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