Trading live shows – good for our music!

The following is a contribution from luthier and resophonic guitarist Brad Harper. This post has been adapted from a post that appeared on Brad’s own blog in response to Megan Lynch’s post Trading live shows – good for our music?, here on Bluegrass Today. We have enabled comments for this post, as the topic has generated some reader interest. Registration is required to post comments, and they are moderated, but please fel free to add your thoughts if you are so inclined.

Brad Harper

Earl: “Hey, anyone heard of Meagan Lynch”?
Lester: “No, who is she”?
Earl: “She”s this incredible fiddle player with 3 Fox Drive. I”ve heard one of their shows on bluegrassbox and bought their disk. They are a great band!!”
Josh: “Alright then, I”ll definitely check her and the band out.”

The essence of the above dialogue has been a common theme for me throughout the past 4 years since my introduction to A website that”s an invaluable source for live bluegrass and acoustic music.

Meagan Lynch of 3 Fox Drive recently posted here on Bluegrass Today regarding live show taping and trading networks. While she did raise valid points regarding stealth taping of artists who”d prefer not to be taped, I question a few of her other premises.

Her first notion mentions the hardships of a musician”s life. The traveling, demanding schedules etc. are undeniably rigorous. As an individual who”s seen day to day life from both sides (albeit briefly) of the fence I feel little sympathy for her. Being a musician is a choice. A choice that comes with trade-offs. Some of those tradeoffs being the elements of a musician”s life that she mentioned. Every occupation features tradeoffs. It can be tough. Being a lawyer is tough. Collecting garbage is tough. Sitting in a cubical for 8-10 hours a day with fiddle tunes going through your head is tough. There are times where I would drive home an hour each way just to be able to pick for 15 minutes at lunch. Sure, I”d rather be playing music for a living, but paying my mortgage each month is a nice thing. For many years, I”ve chosen that tradeoff. Life is all about trade-offs. She enjoys the mental fulfillment of living in a musical realm. Her hard work and sacrifice have put her in the position to choose that lifestyle but every benefit has a cost.The trials of a life on the road in no way constitute a valid argument against recording (with permission) and trading (legally) live music.

Her next statement is arguable”

“So it”s fine if someone records the whole show, uploads it to a site for everyone to have, no cost. And what a bonus if the band plays a bunch of songs from the new album. Whew! That saves $15 bucks!”

Most live shows that I”ve listened to (that were worth listening to) have always served to benefit the artist. Either I sought out the show because I”d already owned the album and wanted to hear the material in a live setting (most likely reinforcing my support for them) or I”d never heard the artist and purchased their disc solely because I was exposed to them in a live setting. Over the past year, I”ve purchased 6 different projects solely based on a live recording from

There will be exceptions of course.

The same folks who constitute the exceptions are the ones who also pirate compact discs like there”s no tomorrow and have a general lack of respect for intellectual property rights.

The economic immorality (theft) of the taping community minority is the real issue, not the concept of taping/trading and its facilitators.

Additionally, I like the idea of allowing individuals to preview a band in a live setting. If the show is quality and the talent is entertaining, the superior audio quality of a studio recording should be enough to earn an album sale. In generally most fans of the bluegrass genre want to support artists that they value. It”s no secret that being an acoustic musician can be tough financially. I know many artists (as well as myself) would much prefer a customer be happy with their purchase of our music than for them to feel like they wasted 15 bucks. In my opinion, If letting them hear me live would increase the odds of making a sale and a happy customer, then I”m better off long term.

Now, I do wholeheartedly agree with Meagan that if she”s performing and she”d prefer not to be taped/traded then she has the absolute right to voice that wish and have it unquestionably granted.

Overall, I think taping/trading (done legally) is very positive for acoustic music. To slam the trade and the underlying infrastructure because some tapers acquire their music without permission is the equivalent of questioning the legitimacy of cable companies because some individuals steal cable.

Brad Harper

  • Randy Houser

    Thanks to Bluegrass Today for providing the opportunity for reasonable discussion on the taping/trading issue. I was concerned that Megan Lynch’s thoughts might be the prevailing attitude among bluegrass artist but after reading Brad Harper’s post, I am much relieved. Megan had some good points but overall Brad’s take on this is correct in that these tapings should help,not hurt, these bands. I use Bluegrassbox not to sit in front of a computer screen and be entertained, but to decide if I would purchase a CD or ticket to hear a band that I would otherwise know little about.I think something that would help tremendously would be for ALL performers to make there taping policies readily available at their shows with announcements and signs.

    Randy Houser

  • Excellent rubuttal Brad. I have been taping live shows for several years now (all with the artists’ permission, mind you). I think most tapers are respectful of artists’ wishes, but there will always be bad apples in the bunch. I would argue as well that there are far more fans that have been turned on to a particular artist or group because of sites like, than malicious fans who are out there just to steal music. It is also noteworthy that many of the shows on bluegrassbox are audience recordings and lack superior studio or soundboard quality. It’s almost like saying some of these shows are ‘previews’ and that fans can use this tool to decide if they like a band or not. Another thing to think about is historical context. How many great Hot Rize shows would never have been heard had someone not had the foresight to hook up their tape deck and hit the record button? Music like that should and must be preserved so our kids and grandkids can enjoy it long after we’re gone.

  • Manfred Helfert

    Excellent rebuttal — as a longtime bluegrass fan in far away Germany (where this type of music is hardly ever played on the radio) has proven an INVALUABLE SOURCE for me to find out about new bands (and to buy their CDs AFTER I listened to a concert recording I downloaded from there).

    I have hardly seen a more narrow-minded (and certainly highly arguable) opinion — who is she? An “incredible fiddle player with 3 Fox Drive” (allegedly) —

    I’m afraid that with her comments (and attitude) she has done herself a disservice — nobody even KNOWS her over here (in Germany), hardly any radio station will play any 3 Fox Drive (including the campus radio station I do some freelance work for), whereas artists like Peter Rowan or Tim O’Brien (who allow and encourage taping) are fairly well-known even on the other side of the big pond — and do receive airplay (which in turn leads to sales).

