Phish Updates Taper Policy: Band Says “No” to Webcasts

by -

Photo by Patrick Nelson

If you’ve been following along like us on Phish Summer Tour, you’d probably be aware that the last two shows of the run were broadcast live through USTREAM.tv thanks to a dude named taper420. The audience is quite impressive technically speaking; we’ve been receiving iPhone broadcasts from shows since the band returned last year. What made these final two broadcasts beyond special was the use of an actual tapers rig to record and stream down the show to the 2,500 people (or more) that continually tuned in, chatted along, tweeted the link to their followers, etc. In fact, you’d have to be completely disconnected from the band to have missed this fact over the course of two days. Hell, the dude got his own hashtag on Twitter.

The band has taken notice, and before we could even refresh our open letter from a while back asking, nay demanding that the band start offering their own high-quality streams directly from the shows, the band has updated their taper policy to include language referencing any live broadcasting or webcasting of the shows and how this is illegal in their current rights agreements with ASCAP/BMI. My emphasis added:

Can I broadcast or webcast live recordings?
Officially released recordings of any kind (live or studio) in any format may never be copied or otherwise traded or offered in whole or part as compilations, online streams or other methods of distribution. You may play live recordings as set forth in our taping policy and as determined by the band in its sole discretion. Broadcast of unreleased recordings via: radio, online or other means is permissible only if the broadcaster is duly licensed and if all their activities conform to all the guidelines set forth in this policy. That includes broadcast or webcast only if you have all appropriate licenses from ASCAP and BMI. The band lacks the legal rights to permit real-time streaming of live shows under any circumstances. Real-time streaming is defined as passing along a live recording before you leave the venue. If you have a radio show, please note that you should name the show carefully so as to avoid infringing upon trademarks such as the name of the band.

PT’ers cry fowl! Could this be a move that the band recognized they need to cover their own legal skin and make sure they have language directly outlined that states that this is not a policy that they can comply with? Does that mean they’re going to police it now? Would this be difficult for the band in any meaningful capacity? All good questions that need answers.

In the meantime, though, we’re probably not going to waste too much more of our time on this subject now that they spelled it out for us. It felt ambiguous before, but based on this note it’s something that all tapers and audience members should likely avoid if they want to keep this type of freedom available to all of us at the shows themselves. If one streamer’s quest for domination starts to overshadow the efforts of the tapers that attend the show and get home before they upload the final product to a sanctioned torrent sharing site, then I’d like to propose that we not try to screw this up for the rest of us. These are privledges, not rights, and they are not expressly given to us going forward forever and ever no questions asked. Technology may very well win here and we’ll likely still see streams pop up from time to time, but this is something the band is paying attention to and will likely find a way to prevent.

To me, I’m taking a lot of this language at face value. The band clearly states that this is not something they can do legally. Case closed, right? We can ask and demand and setup guerilla streams all across the country, but it’s not going to stop the notion that the band will not pursue this option in the near term.

That sucks, but it’s also not all that surprising.

What are your thoughts about this whole mess?

  • PT’er

    siihb

    • Another PT’er

      tl;dr

  • PT’er

    siihb

    • Another PT’er

      tl;dr

  • http://yemblog.com Scott Bernstein

    Why don’t people just go to more shows? I know it’s an oversimplification but if everyone starts staying home to watch streams – official and unofficial – it will lead to a major change in the composition of the audience at shows that shouldn’t be ignored.

    “demanding that the band start offering their own high-quality streams directly from the shows”

    For a band that allows taping, puts up soundboards – which are probably downloaded illegally by 50 to 100 times over the amount of actual purchases – within a few hours of the shows ending and is pretty much as fan-friendly as it gets, demanding anything seems a little ridiculous to me. Let’s not forget that even if they do offer live streams, plenty of folks will stream the streams over Ustream, Justin.tv and the dozens of other live streaming video sites. They aren’t going to make as much money off of it as people like to portray.

    IMHO, this isn’t as “how can they not do this?” an issue as it appears to some.

    • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

      Thanks for calling me out on that as I didn’t mean to imply that we have any RIGHT to demand these offerings. In fact, I read this as pretty black and white and feel even somewhat entertained by the idea that lawyers on PT are going to discuss the merits of why or why not they would pursue this technology themselves.

      You’re first point could be the most valid one for the real reasoning….the band doesn’t want to become a “virtual” band, simply put. Who knows what they’re thinking….

    • Matt

      I don’t go to more shows because they play Mike’s song too much.

      Long live couch tour!!!!!

      • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

        LOL.

    • http://www.kanejamison.com Kane

      Scott,

      I wouldn’t say any fans have a right to demand anything from the band. We should all just be happy that they’re healthy and playing together.

      That said, suggesting that people should simply “go to more shows” is a little shortsighted in my opinion. I live in Seattle, and I made it to 5 shows last year: Gorge & Festival 8. Those two weekend together probably cost close to $1000 in tickets and travel. With the lack of a Gorge run this summer and the cost of traveling, the only way I could see any shows this year (future unannounced dates aside) was because I was already in the Midwest for a family wedding, which allowed me to see Deer Creek and Alpine last weekend without paying additional airfare. If the band doesn’t announce any Northwest shows for fall, those are likely the only ones I’ll see this year.

      This isn’t just a factor for West Coast fans. Even when I lived in the Midwest I could probably only afford to travel to about 8-10 shows a year when you consider missing days of work. As we both know 8 shows out of 50 in 2009 means I missed quite a lot of awesome music…

      …Awesome music that I would have happily paid $5-$15 per show “a la carte” or purchased a “tour package” to watch the stream for an entire tour. The technology exists, the only limitation that I can see is the band/management’s willingness to do so.

      I also don’t see much merit in the idea that people will stay home to watch a stream for $10-20 rather than pay $50 to see a show that’s in their area. I don’t think that would be an issue with Phish fans, though I’ll admit that there might be a few people might opt to do so, especially those more than a few hundred miles from the show who were on the fence about attending. Furthermore without any hard numbers, I have a hunch that the additional profits generated from the webcasting to people outside the region would at least balance out the number of fans that do decide to stay home.

      I also don’t agree with the idea that people will opt for the free Ustream/justin.tv alternatives. Those streams are absolute crap. At best they work 10% of the time, and when they do work, the video is mediocre at best and the audio isn’t wonderful. If I had to guess I would assume that it’s a result of the a/v input and processing power of an iPhone and the speed of AT&T’s network that causes the low quality. Any official band webcast would be linked in to a high speed connection using much better filming and audio equipment. That’s well worth the cost for a fan sitting at home who really does want to watch or at least hear the show.

      The one argument that I do think has some merit is the experience factor. The value of a show like 11-02-1998 with only 4000 people in attendance and the band playing Dark Side Of The Moon would have been much less had there been 3000 more people watching via the internet. Justin’s quote, “Who knows what [the band is] thinking….” probably sums this point up best: the band might just have a gut reaction to streaming being a bad thing. Even in this situation, however, I think the best comparison in this case is televised sports. There’s still a huge difference between saying “I watched that on the stream” and “I was there.”

      Sorry for the length. I’m not trying to pick a fight, but I really think all the arguments against doing this are straw man arguments or trivial at best. I’d also suggest that there is very little harm to trying this for 1 tour on a trial basis, and if the quality sucks, or the demand isn’t there, or if it appears to affect ticket sales, THEN the band/management would have a good reason to not offer it to the fans, aside from speculation.

      My real hope is that this update to the official band policy is their way of indicating that they will be starting an official stream for Fall tour and they officially aren’t allowing other people to stream, since their is an official alternative. Then we’ll all have a chance to put aside speculation and see if the stream is A) kickass or B) a total letdown that should be scrapped. I don’t know if it will be as great as I hope it will be, but I’d personally like to see it in action to know for sure.

