Trading live shows – good for our music?

Update 8/04, 8:45 a.m.: Owing to a number of reader requests, we have enabled commenting for Megan’s post. Comments are moderated, so they will not appear immediately, and we require a simple, free registration in order to post them.

This post is a contribution from Megan B. Lynch, fiddler with 3 Fox Drive, and a respected instructor at fiddle camps all over the US. Megan was inspired to contribute this commentary after giving some consideration to the growing availability of file trading sites where fans can make live shows of their favorite acts available for others to download.

“Hey, anyone out there got New South shows from 2004-06? How about Rhonda, anything with stuff from the new album? I’ve got a bunch of Blue Highway and Alison that I got with my minidisk – good stuff! Oh, and I uploaded most of it on this site, so just take what you’re looking for, and enjoy!”

Sure, go ahead. Take what you’re looking for. The bands and songwriters responsible for that music don’t mind. Most of them just do this for the fun of it. That and the driving. They love the driving. All night to a festival, then two sets and back in the van to the next show. Barely making enough to pay for fuel. Hoping to sell a few dozen CDs to make sure the other band members break even on the tour. 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!

Turns out that there are a number of websites that are facilitating exactly this kind of thing. I must admit, I was surprised. I figured that whenever people wanted to upload music (mostly live shows, usually without the permission of the festival, and often without the permission of the band) they would ask. Nope. Apparently, if we don’t want them to do it, we have to contact them. We have to find all the sites, figure out how to contact the people running them, and let them know they don’t have permission to trade the illegally-obtained music. Huh? Who would have thought?

I know many bands allow, even encourage, recording of live shows. I respect their choice to do so. (I do still have some concern for the songwriters involved – but one issue at a time.) But for bands and musicians who choose not to allow it, I find it disturbing that the process is backwards.

So, let this be my call to all bands and musicians. Choose for yourself – but understand that this is happening, and it could be happening to you. Log on to, and seek out the others. Let them know where you stand.

Megan B. Lynch, 3 Fox Drive

  • Loam Loam

    If an artist does not want taping or trading of their shows, a good start might be to state this somewhere on their website (sorry, couldn’t find a mention on Reputable sites such as will respect artists’ wishes.

    Chances are, the people that would collect live recordings of your shows are the very people that go to your concerts($) and buy your music($). If you are concerned about your fans hearing something for free, fear the radio while you’re at it.

    Brance adds: I almost deleted this comment because whoever posted it used a crap email and didn’t use their real name. Both of which are contrary to the rules John just quoted. But I decided to let it through so other people could see why we require those things. Expressing your opinion, especially when disagreeing with someone, without having the courage to put your name to it is just not cool. Shame on you!

  • Frankly we were shocked to see you single out our site in your tirade.

    We’d be the first to admit there are sites out there that do not adhere to the artists’ policies on trading live music and some go as to distribute recordings from events where recording was specifically disallowed.

    However, bluegrass fans are “salt of the earth”, honest folk who strive to ensure the bluegrass community growth and interest. It is a grassroots sort of genre and we feel our service benefits all involved.

    At Bluegrassbox we go to great lengths and expend a lot of time and energy researching taping and trading policies. Artists communicate with us directly on policy change (and often to request that we host their shows!), we consult lists such as “Bands That Allow Taping” maintained by the etree community, we keep tabs on artists we have personal relationships or have close contacts with and, perhaps our most accurate source of artists’ taping/trading policies is our own internal community. As you can see in the Bluegrassbox forum discussions, many of our users are quite expert in their understanding of bluegrass history and artists’ taping policies and actively monitor the contents of Bluegrass box for any shows that may slip through our screening or become suspect as a result from newfound information or changes in existing posted policies. To be clear, we screen every show before it is put online. No one can anonymously post a new recording and make it available for download until we have had a chance to review it and research it.

    Contributed shows are only made available for downloads if we can determine they are considered OK for such distribution. If there is any question in a recording’s legitimacy, from any of the above sources, we remove it quickly and with no questions.

    There are plenty of bluegrass artists of varying popularity and style who have sanctioned us to host their recordings, and we have turned on innumerable fans to their music who have then went on to buy a ticket to a show or purchase a CD. You cannot just turn on the radio and hear a big variety of bluegrass music these days, so a lot of times sites like ours are the only avenue for fans to get to know new artists. When we go to concerts, we meet many folks who are at a show for the first time because they heard a recording on Bluegrassbox and then decided to see the artist in person. We’re constantly amazed at the comments of new members who claim our site opened their eyes and their lives to the bluegrass genre. Often they go on to explicitly state they will most definitely support bluegrass artists by purchasing their recordings and attending their live shows (as we preach on our site).