    And since I do not know Ms. Lynch (nor her music) and since her classification as an “incredible fiddle player” could be just some type of “hype”, I will certainly not ask my record store to stock any CDs by 3 Fox Drive, whereas I’ll certainly “run” there if I like a song and hear Peter Rowan or Tim O’Brien (or any other taper-friendly artist) announce — during a show I was allowed to download from sites like — “This is a song from our upcoming album…”

    To bad that with her attitude I will never get a chance to find out if Ms. Lynch is such an “incredible fiddle player” which might prompt me to buy a CD… ultimately, especially in attacking and singling out a site which has done such a great service for the bluegrass community WORLDWIDE (for artists and aficionados alike), she’s only hurting herself!

  • I Also posted this in response to Megan’s comments……….

    I’m glad to see that there is an outcry of opposition to Megan’s statement here. And links have been posted drawing attention to it from many other message boards. I agree with just about all of the statements in opposition here, and my reasons are as follows. Whether you are a full or part time musician, you are a struggling artist. Is the part timer less struggling when he works a full time job, 40-plus hours a week, hops into a vehicle to drive a few hours for a show, and then faces the same problems of lack in pay. That part-time musician may also be a fan, like above has driven hours to a festival, paid the now $80-$100 per person for Festival admission to see the great artists on stage. WHY ALL OF THIS …. Because of the love for Bluegrass. That’s what these new breed of “Nashville Countrygrass” artists will never understand. The Bluegrass community is a family with one common connection. I myself have a Bluegrass collection of probably 500 to 600 CD’s, 300 or so Lp’s and many cassettes. More recently I have gotten into the “Live Show Frenzy” because it is a part of the big picture to me. It brings the artist to life, and brings a part of history alive. I’m more concerned with the historical live shows than anything else. For example a JD Crowe & The New South Live in 1975 …. Not from last week, but from a period that will never be duplicated. I’m sure there is a market for last week also, but you know what … I saw him last week, I don’t need a CD for that. I will bet that you aren’t going to see a whole lot of recent shows on the trading market. And even though I possess and enjoy live show recordings, for every live show I have, I have at some point purchased CD of that artist. To me the live recordings are above and beyond just owning an Artist’s music. We could go to WalMart for that …. It’s what makes us a true fan. The fact that I enjoy the lineup of The New South in 1975 and that want to hear it over and over again live, instead of popping in the latest CD that I just purchased on should tell an artist that I am a fan of their entire career, and not just the 70 hours the spent in the studio digitalizing their new recording to perfection in what has become today’s “Nashville-Trend” in Bluegrass. Which brings


    Which brings up one last point ?¢‚Ǩ¬¶. Maybe people are sick of the business and up-ety-up side of Bluegrass these days ???? Bluegrass will always stick to it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s traditions, and that will always be the live raw and acoustic sounds that are created on that stage, and that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s what keeps people coming back !!! Just a few of my opinions to consider.

  • Anson Burtch

    I am very pleased to see Brad Harper’s well thought out article. Legal taping and trading of live music only serves to encourage further interest in the music. In my years of experience, exposing people to new bands through live shows affects the musicians bottom line in a POSITIVE way and not a negative one. The new listener purchases their commercially released albums, attends shows, and may even buy band merchandise. There are high standards in the community involved in live music trading. Many torrent sites are very strict about only hosting shows by bands that freely allow taping. Overall, while a new fan may initially receive the musicians hard work for free via a live show, in the long run, it will generate a larger fan base and more revenue for the artist.

  • Barry Clevenger

    The Nashville attitude is showing through now. If we ever do any gigs go ahead and tape our shows please. That shows me you like our shows and maybe you’ll let your friends listen to it and they might come (and pay) to see one of our shows and maybe buy some merchandise. You have to look at the big picture which is, to me at least, exposure is good.

  • Jon Weisberger

    One of the things I find most interesting about this discussion is that most commentators acknowledge that Megan Lynch makes some valid points, and then offer “rebuttals” that sidestep them. Given that Megan allowed as how there’s no issue with respect to *artists’* rights and concerns where permission to record and trade has been affirmatively granted, repeating arguments that taping and trading serve as valuable marketing tools for artists is simply beside the point. Furthermore, as Kip Martin has noted elsewhere, there’s little if any hard evidence to support these claims, and given how widespread downloading is these days, individual testimonials don’t really count for very much in determining whether such claims are accurate.

    It seems to me these are the central points that need to be addressed:

    1. Posting or circulating lists of artists who have an explicit anti-taping and/or trading policy isn’t sufficient. Responsible tapers/traders have, morally if not legally, an affirmative obligation to secure permission *before* making recordings and/or making recordings available to all and sundry. Taking silence for assent and requiring that artists a) discover that recordings of them are being circulated and b) that they then track down the source(s) and inform them that they don’t approve simply isn’t reasonable.

    2. Though Megan only made fleeting reference to the matter, artists are not the only ones whose rights are at stake. Songwriters are entitled to compensation for their work, and even a quick scan of shows on bluegrassbox is even to make it clear that most, if not all bluegrass artists include covers in their repertoires. Even if an artist gives permission for performances to be recorded and circulated, they’re neither legally nor ethically in a position to give permission on behalf of other songwriters. This is especially important because the standard artist alternative revenue streams that are offered up in pro-taping/trading arguments – ticket sales, merch sales, etc. – don’t really apply to songwriters; their income comes from mechanical and airplay royalties pure and simple.

    3. Enthusiasm notwithstanding, fans do *not* have a right to whatever recordings they can find of their favorite artists. There are many reasons why artists might choose not to make such recordings available, and it seems to me that anyone who claims to respect an artist would want to respect that artist’s right to choose the music that will represent them; it’s one thing to give, say, a poor performance on a particular night, while it’s another to know that said performance – one with which the artist is *unhappy* – might circulate eternally. That’s why the matter of *affirmative* permission is so important.

