A Phishy tale: Downloading can work for you

By Jon Newton 8/7/03

Phish has a message for the Big Five labels, the RIAA and bands such as Metallica.

Downloading can work for you.
Phish is already a virtual cultural symbol not just in Vermont, from whence it hails, but across the US and one of the reasons the band is so popular (other than the fact its members are excellent musicians) is: like the Dead, it's always allowed people to tape.

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In other words, Phish is one of the most genuinely progressive bands out there with a huge, intensely loyal following, and now it's a) found a way to make downloading work positively; and b) showed the labels what can be done with a little imagination and goodwill.

What Phish has done is to make its entire Phish summer tour available for download at $9.95 (for mp3s) or $12.95 (for flacs) per concert.

It's an extension of the multi-CD Live Phish series launched in October 2001, the bands says, and, "As with the CDs, the downloads feature complete, unedited, mastered shows from Phish's extensive archives. The download format is a natural progression for the serious collector and the new fan alike, offering an opportunity to listen not only to older shows, but to shows from a current tour very soon after they've happened, mastered directly from the soundboard.

"The price of each show is based on format and length. Each show is available in two formats: MP3 (standard) and FLAC (premium). Most shows are two sets, but some (like New Year's Eve for example) are three sets."

So why would anyone want to pay for a show they can tape for free?

Unlike the recording industry at large, the band has been smart enough to understand it has to pay attention to its 'consumers' - its fans and followers - and treat them with respect. This is reciprocated. Phish phans want to see their favourite group flourish.

Does this mean the taping days are over? No, says Phish,

"For the most part, our taping policy remains unchanged. As with other official Phish releases, you may not copy (except for personal use) or trade files offered through Live Phish Downloads."

But it says there is one significant change.

Its policy, "now allows for audience recordings of any show to be traded person to person or through online repositories, whereas previously it was forbidden to offer audience recordings of shows that had been officially released through online repositories. This change applies to live shows released on CD as well as via download."

And it gives back in other ways. For instance, the Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization of Phish fans founded in 1997 to generate $$$ for charity. There are no salaries and no paid staff and Mockingbird exists almost entirely online, meaning it avoids real-time travel and other expenses usually associated with grant-making bodies.

In the meanwhile, could the PhishPhilosophy work for other bands - or for you?

No reason why not. Unless, of course, you've already been drawn and quartered by one of the labels which now owns you - and your concerts - body and soul.

Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.


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