    Megan, you make some valid points based on some of the activites that other live music sites engage in, but don’t single us out in that crowd. We do not now and never have hosted a performance by you or your band. So we’re really not sure why you have just decided to attack us out of the blue.

    There are good people out there running sites for no gain whatsoever other than to turn fans on to new music. We have been doing this for over a decade now and have never received one penny from anyone (even though we’ve sank many 10’s of thousands of dollars into it from our own pockets). We’ve never charged subscriptions, never taken advertising, and never even taken donations (even though we get offers daily). We do it only as a service by devoted bluegrass fans for bluegrass fans (old and new) and also as a service to the artists who gain new fans daily because our site exists.

    Patrick Skerrett & Mike Wagner

  • Mike Martin

    There appears to be a belief among artists who are anti-taping/show-sharing that they are being cheated out of revenue – that for every show that is downloaded, they (or more precisely, their record labels) are missing out on $15.00 (or $18.99 if you shop at the Virgin Mega Super Great Awesome Store). They’ll hear that a live show has been downloaded 10,000 times and think – “geez, that’s $150,000 that we’re being cheated out of.” Horsepuckey. I suppose that might be true to some extent for “major artists,” in that if the only possible way for people to listen to Union Station or Del McCoury was to purchase one of their CD’s. But they are a known commodity, and there is an exisitng demand for their music. But for most every other not-quite-making-it-just-yet band that’s out there, taping/sharing should be viewed as advertising. And FREE advertising at that. Ask Yonder Mountain if they would be the most popular bluegrass (yes, I use that term loosely) band in the country had they had a stringent anti-taping policy when they started out. And as an artist, what do you see a higher percentage of, a $15 ticket to a performance (plus maybe a t-shirt sale), or a $15 CD? Certainly people and sites like bluegrassbox should respect an artist’s request to not disseminate their live shows, I just think that such artists are hurting their careers more than they are helping by taking that stance.
    And just to be clear, I am not advocating the sharing or copying of recorded CD’s – that is piracy and should be discouraged . If you want a crystal clear version of Bela Fleck’s latest (or better yet, Chatham County Line or 3FoxDrive – they need the money more) plunk down your $15!

  • Ryan Baker

    I have been an active member of the online live bluegrass-sharing community for about 6 years. I think that Megan’s response to the community that she posted is probably the first response of many artists who are trying to make a living playing music. However, please consider a few aspects of this practice that you may not have thought of off the bat.

    The community of collectors for which bluegrassbox is a central gathering point is overall a very honest, well-intentioned community who are dedicated to not only preserving the heritage of bluegrass (through archiving and sound preservation) but to promoting current artists and spreading the word about new trends in bluegrass. Since I began collecting, I have turned dozens of friends and family members on to countless artists with whom none were previously familiar. We LOVE you guys, and our only interest is sharing with others how GREAT you are! Thanks to taper-friendly acts and the online archives accessible to us, we can not only help artists through word-of-mouth publicity but also by giving samples of what an artist sounds like in concert. I have no doubt in my mind that countless artists have experienced an increase in popularity due to this type of FREE grassroots publicity.

    In this day and age, we are all bombarded on all sides by an overwhelming amount of media. With on-demand movies, hundreds of TV channels, and on-demand CDs from ITunes, media is playing a new role in people’s lives. That said, people like me, who eat, drink, and breathe music, are not fulfilled by getting to hear new music from our favorite artists once every one or two years, or whenever we have the opportunity to attend a concert (say, once or twice a year.) Most of my favorite artists are superbly talented improvisers who have large repertoires – ensuring that every concert will be different. This is what makes collectors like me drool. Knowing that Tony Rice may have just played the greatest version of Cattle in the Cane that he’s ever played, while I missed the show, makes me thank God for the fellow who taped it.

    Please understand, we are not in this practice to harm you or your business. We are honestly, truly, here to help you. Please talk to your fellow bluegrass musicians, and I think you will find that most take the side which we are defending. Hopefully, soon you will realize that the live sharing community online can be a helpful grassroots organization for your career.

  • Manfred Helfert

    Who is this Megan Lynch (what an appropriate name)?

    I’ve never heard of her (over here in Germany), whereas — through and similar sites like — I have been able to “sample” recordings of other groups/artists (and subsequently bought their recordings).