    Lastly, it seems to me that Brad Harper’s comments about “trade-offs” completely misses the point, and in a way that is, intentionally or not, pretty mean-spirited. I don’t see where the trade-offs a person makes in choosing a career path should necessarily involve putting up cheerfully with illegal and unethical practices. I’m sure Brad wouldn’t simply smile and accept as a necessary “trade-off” the theft of some of his instruments, even if the thief were to plead that he was merely taking them in order to expose more people to their fine quality and encourage them to buy his offerings. There are indeed some hard trade-offs to be made in choosing music performance (or songwriting) as a career, and the difficulty shouldn’t be compounded by unauthorized circulation and use of the musician’s (or songwriter’s) stock in trade, nor by facile dismissals of the infringement.

  • Jon,

    In reference to your #2, how would you propose that a songwriter be compensated if any band decides to cover a specific song at a live show?
    Should all bands be forced to pay a royalty to the songwriter whenever they cover a song at a live show?
    Additionally, if folks are not selling these recordings and are merely listening in their car or home or sharing with friends, how is it that the songwriter is ‘entitled to compensation’ if no money is changing hands? I think your point is valid if and only if folks were selling these live shows and making a profit.

  • Jon Weisberger

    Well, Nate, in answer to your first question, venues (both performance and broadcast) already are “forced” – that is, required by law – to pay performance royalties to songwriters, which they do through licenses obtained from the performance rights organizations (PROs) to which the writers and their publishers belong.

    With respect to your second, my point is merely a description of existing law, which grants songwriters rights with respect to the *use* of their creations, regardless of whether a profit’s being made from that use. A record company is obligated to pay mechanical royalties for the use of a song even if the record on which it appears doesn’t turn a profit; a venue which presents live music is similarly obligated with respect to licensing regardless of whether its bottom line is black or red. If you use someone’s intellectual property, you’re supposed to pay for it; if *you* choose to eat that cost by not charging for the product using the money, that’s your choice. You get to make that one, but legally speaking, you don’t (or shouldn’t) get to make one for the composer – that’s his or hers to make, not yours.

  • Jon-thanks for the clarification.

  • As both a touring musician and a consulting policy analyst, I have read every post concerning the pros and cons of trading live shows. After much scrutiny, I remain unconvinced that there is a morally responsible or fiscally viable argument in favor of he trading of live performance recordings.

    Two points stand out for me here:

    1.) Just because Tim O’Brien says it is OK to record his shows, does not mean it is OK to record and disseminate a song he is currently performing that was written by Pete Goble. I have spoken to Pete and he is upset about the fact that he was NEVER approached regarding permission for anyone to record and trade and disseminate his songs to the general public without remuneration. Other writers feel the same. Ronnie Bowman was astounded to hear of the practice of show trading and the fact that his songs are circulating through the internet. So, simply saying that the industry has to develop a better compensation model for artists and songwriters does not mean it is OK to do business as you believe it should be done. For example, MOST of us would disagree with some article in tax law, but we are not allowed to pay your taxes based on any model we prefer over federal policy. You follow the policy (law) as written, until it is changed. Similarly, it is against the law to trade music you do not have specified permission to trade. If you don’t pay royalties, you are breaking the law. Period. Breaking an unjust law is as illegal as breaking a just law.

    Note: Several industry insiders–musicians, lawyers, and writers–are following this blog and are exploring avenues to deal with those traders and sites who exist without agreements with PROs (eg BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC, etc.).

    2.) Many have claimed that trading tapes is ‘good for the artist’. I would like to see ONE study supporting this claim. Just because you heard this claim somewhere doesn’t make it the truth–show me hard data, not anecdotal evidence, that this is the case. I believe that if it WERE the case, Sony Intl. would have been distributing live shows YEARS ago.

    So until you show me how this practice is legal, and prove to me (anectdotal evidence is NOT proof) that trading is in fact a good marketing practice, i will remain unconvinced. And even if it IS a good marketing practice, its still illegal.

    I am honored when I see something I am playing bass on (eg, Merlefest 2002, several Prism Coffeehouse shows, etc) make it to a trading site. I would support my own performances being traded if it wasn’t at the expense of the writers. Real bluegrass lovers support and respect those who create the music. Remember, its not Sony or BMG that you are thumbing your nose at, but to small struggling labels and writers who give you a piece of their heart in each song.

  • Mike Martin

    Kip, you make some good points, especially concerning the songwriters’ rights (which could be a whole different discussion!). But please don’t support the anti-trading argument with “I believe that if it WERE the case, Sony Intl. would have been distributing live shows YEARS ago.” (I believe someone else put forth this argument as well.) Big record labels have a shoddy track record of embracing new technology and distribution models to their benefit – for an example, look no farther than i-tunes. And when I have seen “studies” of how downloading affected record sales, they are propogated by the record companies themselves and lead to ludicrous numbers. This link explores the effect of Napster on the RIAA’s profits way back in 1999-2000.

    The upshot is this: During the wild and crazy days of 1999, when anyone could download pretty much any CD on Napster for free, the RIAA saw an increase in digital music sales, although they lied and cried about how much money napster was costing them. And this was when Napster was file-sharing entire CD’s, something we could all agree was wrong.

    Artists, songwriters, labels and labels’ lawyers (the ones most scared about losing revenue), get this into your head: We the music-buying public have a budget that we can spend on music each month. We WANT to spend our $25-$50-$100/month on your CD’s and concerts. Being creatures of habit, we generally will not spend more than that, and generally we do not spend less than that. So if I download ten live shows in a month from John Hartford that were not officially released, I am not cheating the estate of John Hartford, Flying Fish/Rounder Records, the estate of Bill Monroe, Kris Kristofferson, or any lawyers or other parasitic creatures out of $180 because I WOULD NOT AND COULD NOT HAVE BOUGHT THOSE SHOWS ANYWAY. I will however scrounge the internet/local CD shop for Morning Bugle, Aereo-Takes, and everything else I can afford by Mr. Hartford within my budget. All y’all who are up in arms over the effect trading live unreleased shows has on your bottom line need to realize that it is not a zero-sum game.

