Wednesday, February 28, 2007

If you’ve been to a concert in recent years, you’ve seen the outstretched arms bearing digital cameras and cell phones that rise above the crowd like periscopes.

Increasingly, the footage from concertgoers’ devices is turning up online.

YouTube and other video-sharing sites offer a lot of features, and one of them clearly is a giant library of concert footage. It’s never been easier to see what your favorite band looks like in concert or to glimpse that “sick” (awesome) show you missed.

Some recent memorable performances I have stumbled across include former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus singing “Mama” in an elevator and clips of Arcade Fire, who make it a habit of playing acoustic encores among the crowd.

The success of AOL’s broadcast of the Live 8 concerts in 2005 made it clear that live shows are a valuable commodity online. However, getting artists and labels to agree to stream concerts or make them available for download has proved difficult because of issues over rights and profits.

After an earlier collaboration failed, Kevin Wall (who produced Live 8 on AOL) last year formed with Microsoft. It represents perhaps the most notable effort to put full concerts of big-time acts online. It has broadcast Beyonce in Tokyo and the Dave Matthews Band from Florida.

The biggest problem, though, is that some concerts are available only as a simultaneous stream — and even those that you can go back and watch often feature only a part of the show. The loading is quite slow.

Concert TV — a cable station available to a relatively small number of people — offers a Web site with a solid selection of excerpted performances in quick, clear transmission. More details on where and when the concerts were held would help, and could be great if it were expanded drastically to include more artists and more performances.

For simple audio recordings of concerts, the best place to look is’s Live Music Archive, which combines resources with, a wiki that collects individually uploaded shows. It has hundreds of old Grateful Dead shows as well as more recent stuff, such as Beirut playing in Brooklyn. Concerts can be downloaded or streamed immediately.

Then there are many radio stations that keep aired concerts stored on their sites — none better than for National Public Radio’s Live in Concert series.

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