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Get Free Live Music, Die Happy

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 10 months ago

Download Free Live Recordings, Die Happy


The DMCA has made it crystal clear that downloading from p2p programs is illegal and can get careless music lovers thrown in jail. Furthermore, it is rare to stumble upon on music files on a traditional p2p network that are of high sound quality and don’t require neglecting everything the news, your conscience, and those computer experts say about viruses and spyware (silly experts). Then the music lover asks himself: “Is it possible that the Internet, that mysterious but boundless resource, does not offer any free and legal music of listenable quality?” By doing a little research and getting tips from hip friends, he finds that yes, there are resources on the Internet to feed his insatiable thirst for fantastic, free and legal music. It’s the world of bootleg tape trading (live concerts recordings) that, in the past five years or so, has gone digital. Be it rock, jazz, reggae, hip-hop, jam or most any other genre, the scores of available free downloads on the internet have something for everyone. If you don’t believe it, visit www.archive.org/audio and check out the Live Music Archive. Here you will find almost 40,000 shows from bands like the Greatful Dead, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Guster, Robert Randolph and the Family Band and many more… and there are other sites like this!


Not only is downloading these shows completely legal, but unlike original Napster or KaZaA, there is no need to worry about the nasty computer viruses that come from these programs. However, don’t expect to get a single off a band’s new album (or anything off of their album) because this informational article is about downloading recordings of concerts and in-studio performances, nothing that can be bought in stores. Most bands, from indie acts like Wilco, to jam bands like the Dave Matthews Band and Grateful Dead, jazz players like Pat Metheny and John Scofield, and bluegrass pickers including Béla Fleck and Tony Rice allow taping. Legal music trading is an entire world with thousands upon thousands of shows that even the most versed music fan might not know about but will stay up all night exploring after they read this tutorial.

The self proclaimed “leader in lossless digital audio distribution on the Internet” is etree.org. While bootleg recordings are more accessible, of higher sound quality, and rarer than the tracks available on KaZaA, the downloading process is a little more complicated. Still, bootleg “tape-trader” geeks spend years amassing huge collections of concerts, trading them with each other, and commenting on exactly what type of pick Jerry Garcia used for the 1973 summer tour. Don’t worry about that stuff. Etree’s website (www.etree.org) is a good place to start and get answers to frequent questions. Unfortunately, even their instructions are detailed and hard to sift through, so here is a little tutorial to get you some free, live music right now!


Easy Download Fun Fun Time

We’ll start by downloading a show in MP3 form. Although they sound fine to most people (including an audiophile like me) if you get more involved with trading concerts with people you can never trade shows that have any MP3 lineage. Tape traders hate it and without such a rule, the quality would get worse and worse as people repeatedly transfer the music from WAV (audio CD) format to MP3 and back again. Anyway, here are the directions:

1. Visit www.archive.org/audio and follow the links to the Live Music Archive (LMA). Find an artist and identify a show you’d like to hear. Some things you might consider are the source (soundboard recordings (sbd) are usually crystal clear with little annoying crowd noise), the user ratings and reviews, the venue (smaller venues usually make for better sound and radio studio performances are even better), and the set list, including any special guests that make live concerts so unique and enjoyable.

2. As an example, I’ve picked an Andrew Bird in-studio performance in France from March 21, 2005. You can find it under the link to Andrew Bird but, for now, here it is: http://www.archive.org/details/abird2005-03-21 . You’ll see under the “whole items” section a number of ways to download the entire show. Download the file titled “VBR ZIP” to your desktop, which will give you a zip folder with all of the tracks in Varitable Bit Rate MP3s and should take about 5 minutes with a fast Internet connection. Note that not all shows on the LMA are available in VBR MP3s, but we’ll explain how to deal with other forms later.

This is a zip file so it will need to be unzipped which is easily done if you have an unzip tool (winzip available for free at winzip.com). Double click on the folder and “extract” the files to your desktop or a folder you can locate. You’re done; now you have all 12 tracks, an entire concert, in MP3 form on your computer and you know how to download thousands more! If you have more time, read on about how to get shows in other audio forms and explore more music that the web has to offer.


This is amazing. What comes next? a.k.a FTP Downloading

For access to more music (and more bands) than the LMA has to offer, you need access to one of the many FTP (file transfer protocol) servers hosted by music lovers all over the world. Often dedicated to particular bands, most will grant you the password to download their files if you email the moderator and simply ask. Here are some tips to get you going:

1. For this section, you will need to download two free, virus-free computer programs. The first is an FTP client that allows you to access the servers with shows for download. SmartFTP is available at smartftp.com for no charge. The second one converts from “Shorten” and “.FLAC” format, files that allow for fast download times but do not lose any quality like MP3, to listenable WAV format. It is called Trader’s Little Helper and can be found at wiki.etree.org under the “Software You Need” section.

2. Install these programs and set these options in SmartFTP before you move on: disable any “noop” or “keep alive” function, set retry to 120 seconds, and choose a download directory as a file where you want all your downloads to be sent.

3. Now you can log onto a server and start downloading. Although some servers require a login and password, all it takes is sending an email to the operator for a login and many others are available to anyone. In SmartFTP, enter the ftp address in the “address” bar, the login in the “login” bar and the password in the “password” bar.

4. Explore the contents of the server by using the “folders” panel just like a Windows “explore” window. To view the setlist and source information of a show, right click and “view” the .txt file that accompanies every show. When you are ready to download, right click on the folder containing your concert, select “direct download,” and choose the destination on your hard drive. Then, give your computer a few hours to download the folder which will usually be between 500 megabytes and one gigabyte.

Finding ftp sites is the hardest part of this process. Here are a few that I know of:

  • The Live Music Archive has FTP access for lossless (shorten and .FLAC) downloading.
  • music.ibilio.org- type this into your ftp address bar with an anonymous login for free access to shows from The Meters, Ben Folds, Radiohead and others. Downloads also available on a regular browser at http://music.ibiblio.org .
  • http://www.postcardfromhell.com - Visit their website and subscribe (free) to gain access to a huge server with many bands but with a focus on Wilco. They will then provide you with an FTP login

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