  • Johan Hellstrand

    Having discovered has,
    like Manfred from Germany above, made me
    aware of artists and CD:s I would never
    otherwise have stumbled across. And I
    have ordered loads of CD:s from the US
    as a result.So, in my case has “been good for the artist” ,although one voice might not be
    statistically significant. -Johan

  • I have a question …..
    Isn’t every music venue, festival, show house, bar etc. required to pay performance royalties to BMI, ASCAP, ect.???? There was a circumstance a few years ago where several bars in my area were shut down and/or fined due to back royalties to those agencies. Is that not where the writers royaltiy shares/compensation comes into account ?? Same thing with radio. Every radio station must pay airplay royalties based on the number of times a particular song is aired ?? And again I will restate that the receipt of a live performance continues the historical and personable nature of Bluegrass Music, and for every live show I am in possession of, I can corrospond it with a commercial purchase/purchases of that artist’s material. How else would someone be enlightened on something as great as Sammy Schelor performing banjo on “Old Train” with Tony Rice and Sam Bush … Tell me where that is located on a commercial recording ???? All of this desire for live “taping” is because a live show brings to life what great things can happen unexpectedly in the live music world which those not present would never get to hear otherwise !!!!

  • Mike Martin

    I missed this note from Kip Martin (no relation to me, I think) above:

    “Note: Several industry insiders?¢‚Ǩ‚Äúmusicians, lawyers, and writers?¢‚Ǩ‚Äúare following this blog and are exploring avenues to deal with those traders and sites who exist without agreements with PROs (eg BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC, etc.)”

    For clues as to how these “industry-insiders” may deal with you, please read

    Oh, and perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but is down today.

    There’s been good songs about miners, cowboys, murderers, adulterers, lawmen, and renegades, but I can’t think of a single good bluegrass song about lawyers.

  • Hello, everyone. I would first like to let you all know that this has been an extremely interesting experience. I have received hate mail, the likes of which I can not in good conscience reprint here. People have written things to my private email account that would make a sailor blush. I have read things about myself both here and on other forums that I certainly hope my own mother never sees. Oh, and Brad Harper (in his above rebuttal piece) repeatedly spelled my name wrong. Oh well.

    But I’m not complaining. Some amazing things have also happened as a result of the piece I wrote. As Kip mentioned, writers, performers, publishers, producers, and other members of the music industry have called and written to let me know how grateful they are to find out about this illegal practice. Most are surprised, most are angry, some livid, and every one of them has said that at the very least, they are starting to think about how to handle the situation in their own careers. That was all I ever wanted.

    You all may continue to debate whether this practice is good or bad for musicians. Others of you may make sweeping statements about the lives of musicians, whether or not you truly understand the industry, and/or the law. And still more of you may bring personal attacks against me, my band, my dog, my fiddle playing, or whether I matter overseas. But while you are doing that, those of us who value our jobs and our products as much as anyone else who gets out of bed in the morning to do a job (the kind of job that puts food on the tables of our families and roofs over the heads of ourselves and our loved ones) will be doing what we need to to protect our music, which is our product, which is our livelihood. So thank you to those of you who have engaged in respectful debate. That only furthers the exchange of ideas and heartens me that we are still a civilized people. And thank you to John and Brance for the forum by which we bring this issue to light.

    As for lawyers and lawyer songs, I imagine Blaine Sprouse, Charlie Sizemore, Johnny Lewis, and David Crow – all excellent bluegrass musicians and reputable lawyers, would be sad to hear their profession being bismirched so viciously. Oh yeah, and don’t forget Woody Guthrie. That “Philadelphia Lawyer”? A heck of a bluegrass tune…
    Regards, Megan

  • Jon Weisberger

    “All of this desire for live ?¢‚Ǩ?ìtaping?¢‚Ǩ¬ù is because a live show brings to life what great things can happen unexpectedly in the live music world which those not present would never get to hear otherwise !!!!”

    Well, that’s what we call the luck of the draw, sometimes known by the title of a Rolling Stones song, you can’t always get what you want – at least, not legally or ethically. You go to the show, you get to hear the music; you don’t go, you don’t – at least, not legally or ethically, unless the artist and the songwriters and the venue all sign off on the idea beforehand – and I don’t understand where the sense of entitlement comes from that’s reflected in this post.

  • Lee Hiers

    This discussion was brought to my attention before it was opened up for comments, and I was going to address Megan’s views until I read the rebuttals by Brad Harper and others…since these were posted, I’ve not been following the discussion.

    As I re-visit it today, I feel compelled to comment.

    First, some background. I consider myself a ?¢‚Ǩ?ìsemi-pro?¢‚Ǩ¬ù bluegrass musician. I play with several local bands, sit in with a bunch more from time-to-time, and am looking for a relatively ?¢‚Ǩ?ìfull-time?¢‚Ǩ¬ù gig ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú either national or regional. I even write the occasional tune. I have listened to, and played, bluegrass since I was a teenager, and I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m dangerously close to 50 years old. I have periodically traded live shows, but am not very active in that at this time.

    There is no issue with trading music by people who support such trading. The problem is in paying appropriate royalties to the authors. The question is: should these be mechanical royalties or performance royalties? Obviously the venue (should) pay the performance royalties. For live music traded among fans, it could be argued (by someone more articulate than I) that they are trading copies of the performance. A weak argument, but still?¢‚Ǩ¬¶

    The key element that morally justifies this trading to me is practical: By trading, am I taking anyone?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s livelihood away? The answer is no. I still (as do the vast majority of traders) purchase the artists?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ commercial releases. Further, I try to purchase CDs directly from the artists (at greater cost to me) whenever possible because it gives them a bigger piece of the pie. I know others who do the exact same thing.

    Several groups have taken to distribution of their own live shows, in bluegrass and other genres. In some cases, the CDs are made right at the venue and sold there?¢‚Ǩ¬¶how are the mechanical royalties paid on these sales? I suspect in some cases they are not. This is a much more morally reprehensible act.

    Tut Taylor amassed quite a collection of live recordings over the years. Remember a year or two ago when he offered these for sale for thousands of dollars? Who received that income? I doubt it was the performing artists or the songwriters. People who engage in that type behavior are generally shunned by the trading community. If anyone is to make any money off live recordings, it should be the artists, not the traders?¢‚Ǩ¬¶and most traders subscribe to this belief.