    After this totally uncalled for singling out and attack of a site which provides a “labor of love” for artists and fans alike (free promotion, archiving of recordings that would otherwise been lost, unselfishly and with no monetary gain promoting a type of music which is not exactly the most popular — at least over here in Germany), I will surely boycott ANY recordings by this “lady” (who either seems to be going through some kind of a “midlife crisis” or to be just plain worn out from constant touring… as she indicates herself…).

    I certainly respect that she is opposed to being taped (as does but trying to get a “lynch mob” going (or how should I interpret her last sentence?) is so “low” (and despicable) that I will certainly NEVER buy any recording she is even marginally involved with.

    I’d rather support “reasonable” artists like Tim O’Brien or Peter Rowan who can see beyond the rim of their proverbial tea cup and appreciate the free promotion they get from fans like us who love their music and invest a lot of time and money to propagate it.

  • Bob Miller

    I have been going to and purchasing Bluegrass music for over 30 years. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and enjoy ALL of the fathers and mothers of bluegrass music. It was actually, through live recordings that really drove my passion into this arena. I grew up listening to bluegrass music, back in the day of KFAT (Gilroy, CA) with Uncle Al. That is where that Lonesome Sound started to resonate in my brain. I purchased LP records (remember those) of Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Osborne Brothers, etc.?¢‚Ǩ¬¶and am still purchasing CD?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s of the current artists I still like. One thing I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve said over the years about my passion of live recordings is that I like the spontaneity of the moment. The little lick the artist puts into a song that is not on the album. That little personality that he/she feels at that moment. The Passion. You don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t always get THAT on an album. Don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t get me wrong, I WILL buy the album. But I won?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t buy it if it sucks. And a true artist, in my book, is measured on how they can pull it off LIVE !!!! So, LONG LIVE the live recordings. And hopefully, that fledging new artist, through a live recording, can pursued someone to go out to see them at a festival, make them a fan, and convince him/her to buy their CD. With someone recording that artist in some obscure venue, it gives exposure to that artist that he/she/they would other wise not get. Free promotion in my book. But who am I ? Just some bluegrass enthusiast who may some day buy your record, I mean CD?¢‚Ǩ¬¶?¢‚Ǩ¬¶?¢‚Ǩ¬¶?¢‚Ǩ¬¶

  • Scott Vickery

    Hey Megan, I hear you are good, but, I have never heard you before. Perhaps a little story about my experience with listening to live recordings would help here. Not too long ago (5-10 years), I knew almost nothing about bluegrass music. Then, I was introduced to live music trading and collecting. At one point in time, I got a copy of a David Grier show. He blew my mind. I sought him out and went to see him play. While there, I bought a CD. Then I found out he did not approve of live recordings of his to be distributed. So, I threw out the un-sanctioned copy I had. You see, I and most people I know that collect live recordings, do so only if it is approved by the artist. I have not seen David play since. Not for any other reason than new recordings of him playing are not constantly in my face. The people I do seek out, however, because I get to listen to new material of theirs all the time are people like Yonder Mountain String Band, Sam Bush & Del McCroury, all of which allow taping. And, yes, I own multiple studio recordings of all the above.

    Good luck with your career. I hope to hear you one day.


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

  • Manfred Helfert

    Megan wrote:

    ?¢‚Ǩ?ìHey, anyone out there got New South shows from 2004-06? How about Rhonda, anything with stuff from the new album? I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve got a bunch of Blue Highway and Alison that I got with my minidisk – good stuff! Oh, and I uploaded most of it on this site, so just take what you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢re looking for, and enjoy!?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

    Funny that I cannot find these very bands she lists at the site she attacks in such an unqualified manner…

    Megan — with your enlightened knowledge of “all things Bluegrass”, could you, please, point me to where I can download what you list?

    I’d be very interested since I have most (or even all) of these artists’ official recordings?

    Or am I the only one who senses certain parallels to a certain hysteria involving WMD’s and a certain Mid-East country?

  • I play guitar for an east coast group and our website clearly states our recording policy.

    In the 80s national distribution for recorded music was easy to get. Now it’s nigh impossible. The only ways to get music by smaller/newer acts “out there” is through national airplay and through the activity of tapers/sharers. The argument isn’t really as simple as “tapers kill CD sales” when music retail is now Big Box stores where very, very few bluegrass CDs are available if at all. Like many artists these days, the overwhelming bulk of our CDs sales are at our own performances.

