with today’s heady technology, live music fans no longer need to trade tapes to get the best and most talked about concerts from their favorite jambands. personally, i’ve found that having a computer with dsl or cable internet access is the easiest way to get music on the internet. whether you choose to shop through itunes or napster, download audience recordings, or purchase soundboard recordings directly from the band, there are some steps that fans must take before they start.
from the beginning…
if you don’t already have some form of ftp software installed on your computer, please download some now. honestly, most any ftp software would be extremely suitable, and a search on download.com will get you at least a free trial of ftp software. i suggest using smartftp, because it’s easy and pretty intuitive. if you’re not familiar with how to use ftp software, don’t worry. there are other alternatives.
you’ll also need a bit torrent client (optional), a media player, and a very high speed internet connection. live shows tend to be HUGE; therefore, you need a lot of bandwidth to download what you’re looking for.
where can i download music?
there are so many great places to download live music right now. the first place that i always look is the internet archive. they feature audience recordings of so many bands that one could build an extremely large collection strictly downloading from the archive alone.
(as a side note, they also feature archived versions of the sweet groovetv show that featured episodes with sound tribe sector 9, disco biscuits, umphrey’s mcgee, etc. check out their video section to find those.)
as an alternative to internet or ftp downloads, there is a nifty peer-to-peer program called further. download and install the client, and you can search all other users on the further network that have live shows. this client is built strictly for trading shows, so it definitely supports shn and flac formats.
another great way to download the music would be to find a bit torrent file containing the show that you’re looking for. the best resource for bit torrent files is currently the etree bit torrent message board. bit torrent technology is an explanation i’ll save for a rainy day. basically, it’s a great peer-to-peer technology that allows for quicker downloads on slower connections. also, files will resume if the download was not completed the first time through.
what format am i downloading?
i’ll try to explain the common formats here, and i’m sure i’ll update in the future when we start to see different digital formats or newer encoding techniques.
Free Lossless Audio Codec. to me, this is the best and most manageable format. when you visit their homepage, navigate over to their download section and you’ll see the array of operating systems and software plug-ins that people have developed for flac. as it is open-source, streams of developers want to put their hand in to create one of the best audio formats for live music and concerts. live phish, live bonnaroo, disclogic, and many other sites use flac, so it’d be good if you check out their homepage and install the software that you’d need.
go to etree.org and download the mkwact converter to allow you to convert shn files to wav format. this will allow you to burn the music to a cd. also, etree.org has the shn plugin for winamp that allows you to listen to your shn files after downloaded. i have to warn you that shn has been the format of choice for quite a while, but the development is not as strong as flac. i believe that flac is going to be the format of choice in the future (at least for the time being), so i’d get on the bandwagon now.
what about mp3?
good question. when i first started downloading shows, i thought that mp3 would be considered fine. that is absolutely a huge no-no in the trading/downloading/jamband community. when you encode a high quality recording to mp3, you are stripping away layers of sound. that is the reason that mp3 files are typically much smaller than wav, shn, or flac. therefore, you are stripping away the quality of the recording, which is meant to capture the full sound of the desired live band. therefore, i wouldn’t suggest really getting shows in mp3. on the internet audio archive, you can find many shows in mp3. i suggest using the mp3′s to listen or stream the show to determine if that’s something that you’d want to download.
personally, i’d say the best and most versatile music program for live music downloads would be winamp. it can play so many different file formats already, and plug-ins can be installed for shn and flac files (read above). also, the latest version of winamp can burn cd’s. so, there really is an all in one package if you choose to go with winamp.
other media players, such as windows media player, don’t support shn or flac formats. i actually haven’t tracked the progress in quite a while, so i’d be interested to hear if they’ve made plug-ins available to support these formats.
i will update this with more information as it becomes available…