    I have seen many instances of the trading community contacting eBay for removal of auctions listed by people who are offering live shows for money. It is against the traders?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ ethic, and it is morally [b]and[/b]legally wrong.

    Trading of live shows that are not commercially available is a non-issue. The appropriate response for artists and record companies to take is illustrated in these two examples: the Flatt & Scruggs Carnegie Hall show was traded before the CD release that contains the entire concert was made available. Once the live show was commercially released, traders (at least the many I know) stopped trading it. Grisman/Rice/Garcia had a tape that was widely traded. Widely enough, Grisman’s record company released it as the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìPizza Tapes?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. Yes, I own the commercial releases of both of these albums.

    Bigger fish to fry would include:

    [i][b]The small-potatoes festival[/b] that has a notice on their flyer to the extent ?¢‚Ǩ?ìPerformers are responsible for paying all royalties?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. These people are obviously trying to circumvent paying performance royalties by shifting the liability from the venue to the artist?¢‚Ǩ¬¶the liability for which I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t believe is transferable with such a disclaimer.

    [b]Peer-to-peer networks[/b] that enable sharing of commercial releases. While Napster has become legit, there are many others out there doing the same thing that started all that ruckus.

    [b]Artists[/b] ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú usually, but not always, local acts ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú who list a song on their CD as ?¢‚Ǩ?ìtraditional?¢‚Ǩ¬ù or ?¢‚Ǩ?ìPD?¢‚Ǩ¬ù, when the song is, in fact, copyrighted material. Common examples include ?¢‚Ǩ?ìGold Rush?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and ?¢‚Ǩ?ìAshokan?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Farewell?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. Dollars are generated by the sales of these CDs for which appropriate royalties are not being paid.[/i]

    I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve been to an awful lot of festivals ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú little, local festivals ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú where there is always a little old lady on the second row with a cassette recorder. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s always been this way. Have you never seen the towers of microphones at Telluride ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú or the festivals that have special ?¢‚Ǩ?ìtaper?¢‚Ǩ¬ù sections? What do you think they are doing? The only difference is in the technology.

    The real issue may be that the changes in technology are causing the current model of music distribution and royalty payment to be outdated. This has been addressed somewhat, apparently, due to the prolific online distribution of music via such channels as iTunes. I know that if I go to any reputable manufacturer of CDs, I must supply proof that I have paid the mechanical royalties or they will not press the disks.

    But, I am completely comfortable with the personal choices I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve made regarding trading and buying music. No one has been hurt, and some have been helped.

    The bottom line is that since it doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t do any harm to anyone, including the performers and songwriters, leave it alone. Yes, I occasionally drive over the speed limit also. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d bet that some here even enjoy consumption of substances that are controlled by the various state governments.

    In closing, a couple of personal notes:

    Megan: FWIW, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve seen you perform on stage and enjoyed hearing your playing. Let me ask you a question: Have you never made or been given a CD-R of songs to learn in preparation for a gig? I know of no musician that doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t have some of these, either that they made themselves or were given to them. How were royalties paid on these? Don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t say that it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a different circumstance, because it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s not. Yes, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m familiar with the concept of ?¢‚Ǩ?ìfair use?¢‚Ǩ¬ù.

    And your original premise is false. I know of no-one who will go to BluegrassBox to download a show to save 15 bucks. The people that are stealing music to save 15 bucks get copies from friends, peer-to-peer sites, or other online sources of [b]the commercial releases[/b], not live shows.

    Kip: I find your condemnation of trading somewhat puzzling because I have seen requests from you to the trading community for live shows by particular artists you were auditioning for. Rhonda Vincent specifically comes to mind, but I think there were others. I would ask you the same question I asked Megan.

    Jon: I would ask you the same question, but with your unique position in the industry, I’m sure you probably own a legitimate copy of every bluegrass CD ever issued. 😉

  • Lee Hiers

    Ooops…wrong brackets folks…sorry!

  • I have not heard an argument that adequately justifies stealing from songwriters. If you trade tapes you steal from songwriters. Period. Convince me its NOT theft, don’t dance around the issue by condemning lawyers, record companies, or PROs. Tell me how you can justify stealing from songwriters who have expressedly stated they do NOT want their songs recorded and distributed, without resorting to side issues. It is theft, and you all know it.

    Further, I support the musicians, lawyers, performers, small label owners, and writers who are, as we speak, organizing to stop this onerous, illegal practice. They are prepared to play hardball.

  • Ryan Baker

    I have been thinking a lot about this practice and am more fully understanding the legal aspects of the situation. There simply are no legal precedents which lend support to the live taping/trading side of the argument.

    One question, though — all the mention here has been the problems that ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC have with the live taping community. However, it seems to me that they have very little to do with it. They only represent the performers, who, in many cases (such as Tim O’Brien), authorize the production of the sound recording in question. Clearly, the tough spot legally is the aspect of songwriter compensation. Wouldn’t this involve the publishing houses and Harry Fox more than the PROs?

  • Mike Martin

    From John W. – “I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t understand where the sense of entitlement comes from that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s reflected in this post.”

    I think that’s a fundamental problem that some musicians and “industry-insiders” have. You don’t understand the mindset of a fan. A fan who has bought all of your CD’s, been to as many of your concerts as possible, who buys your biography and who gets excited when the local paper writes a feature about you. The fan feels a sense of community, a sense of family, and a sense of ownership (justified or not) in the artist and their music. To hear the three people talking in the anti-taping camp (Megan Lynch, Jon Weisberger, and Kip Martin), it sounds like you are selling insurance or a car. Yes, your music is a product, and yes you should be compensated to the degree that the market feels is appropriate, but never forget that you are also creating a nebulous hard-to-define something called art. I once heard a songwriter say he didn’t write songs, he was just fortunate enough to know where to find them (in the collective conciousness). Which I thought was an interesting way to think of it. And in that sense, your music does belong to all of us. So defend your copyrights vigorously if you feel you need to, file injunctions and cease-and-desists, treat your songs as if they were some new Microsoft program, but don’t lose sight of the reason you started playing and writing music in the first place. I’m pretty certain it wasn’t to make a million dollars. If you are talented and fortunate enough to make a million dollars (or even a living!), more power to you. But you should be thanking your fans every day for making it possible.