    I don’t see the market changing in the future. Therefore tapers aren’t just welcome at my shows, they’re a godsend.

  • i got this from a well-placed industry insider. i think his views are right on and represent the musicians affected by taping. he wishes to remain anonymous due to his business relationships.

    This whole trading live shows discussion has stirred up quite a little controversy hasn’t it? 🙂

    I myself believe that:

    1) the idea that the trading of live shows exposes people to bands they would not have heard otherwise is an excuse. Most all bands put samples of their music up online somewhere (myspace?). even if they don’t, most people find out about a band via word of mouth, and when that happens, the person who told you about the band probably has a CD you can listen to. so I’m not buying the exposure excuse.

    2) the band has no copyright on a performance of the song, so they are not “losing” revenue from it being traded. Most people will buy the CD if they like the band. the ones that won’t are the ones that will download the CD illegally, or copy it from someone else, anyway.

    3) the songwriters do deserve to get paid for their work. whether this is a case of performance royalty or mechanical royalty is open for debate, but they should be paid.

    4) if a band performs PD songs, or songs they wrote and are willing to waive songwriting royalties on, then I have no problem with it.
    after that, if a site like wants to distribute a live show, they should have a license to do so for the remaining copyrighted songs in that performance. it’s the ethical thing to do.
    once again, whether that should be a strict mechanical rate or a performance license is open to discussion. either way it wouldn’t be much. for a live show with 15 songs, even if all of them where copyrighted, it would only be $1.28. I realize it’s no longer free at that point, but it’s the right thing to do. which is what this whole thing really boils down to, integrity.

    Integrity is a hard thing, and sadly most people these days don’t have it. For those who don’t have integrity, downloading live shows without copyright compensation is “exposure”. For those who do have integrity, it’s known as stealing.

    that’s my take on the whole situation.

  • jeff tucker

    in reference to the comment about stealing music.

    I write music. I play music whenever I get the chance. When I write a song it never comes from me. It is like Townes Van Zandt said, it is just out there and I happen to catch it every now and then. So it is really not my song. It is yours.

    I think a lot of us who play music or write tunes know this. The music would wither and die if we kept it to ourselves. It is a gift to be able to stand on a stage and feel the energy that runs between the crowd and the stage, it’s a 2 way street.

    It is great to be able to make a living playing the tunes, but it sure don’t hurt us one —— [expletive deleted] bit to give back a little of what we have been gifted with.

    Just my humble opinon
    Jeff Tucker

  • a p

    Well, it’s interesting to find that due to my love of music and the fact that I download it I have no integrity. What was written in the first post? I believe “Expressing your opinion, especially when disagreeing with someone, without having the courage to put your name to it is just not cool. Shame on you!” [Brance’s note: I wrote that because the guy who posted that comment used a fake name and email. Kip was simply quoting someone he had a communication with off this blog. Kip did put his name to that post, it wasn’t posted anonymously.]

    In the past ten years it’s amazing how far technology has come. I for one love it. This year, a few weeks after attending Grey Fox I was able to download Mountain Hearts set and now enjoy it over and over. Once it’s posted on I’ll buy it there however. Not only to have a better quality recording but also to support the band.

    Festival link is a great idea, it seems like a great compromise between the two sides of this argument. Fans get to hear the music and musicians get paid. I hope in the future more festivals and bands pursue this type of thing.

    Now to the point of “the idea that the trading of live shows exposes people to bands they would not have heard otherwise is an excuse”. It’s true most bands do have sound clips on their website, and yes it’s a good way to get introduced to a band. Over the years however I have seen bands benefit from tape trading. I remember in college when my brother, who lived in Nederland CO at the time sent me an early recording of Yonder Mountain. I passed this recording around campus and the first time they played the area they sold out two nights in a row. A lot of my friends who I had given the recording to attended, and were proudly wearing their YMSB shirts in class the next day. Want another example that doesn’t have your typical “hippie” following? Metallica. Thanks to people passing their very first demo around it made it to New York city before they arrived from California and they were selling out shows immediately.

    Finally I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m sad that Megan?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s blog post was the breaking point and now bluegrassbox is gone. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve enjoyed a lot of great music from their. I remember being so happy when a stringdusters show was posted there. I saw one of their early shows and it was great to hear them again. When I was talking with them at Grey Fox this year I told them I had downloaded one of their shows (and shared it with my friends, who are all fans now) and asked them if they minded. They were happy for the exposure and weren?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t worried about it at all (I bought a t-shirt anyways).

