selling the Springsteen concert-downloads is taking advantage of that perceived value. As I noted above in my reply to Mr. E. Train, a key issue here is exactly how much power Springsteen has in controlling his own merch-table prices, given the post-Live-Nation-Ticketmaster-merger realities. Therefore, I think it’s pretty unfair and irresponsible for anyone to publicly attack Bruce & Co. for the price-level of each download-bracelet, less than 24 hours after the bracelet system was announced, without first having done some thorough research and shared some credible evidence on Live Nation’s role in setting the price as compared to Bruce Inc.’s role.

  20. Shawn Poole says:

    FYI, Erik Flannigan’s new (1/18/2014) post on the NEWS page ( addresses (and allays) many of the concerns expressed here.

  21. Gocart Mozart says:

    Here is the good news: The Matchbox 20 USB let you download EVERY show. (Not sure if Rob Thomas knew that…) You just had to plug it in and use the same code to get additional shows. So, for $40 you get THE WHOLE TOUR. Not a bad deal even if it is only MP3.

    • Glenn says:

      That would be good news. But it was probably just an error. All of the published materials (Shorefire press release, the website where you buy the wristbands) were very clear that one wristband purchase gives you one show.

      • Mike Voss says:

        I agree it’s likely an error, but hints at an easy fix on pricing: simply allow up to 3 or 4 downloads per USB purchase (assuming their contract with LiveNation on this allows it) and lots of people get happy. But if the sources quoted by Backstreets are accurate and we diehards finally do get the options we are looking for, to me the USB option becomes just another piece of overpriced merchandise that I can ignore along with t-shirts and concert programs.

  22. Alberto says:

    I live in Argentina South America, I think shipping will be more expensive for us than USB . I think it is a mistake but perhaps Bruce’s management would change it in a near future. Nothing is permanent.
    On the other hand I travelled more than 100.000 kms around the world to see the Boss. Each concert I saw, cost me more than usd 1000 dollars, and I know a lot of people who travelled all around the world to see him.
    I think we must to feel happy that he is 65 in a good shape and keep rocking…..Give him and his management a leap of faith ….to change the wrong things…!!!

  23. Boss9999 says:

    Glenn i was not too wrong, things changed for good, next time…be a little more patient . Argentine fans waited 25 years to see bruce in a complete show. No surrender and enjoy Bruce and his music, life is short !;!!! Greetings from argentina

  24. […] post titled “Total Disaster as Springsteen Tries to Sell Recordings of Live Shows” seemed to sum up many fans’ initial response in the original post. Here are some […]

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