    Finally, I am saddened to think that anyone who would read this blog would resort to sending hate mail to Megan Lynch, whatever you think of her, her music (which you would be an ill-informed cretin to slam), or her position on this issue. Besides being irrelevant to the issue at hand, it is mean-spirited and contrary to the bluegrass ethic. SHAME ON YOU. She is protecting her and her band’s interests as she sees fit, and she is supported by the law. They may be laws which you disagree with, or think should be less rigid, but which are laws nonetheless. Without copyrights and copyright enforcement, artists may still be inspired to create music, but I doubt too many will be motivated to distribute their creations (why bother going to the time, effort and expense of producing a quality CD if people are freely allowed to copy it). I may respectfully disagree on the extent or manner that copyrights should be enforced, but they do serve to benefit the artist and the music community at large.

    And finally finally, and only because Megan referenced it, my disdain for lawyers is reserved only for the blood-sucking type (many of which seem to flock to the music industry) – I am well aware that the majority of lawyers are honorable and a credit to their profession. That said, they are in my opinion fair game – like banjo players – for a little ribbing now and then.

  • Charlie Weiss

    Haha, Nice call Lee!

    A little research finds:

    Kip Martin wrote:


    anyone have a DAT or CD of a recent Rhonda Vincent and the Rage show? i
    suddenly need one QUICK!!


    kip martin

  • I’m hesitant to refer to hypothetical situations but I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m unclear on the reach of the law in this realm.

    If a band records their own show and makes multiple copies for each member to review, are mechanical royalties appropriate if there are covers performed? What about recording a practice disc?

    Does the convenience and practicality of such practices entice artist to overlook the legal technicalities?

    The suspect elements are still in place ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú recording, duplication and distribution.

  • Ryan Baker

    I Think Mike’s post reflects quite eloquently the feelings of myself and many of my colleagues. And, indeed, the morons who go about insulting and threatening our fellow bluegrass lovers who happen to hold a different opinion than their own are not representative of our community, I would like to think. Shame on you all… you’d better bet that WE do not consider YOU to be a welcome member of our community.

  • ?¢‚Ǩ?ìSo it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s fine if someone records the whole show, uploads it to a site for everyone to have, no cost. And what a bonus if the band plays a bunch of songs from the new album. Whew! That saves $15 bucks!?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

    That’s an interesting comment…it’s actually not saving $15 for the audio taper, but recording the show requires equipment that can cost up to $5,000 and then the taper has to buy tapes and spend many hours to produce the music and upload it just because they love the music to a near obsession and so that they can share the music with others. The benefit to the band is that others will listen to the live music and then realize that the band is good and then buy tickets to their shows and drive many hours to see them. The benefit to the taper is that he or she can sit at home or in the car and relive the nice experience of the live music event and even play guitar along with it.
    Keep the music live, legal, and lossless!

    ps–see ya’ll at Magfest 2006!! 🙂

  • “I have not heard an argument that adequately justifies stealing from songwriters. If you trade tapes you steal from songwriters. Period. Convince me its NOT theft, don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t dance around the issue by condemning lawyers, record companies, or PROs. Tell me how you can justify stealing from songwriters who have expressedly stated they do NOT want their songs recorded and distributed, without resorting to side issues. It is theft, and you all know it.

    Further, I support the musicians, lawyers, performers, small label owners, and writers who are, as we speak, organizing to stop this onerous, illegal practice. They are prepared to play hardball. ”

    I agree, it is not right to tape bands that don’t allow taping….It is also very wrong to copy official releases.
    However, there is a LARGE list of bands that allow taping. In this case, it is ok to tape them since the band fully endorses it (and in most cases encourages it).
    Look here for a small list of bands that allow taping:

  • Chachi, you quoted Kip and then completely missed his point. Kip said songwriters, you said bands. His point was, correct me if I’m misrepresenting what you meant Kip, the bands can only give permission for songs to which they own the copyright (and if I read the law correctly, said permission would need to be in written form). They cannot give permission to record a song they don’t own. It’s the songwriters, not the bands, who are not being fairly compensated.

    While a band may have reasons for allowing, or not allowing, the recording of their shows, they don’t have a legal right to allow it if they are performing someone else’s copyrighted material.

  • Jon Weisberger

    A couple of things:


    “One question, though ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù all the mention here has been the problems that ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC have with the live taping community. However, it seems to me that they have very little to do with it. They only represent the performers…”

    Actually, the PROs don’t represent performers, they represent songwriters and publishers with respect to performance royalties.

    2. On the question of “practice recordings” used by professional musicians to learn material for performances, or show tapes used by professional musicians to review and improve their own performances, I think it’s pretty clear that these do constitute “fair use,” much as demo recordings of songs do.


    “From John W. –

    ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t understand where the sense of entitlement comes from that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s reflected in this post.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

    I think that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a fundamental problem that some musicians and ?¢‚Ǩ?ìindustry-insiders?¢‚Ǩ¬ù have. You don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t understand the mindset of a fan. A fan who has bought all of your CD?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s, been to as many of your concerts as possible, who buys your biography and who gets excited when the local paper writes a feature about you. The fan feels a sense of community, a sense of family, and a sense of ownership (justified or not) in the artist and their music.”

    I don’t know of any musician who isn’t happy to have fans – and, generally speaking, the more enthusiastic, the better. But if the sense of “ownership” is *not* justified, then that’s worth pointing out, and it seems to me that to the extent that you want to stress art and artistry, to that extent it’s clear (at least to me) that it’s the artist, not the fan, with whom the right to choose what will be recorded and distributed ultimately resides. As I said earlier, “it seems to me that anyone who claims to respect an artist would want to respect that artist?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s right to choose the music that will represent them; it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s one thing to give, say, a poor performance on a particular night, while it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s another to know that said performance – one with which the artist is *unhappy* – might circulate eternally.” Need I add that the unhappiness there stems from *artistic* concerns, and that making these kinds of choices – “I’m happy with this,” “this sucks,” etc. – is part and parcel of the essence of making art? If you want to make these kinds of choices, make them about your own work, not someone else’s.