    It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s funny, I remember how one of the surveys at bluegrass box was ?¢‚Ǩ?ìare you more likely to support a band that supports taping?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and a large percentage said yes. For me it was never an issue. I wonder if way back in the day when she was winning fiddle contests if Megan ever thought that she’d be in it for the money? Wellt, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll be sure she isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t getting any of mine (and as I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve said before word of mouth is a powerful thing and 3-Fox Drive is pretty unpopular with many people now).

    Andy Patmos

  • Hello. I was exposed to bluegrass music through live, legal, losless audio that I downloaded freely from bands that allow taping (btat) via sites like etc. After becoming exposed to great bands, I then try hard to go see these bands live and also buy their official releases. For instance, I will be driving ~12 hours to go to Magnolia Music Festival to go see Rowan/Rice among many other great musicians. I have been known to drive many hours to go see bands like The Del McCoury Band and many others. I play guitar and love playing along with live music because the energy is so much greater on live music than studio music.
    Live music serves a great purpose for bands–it exposes the bands to people who may never hear of the band otherwise. It is a sampler of sorts. If the band is truly good, then people will buy their official cd’s and go to shows.
    If a band wishes not to have their live music recorded/traded, then that is fine. But there are many bands that allow taping, so it is a shame to take down an entire site just for one band that is unhappy. I’m sure the site will be glad to ensure that your band’s live shows are not available for download.
    In the meanwhile though, keep the music live, legal, & lossless!

  • Manfred Helfert

    Please forgive my ignorance — but I do not quite “get” that “songwriter-angle” (which seems to be the vital issue) — I might have it all wrong, but if someone (let’s say Tim O’Brien) performs a song by let’s say Bob Dylan (at a festival), Bob Dylan gets his share because the song was performed there — have I got that right so far?

    Let’s say that 10,000 people attend that festival — does the songwriter (in question), in this Bob Dylan, get any more (from the performance of his song) if there were 20,000 people?

    Somehow I’d think not — now, the fact that (for example) Tim O’Brien would allow taping — and thereby “extend” the audience of a hypothetical festival from 10,000 to (maybe) 20,000 (I’m sure that not that many people downloaded from that site who was the regrettable “casualty” in this uncalled-for preemptive war), what would be the difference?

    If 20,000 people (instead of 10,000) showed up at that hypothetical festival — would the songwriter get more?

    Anyone who can enlighten me on a situation which looks rather absurd to me?

    At least people who would otherwise NEVER have had a chance (possibly by just being geographically unable to attend this hypothetical festival), could (so to speak) “participate” in that festival, find music they liked, possibly became “fans”, and purchased (and promoted) this type of music…

  • A quick note from management…

    For those of you who are posting comments, and don’t see them accepted after moderation, please be aware that we will not be approving posts that are directed at other commenters, especially in the form of personal attacks.

    If you have something to add to the discussion, and can do it respectfully, without challenging the character and intentions of fellow commenters, your contribution will be welcome.

  • manfred asked some good questions in post #658.

    A jukebox does not pay higher mechanicals because it is in a room full of hundreds of people compared to a jukebox in a smaller location. It’s a fee per unit–each CD pays an individual contributing songwriter approximately 8 cents per unit.

    Also, it’s admirable that so many traders argue that their trading enhances the performers visibility in the marketplace, but somehow I doubt that’s why they hoard those pirated CDs. If it didn’t help, I doubt the traders would stop trading. So, thats probably a non-argument.

    i LOVE live recordings, but i would gladly pay for them and support the writers who put their hearts into the songs. pete goble is in his 70s and struggling with health issues. and he is NOT rich. a royalty check of $100 would go a LONG way with him. id like to see one trader stand up and say he’d send money to Pete Goble. it wont happen.


  • Manfred Helfert

    Kip wrote in post #662:
    “A jukebox does not pay higher mechanicals because it is in a room full of hundreds of people compared to a jukebox in a smaller location. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a fee per unit?¢‚Ǩ‚Äúeach CD pays an individual contributing songwriter approximately 8 cents per unit.”

    So, transferring this (being from overseas where laws might be different) to a “live” setting — wouldn’t that also mean that “an individual contributing songwriter” receives the same amount if 10,000 (or 20,000) people “attend” a performance of his song?

    Doesn’t he/she receive a compensation PER PERFORMANCE? And doesn’t the performer him-/herself has a right to allow taping of his/her performance?