  • Jon Weisberger on 08.08.06 7:30 pm wrote ….

    ?¢‚Ǩ?ìAll of this desire for live ?¢‚Ǩ?ìtaping?¢‚Ǩ¬ù is because a live show brings to life what great things can happen unexpectedly in the live music world which those not present would never get to hear otherwise !!!!?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

    Well, that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s what we call the luck of the draw, sometimes known by the title of a Rolling Stones song, you can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t always get what you want – at least, not legally or ethically. You go to the show, you get to hear the music; you don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t go, you don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t – at least, not legally or ethically, unless the artist and the songwriters and the venue all sign off on the idea beforehand – and I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t understand where the sense of entitlement comes from that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s reflected in this post.

    *** So I guess in your world we should deprive a 16 year old kid learning to play Mandolin a live recording of Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys from 1965 ???? I will say it again for those who didn’t catch my points …. My opinions are based on the history and passing along the tradition that IS Bluegrass … I personally have no live shows newer than 1996 … The ones from that point on I may care about in 20 years when the artists of today may not be doing what they’re doing now. To me a historical collection of live shows brings alive the essence and tradition that is Bluegrass Music, and in the trend of Band-Hoping/Swapping that Bluegrass Musicians do … you may never get to hear a band lineup that you may have heard or seen at a show last week in their prime. So 20 years from now, I might want a recording of that awesome lineup. On the Monroe point … he was a musician that would play breaks different and more confusing every time he played them just to see if people were paying attention and mess with them … How would this type of artistry live on or be appreciated otherwise. I would have no problem paying for live shows, like I have for artist such as IIIrd Tyme Out’s Live at the MAC recordings … but that is a newer idea that most artists are not doing … Like I said earlier, the whole draw to live shows is capturing the great history and excitement of a music that is based on that raw live acoustic sound, and if artists would begin releasing live CD’s in my opinion they would probably sell more of them then their digitalized, perfected, click-tracked records which they are producing now a days… and I for one would be first in line to purchase those. That, in my opinion, is what has created this whole practice of the desire for live recordings. Maybe artists should be considering that ????

  • Jaime Julian

    Kip Martin is taking a vehement stand in his posts and I respect the passion with which he defends his position (even if I respectfully disagree). However, I’m sensing more than a little hypocrisy in his statements. Aside from the link already posted, a quick search yielded not only a request for recordings by bands that adamantly do NOT allow recording (namely Steve Earle and Bob Dylan):

    but also the mentioned list of live recordings he was offering for trade:

    I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d bet the songwriters of the songs performed in the shows listed above were not compensated by Kip. Thus, I would suggest we all take his comments with a grain of salt.

    As for the topic itself, I have a better understanding now of the laws (and opinions) surrounding taping/trading. I also, unfortunately, have lost a bit of my affection for bluegrass musicians and fans. I have been heartened to hear all the wonderful experiences that people have had at live shows or through taping and trading. However, to hear all the negativity, commercialism, and general meanness has soured me on the whole scene somewhat. I don’t like to hear that people are sending Megan hate mail. Instead, if you don’t agree with her and don’t like all the trouble she’s dredged up here,
    vote with your dollar. Don’t go see her shows. Don’t buy her albums. It seems to me this is a much more civilized way of voicing your opinion – and in the long run, more effective.

  • charlie quoted me as follows:

    >anyone have a DAT or CD of a recent >Rhonda Vincent and the Rage show? i
    >suddenly need one QUICK!!

    that was 3 or 4 years ago and it was because i had a couple gigs with rhonda.

    no matter what you say, its still immoral, illegal, and trashy to steal from songwriters. period.


  • chachi said:

    >However, there is a LARGE list of >bands that allow taping. In this case, >it is ok to tape them since the band >fully endorses it (and in most cases >encourages it).

    i get it. no one is reading my posts. bands do not have the right to allow taping of songs they do not own the publishing to.

    read my posts–as well as weissbergers: this is about songwriting royalties and has NOTHING to do with bands and their permission. if a band encourages taping of songs that are published and there is no compensation going to the writers, they are exposed to legal action, too.

    let me say it again…this is NOT about bands giving permission, this is about songwriters not receiving royalties.


  • Manfred Helfert


    please read my post on the other thread — I just don’t “get” it what difference it makes if (say) 10,000 people at a festival get to hear a song (for which the songwriter gets compensation) or if a few people more can listen to an amateur recording (never meant to “compete” with any commercial recording and done with the performer’s permission) — is the songwriter entitled to more, if a few more people can listen to a recording of a performance of his song (for whose performance he already received compensation)? I might be plain stupid, but I just do not “get” the “issue”…

  • Hey Kip,

    Maybe you should lighten up a bit on throwing out words like ‘immoral’ and ‘trashy’. Most, if not all the folks who were users of bluegrassbox (myself included) had no ill will when we acquired these shows. We are lovers of this music and the artists who perform it and to put good people into those categories is just plain wrong.

  • Paul Sullivan

    Talk about a hot topic. As far as artist go they have every right to allow or not allow taping. That definitely is there decision and should be respected. But the attacks on what the taping community are about couldn’t be any more of a joke. It’s obvious the attackers are regurgitating the recording industries propoganda without any real knowledge. This topic is almost like talking about religion. In my opinion, the whole issue comes down to two statements.
    1. Some ‘musicians’ and songwriters’ see this as a job and a product and that’s all its about.
    2. Some musicians are driven by there soul and spirit. They thrive on stage and truly connect with people. For them sharing the music is an honor. They view us a real people not consumers. And the people that respect and love them for there music buy the cd’s and go to the live shows and support the musician. The Grateful Dead (my fav band) encouraged taping and sold out shows in the matter of hours. Phish, very pro taping had 90,000 people at there new years eve concert in Florida ( I attended). We all make our own choices so complaining about a musicians life being any harder than anyone elses life is a joke. I’m a person who wants to feel and be moved by music, much of it has changed my life. If I just want be viewed as a consumer I’ll go to walmart. If you’re just doing a job to just sell a product I won’t waste my time on you.