    To counter some of the rather “shallow” (and rather constructed) “arguments” — if he/she considered his performance to be “inferior”, wouldn’t he/she say “I do not want this to be circulated” (a request which any respectable trader/archivist would certainly honor, from my experience — I have received some recordings from artists themselves with the request NOT to trade these, and I certainly honor these requests) — but on the other hand, a songwriter who receives compensation, regardless of his/her song being (possibly) “butchered” in a performance, what does he/she have to “complain” if the performer (even if he/she “butchered” his song) allows it to be taped and traded — thereby just “extending” the amount of listeners to a particular performance?

    IMO, a songwriter would have only cause of complaint if he/she considered that a performer “butchered” one of his/her songs in performance and he/she was adamant to NOT see his song being exposed to a “bigger” audience (than the initial one for which he/she already received due compensation) — and this, IMO, would amount to a controversy he/she would have to settle with the performer (who also has some rights, IMO).

  • “…but somehow I doubt that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s why they hoard those pirated CDs.” ~Kip

    Again, my point is that live music cds from bands that allow taping are not at all “pirated”. Many bands allow, and in a lot of cases, encourage tapers to record shows. Only in the more rare case that a band does not allow taping, then would it be considered “bootlegged”. “Pirated” means to copy a studio album and not live music as far as I know.

    As for Manfred’s post #658, royalties should not be paid on live music recordings that are freely traded. Royalties are not paid for live music performances, but if you record it and then the band *sells* it as an officially released live music cd, only then do they need to pay royalties. Not for freely traded and fully authorized live music audience recordings. (I’m not a lawyer, but I think that’s pretty accurate)

  • Joe Jackson

    In Kip’s comments (one his own and one passed along), there is the opinion that trading does not help artists. No evidence is given, they simply say “I don’t believe it” and then label it “an excuse”. Well, explain the enormous growth in popularity the Grateful Dead experienced after allowing taping and trading freely. Their concerts had been taped from the beginning, but people couldn’t easily trade reel to reel tapes. When cassettes came along, trading became easier and their popularity grew exponentially until they were among the world’s top grossing tours yearly. They were a band for more than twenty years before that happened. That’s a concrete example of trading helping an artist. Ditto Yonder Mountain String Band. And as for whether tapers will send money to an ailing songwriter, I’ll wager that’s more likely than the publishing company saying “You made us a bunch of money back in the day; how can we help?” Many tapers/traders also host house concerts – maybe they can help raise money that way. Are we trying to help or just trying to paint traders in negative light?

  • Jon Weisberger

    As a matter of fact, license fees paid to performance rights organizations *do* take venue size into account. Meaning that a venue with a capacity for a 20,000 member audience will pay more to the songwriters than a venue with a 10,000 capacity.

    Furthermore, it is necessary to distinguish between performance royalties, to which songwriters are entitled when their work is *performed* – typically dealt with through venue licenses – and mechanical royalties, to which songwriters are entitled when a song is recorded and distributed. And the law is quite clear on this; payment of a performance royalty doesn’t mean that mechanical royalties don’t have to be paid on copies of a recording of said performance. They’re two different things.

  • Carl Werth

    Here are a couple of thoughts from a mere working man/fan of the music. I am trying to just keep it simple:

    1. If I don’t know who you are – I won’t buy your new studio cd. That’s about as simple as it can possibly be. You can have a website with free sample downloads ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú but, once again, if I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know who you are ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú I sure don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know you have a website.

    If I get introduced to you through hearing a live recording that I traded for or became aware of through a friend who traded for it and he/she got excited enough about YOUR music to share it with ME – then I might buy your studio cds. If I REALLY like you – I WILL buy ALL of your studio cds and go see you live (probably as often as I can).

    So, let’s break that down, shall we?

    a. I don’t know you – you will not make $15 from me because I won’t know that you even exist, never mind that you have a studio cd in (one of the few) stores in my area (that actually stock bluegrass cds).


    b. I am introduced to your music through live music trading – I might buy your cd, and then you WILL get $15 from me ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú maybe even $30 or $45 or more?¢‚Ǩ¬¶

    So – you don’t lose anything by letting me trade your live music because I never would have bought your studio cds in the first place otherwise?¢‚Ǩ¬¶


    You might get my $15 (or more if I think you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢re real good) if you DO let me trade your live music. There is only upside to letting people trade your live tapes ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú because you might gain new fans. But, even still, if people trade your live music and then don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t buy your studio cds ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú well, they weren?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t going to buy your studio cds anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    2. The Grateful Dead let their fans trade music for years and had a long successful career.