  • Ot taway

    Sorry to be blunt bu it is amazing to me how naive and uninformed some of the arguments and “epiphanies” from actual musicians are in this discussion.

    To hopefully add to the benefit of all – musician, amateur ambient archivists (i.e., tapers) and even lawyers, I propose the following rules. For each rule I have attempted to include examples of artists that have successfully followed the stated rule.

    I belive thse rules can minimize confusion and maximize profit for musicians and song writers. This is a first draft so please help edit and add rules as appropriate….

    Simple Rules For Musicians Regarding Live Ambient Recordings

    1. Have a clear written policy regarding live recordings. Do you allow it or not (Dylan, David Lindley)? If yes, audience only (Dave Matthews), sbd (Dave Alvin), video (not many bands), only handheld recorders (Pearl Jam), can it be distributed via internet/bittorrents or only physical media trades (Nickel Creek)? BTW, it is not enough to just post it in a discussion group…..

    2. Inform the world of your policy and reserve the right to change it at any time. Post the policy on your website – it’s that simple. Bittorrent sites, amateur tapers, and law abiding fans will follow your wishes more often than not if they are known. Great examples of this are DimeADozen or the etree community.

    3. (The Oprah Book Club / Austin City Limits Rule). Monetize your live performances or use them as a marketing tool to “upsell” your commerically released music and band-related merchandise.
    — There are so many possibilities here including:
    a) make live tracks available on your website as a marketing tool (Dylan)
    b) sell live performances on your website or I-tunes (Grateful Dead
    c) sell live cds of all your concerts(Pearl Jam, Pixies)
    d) provide streams of live concerts and monetize the ads on the streaming player (such as at your record labels website or on myspace)
    e) View the grass-roots circulation of your live shows as free marketing of your music and live concerts with zero overhead. Most tapers/recordists share the music and a band that allows taping can easily create a “community” of hard core fans that drive new people to your music and concerts.

    4. Monitor and enforce your policy. Take action to ensure individuals and sites adhere to your policies. Police Ebay/auction sites, torrent sites and discussion boards. It costs $0 for you to email an offender and that usually does the trick. I am aware of a number of legal firms that can be hired on retainer to enforce your rights. Reference to a clearly written policy is usually enough to discourage most recording and sharing of music by fans.

    Finally, I think the issue of who should compensate a songwriter for a live compensated performance of a song and its subsequent recording is an interesting one (i.e., if David Grisman plays “Friend of the Devil” in concert and it is recorded, does he or the taper/recorder owe Jerry Garcia estate and Robert Hunter money?)
    Given that almost all musicians cover other peoples’ songs in live performance and it is viewed as a tribute, I find it hard to believe that either the performer or recordist owes the song writer much. But if the songwriter follows Rule 1 and Rule 4, it would be a lot easier to answer this question. If musicians had the money, I am sure they would compensate the songwriter / copyright owner, but most musicians, especially bluegrass musicians, don’t have that kind of money….

    Remeber, it is impossible to prevent recording and distribution of live performances but you can control it and obtaine both hard (cash) and soft (marketing) benefits if handled appropriately.

  • Jon Weisberger

    “1. Some ?¢‚ǨÀúmusicians?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ and songwriters?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ see this as a job and a product and that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s all its about.
    2. Some musicians are driven by there soul and spirit. They thrive on stage and truly connect with people. ”

    That’s a rather loaded way of putting it. Making music for a living (and therefore being concerned about compensation) and making music as art aren’t mutually exclusive. I won’t speak about other kinds of music, but when it comes to bluegrass, the record is very clear: the decisive figures in its history, from Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys on down to the present day, were and are by and large full-time musicians making a living from their music, and commercial and artistic considerations were and are tightly intertwined in shaping their careers and their music.

  • tony A

    As I recall the father of bluegrass music Bill Monroe allowed the open taping and trading of his music.

  • Jon Weisberger

    “As I recall the father of bluegrass music Bill Monroe allowed the open taping and trading of his music.”

    Well, yes and no. The technological changes embodied in sites like bluegrassbox have dramatically changed the situation. When taping was actually taping – analog recording – a variety of factors operated to effectively guarantee that trading remained essentially private and on a small scale. What Monroe would have thought of live recordings capable of infite reproduction without loss in quality and of unrestricted, world-wide distribution is unknowable, and dragging him into a discussion of the current state of affairs can’t be done with any serious degree of intellectual honesty.

  • Paul Sullivan

    The Grateful Dead are one of the bands that have brought taping into the rock world on a large scale. Jerry Garcia got the whole idea of it from bluegrass and bluegrass festivals (talk about smacking history in the face). Before people start talking about what taping is and the technologies they should try to understand what they are talking about. Ignorance is truly bliss. Ever heard of the Allman Brothers Band (another huge band that allows taping, imagine that, taping and success)? They don’t allow electronic trading so the shows can’t be on websites and downloaded. It can only be done through the mail (and it works).

  • fiddle.feller

    Two quick comments:

    1. Legal taping. The only way it can be legal is if the songwriter is compensated. The music is not the performer’s property to give away.

    2. Only way to hear new artists? Humbug. Most any artist has samples of their work available free – 30 seconds to a minute to whole songs from their album.

    3. Bluegrass is best heard live anyway. If that’s the case, why would you go from hearing a live, raw, “real bluegrass” free recording to pay for a canned, tame studio recording?

    4. When Tim O’Brien says, “Tape away”, he’s playing traditional tunes or tunes he wrote. And you aren’t listening to free recordings of Tim or Tony Rice to find out what they sound like so that you can then go buy their CDs. But when you listen to “free” recordings of favorites like this, you aren’t trying to sample the wares of some new artist to decide whether they are worth buying.