    Q: Who gave the Grateful Dead this crazy idea of letting fans trade live tapes?

    A: The actions and policies of a bluegrass musician that Jerry Garcia followed around and taped before he helped form the Grateful Dead – some guy named Bill Monroe.

    Did Bill Monroe have a long and successful career despite letting fans trade live tapes of his music?

    Answer that question, and you just may answer the big questions all this debate has asked.

    Here?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s my answer: If you are a great musician/artist ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú people will support you by buying your music and tickets to your shows. PLAIN & SIMPLE!!!!!

    As far as songwriter?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s rights go ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú if I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t hear someone perform your song, it might as well have never been written as far as I am concerned. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m sorry, but that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a simple fact. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú did it write a song?

    To all the artists I love and respect that I have been introduced to by letting me trade your live recordings ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú thank you ever so much! Come back to my area soon and I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll see you there ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú I probably already own ALL of your studio cds anyway ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú AND, by the way, I would gladly pay for your live recordings if you offered them for sale!

  • Manfred Helfert

    Post #680 by Carl pretty much sums up my feelings as well — if I don’t know an artist exists (and that he/she is good and has just released a great CD — which, most likely, will not be promoted by his/her record company over here in Europe anyway), how will I know that this artist’s website contains samples? That he/she even has a website?

    I find it telling that (with a few exceptions) bluegrass artists do not get promoted over here at all — why invest money when there’s no market in Europe anyhow?

    On the other hand, by word of mouth, by a “community” of people ranging from “mere” fans to artists who allow taping/trading, through sites like the one mentioned at the outset of this controversy, hitherto unknown artists get free promotion, become known, and are able to sell their CDs to a “market” that did not exist previously or has been and still is gravely neglected by an industry “out for the quick buck”, with the least effort or expenditure possible…

    Sure, that industry will rejoice if sales of CDs (without any effort on their part) will go up, but they will never attribute it to the labor of love of some dedicated individuals and a community that definitely supports “their” artists — on the contrary, they will continue to come up with the very same arguments we’ve all seen in some of these posts…

    Like the one Jon Weisberger uses in Post #673:

    “And the law is quite clear on this; payment of a performance royalty doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t mean that mechanical royalties don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t have to be paid on copies of a recording of said performance.”

    A rather quick research (have not had the time to go into a detailed analysis of these legal questions) shows me that mechanical rights have to be paid on SOLD copies — from what I googled, a songwriter does NOT receive any compensation for the amount of copies a record company gives away for promotional purposes, or even copies that get damaged during shipment and returned — I might get that wrong but that is how I interpreted what I read on several sites…

    In any case, to me it all boils down to “industry” vs. “community” — and it truly saddens me that ANY industry might think it can exist (or even prosper) without a any “underlying” community.

    I can only second what another poster already stated — vote with your feet and your wallet and do not attend concerts or buy CDs by artists that exhibit this obvious lack of “community spirit” — for every “customer” lost (a rule of thumb taught in business administration classes) it takes up to seven new ones to recoup the loss…

    On the other hand, support the artists that exhibit a community spirit — buy their official releases (only if you like them, obviously) and promote them by word of mouth or however you can.

    I might be somewhat naive — but I think we need to show the industry that it cannot exist without a community. Let the industry know that you prefer your equally hard-earned dollars (or EUR, Yen, or whatever) on artists that care for you (and not only for the money they can milk from you). Refuse to become reduced to a “market”, but remain the community I’ve grown to know and love, and where I made many friends from all different parts of the world…

  • Jon Weisberger

    “?¢‚Ǩ?ìAnd the law is quite clear on this; payment of a performance royalty doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t mean that mechanical royalties don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t have to be paid on copies of a recording of said performance.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

    A rather quick research (have not had the time to go into a detailed analysis of these legal questions) shows me that mechanical rights have to be paid on SOLD copies ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù from what I googled, a songwriter does NOT receive any compensation for the amount of copies a record company gives away for promotional purposes, or even copies that get damaged during shipment and returned ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù I might get that wrong but that is how I interpreted what I read on several sites?¢‚Ǩ¬¶”

    As a matter of fact, you *have* gotten it wrong. Mechanical licenses *may* make allowance for promotional copies, or include other kinds of discounts, but these are voluntary modifications to the underlying legal requirement that royalties be paid on distributed copies of a recording until such time as the song falls into the public domain.

  • someone else said:

    >Kip Martin is taking a vehement >stand…I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m sensing more than a
    >little hypocrisy in his statements.

    there is no hypocracy. I used to believe taping was OK. it has since been pointed out to me that it is stealing and although I was as reluctant to change my mind about this as many of you are, I had to face the facts: trading shows is against the law, hurts the songwriter (notice i did not say ‘the band/performer’), and i was wrong.

    I FULLY admit that I have, over the years, amassed a huge collection of unbelieveable shows. but in the past 3 or 4 years, I have come to view trading as theft. apparently, the PROs, music business professionals, and numerous songwriters agree. if you disagree and continue to trade shows, you are simply and irrefutabley breaking the law.

    kip martin

  • Ultimately, the issue is more about control of the product of one’s labor than about money. Who grants you – the tape trader – the right to decide for the songwriter that you can waive their compensation without asking them? Who grants you – the tape trader – the right to decide for the performer whether to distribute recordings of their performances?

    Whether it’s a smart decision or not, it’s their decision, not yours.

  • Carl Werth

    Alrighty then.

    Let’s try and put the toothpaste back into the tube, shall we?

  • Manfred Helfert

    Archie Warnock post #690 should be paraphrased such:
    “Ultimately, the issue is more about control of the product of one?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s labor than about money. Who grants you – THE SONGWRITER – the right to decide for the performer whether to allow recordings of their performances, when you have already been compensated for the performance itself?”

    Some thoughts from ASCAP’s site:
    “One of the largest sources of income for songwriters, composers and music publishers is the money received for performances of a writer’s work….
    These monies – over 4 billion dollars worldwide – are collected by performing right organizations (PROs) in all major countries of the world….”

    And more important in my opinion (capitalisation by me):
    “Among the major sources of income for the songwriter and music publisher are the mechanical royalties DUE FROM THE SALE of CDs, tapes and records containing musical compositions….”

    There were never any “sales” involved —
    if a performer allows taping/trading of his/her performance, he/she should be entitled (IMO) to the same right as a songwriter where Marilyn Bergman, President and Chairman of ASCAP, concedes that “songwriters and composers control their copyrights and have every right to give their music away for free if they want to…” ( — why would a songwriter have the right to tell a performer what he has to do?

    If performers who (IMO) also have “every right to give their music away for free if they want to” (what’s good for the goose must also be good for the gander) choose to allow their music to be taped/traded (non-commercially, with no “sales”, no monetary gain) and the songwriter has already been compensated for that very performance — why should a songwriter be in a position to tell a performer “what to do”?

    I still maintain that a songwriter does not “lose” anything if a performer decides to allow taping/trading (having been already compensated for the performance itself), and I think that performers should also have the right to
    “give their music away for free if they want to”.

    To paraphrase Archie Warnock once again:
    “Whether it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a smart decision or not, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s their decision, not the songwriters’.”

  • Jon Weisberger

    “I still maintain that a songwriter does not ?¢‚Ǩ?ìlose?¢‚Ǩ¬ù anything if a performer decides to allow taping/trading (having been already compensated for the performance itself), and I think that performers should also have the right to
    ?¢‚Ǩ?ìgive their music away for free if they want to?¢‚Ǩ¬ù.”

    As a matter of law, this simply isn’t so. Performance royalties and mechanical royalties are two different things.

  • I’m very disappointed about the demise of Bluegrass Box. I never got to download all the stuff I wanted. However you feel about show-trading, the fact is that some of stuff I found there qualify as true national treasures. I mean, a Bill Monroe show from 1954 featuring the “Mystery Man” Edd Mayfield? Unreplaceable and unavailable anywhere else.

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  • laptaper

    One thing I might suggest to artists wishing to increase CD sales. I don’t know how feasible or cost-effective it is right now for unknown artists, but it might help to sell your CDs (and concerts, too!) online in downloadable format. I rarely buy CDs these days, not because I’m cheap, but because they present a storage and environmental problem. If I buy one CD for every artist I see at a show or festival, pretty soon I have no room for anything else. Plus, if I’ve got a boatload of CDs, even though the artist has sold a fifteen dollar CD I may listen to it five times my whole life, after which it will eventually end up in a landfill. Downloadable files allow those of us who want to keep our storage and environmental footprint small an option that’s closed to us otherwise. Please consider this in your business model. Thank you.

    Bill Tetzeli