      • http://yemblog.com Scott Bernstein

        Kane,

        I said immediately it was an oversimplification, but I truly believe the composition of the crowd will suffer from official streams. If Johnny Phishfan lives in New Jersey and there’s a show scheduled for Albany on a Tuesday night, I bet he chooses to watch the A+ quality stream over traveling three hours on a work night, whereas if there weren’t official streams he’d go see the show. I know I’d probably stay home and watch it rather than get home at 4 in the morning and go to work the next day. I don’t think streams should come at the expense of the actual shows. As Justin said, is this a virtual band?

        When I was referring to streams of the streams, I mean that intrepid Phish fans will capture the official webcast and stream it over all of the websites I mentioned. The same thing happened with Moogis webcasts and with the paid iClips.net webcasts. After a while hardly anyone will pay for the official streams since they’ll get access to the bootlegged official streams for free.

        I appreciate the reply and you certainly bring up good points. I also want to mention I live in the heart of Phish country and can never truly understand what those who live in the parts of the country that don’t get shows are feeling. I just think there are reasons that Phish shouldn’t offer official streams that often get ignored in these conversations. It isn’t as one-sided as some portray.

        – Scotty

  • http://yemblog.com Scott Bernstein

    Why don’t people just go to more shows? I know it’s an oversimplification but if everyone starts staying home to watch streams – official and unofficial – it will lead to a major change in the composition of the audience at shows that shouldn’t be ignored.

    “demanding that the band start offering their own high-quality streams directly from the shows”

    For a band that allows taping, puts up soundboards – which are probably downloaded illegally by 50 to 100 times over the amount of actual purchases – within a few hours of the shows ending and is pretty much as fan-friendly as it gets, demanding anything seems a little ridiculous to me. Let’s not forget that even if they do offer live streams, plenty of folks will stream the streams over Ustream, Justin.tv and the dozens of other live streaming video sites. They aren’t going to make as much money off of it as people like to portray.

    IMHO, this isn’t as “how can they not do this?” an issue as it appears to some.

    • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

      Thanks for calling me out on that as I didn’t mean to imply that we have any RIGHT to demand these offerings. In fact, I read this as pretty black and white and feel even somewhat entertained by the idea that lawyers on PT are going to discuss the merits of why or why not they would pursue this technology themselves.

      You’re first point could be the most valid one for the real reasoning….the band doesn’t want to become a “virtual” band, simply put. Who knows what they’re thinking….

    • Matt

      I don’t go to more shows because they play Mike’s song too much.

      Long live couch tour!!!!!

      • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

        LOL.

    • http://www.kanejamison.com Kane

      Scott,

      I wouldn’t say any fans have a right to demand anything from the band. We should all just be happy that they’re healthy and playing together.

      That said, suggesting that people should simply “go to more shows” is a little shortsighted in my opinion. I live in Seattle, and I made it to 5 shows last year: Gorge & Festival 8. Those two weekend together probably cost close to $1000 in tickets and travel. With the lack of a Gorge run this summer and the cost of traveling, the only way I could see any shows this year (future unannounced dates aside) was because I was already in the Midwest for a family wedding, which allowed me to see Deer Creek and Alpine last weekend without paying additional airfare. If the band doesn’t announce any Northwest shows for fall, those are likely the only ones I’ll see this year.

      This isn’t just a factor for West Coast fans. Even when I lived in the Midwest I could probably only afford to travel to about 8-10 shows a year when you consider missing days of work. As we both know 8 shows out of 50 in 2009 means I missed quite a lot of awesome music…

      …Awesome music that I would have happily paid $5-$15 per show “a la carte” or purchased a “tour package” to watch the stream for an entire tour. The technology exists, the only limitation that I can see is the band/management’s willingness to do so.

      I also don’t see much merit in the idea that people will stay home to watch a stream for $10-20 rather than pay $50 to see a show that’s in their area. I don’t think that would be an issue with Phish fans, though I’ll admit that there might be a few people might opt to do so, especially those more than a few hundred miles from the show who were on the fence about attending. Furthermore without any hard numbers, I have a hunch that the additional profits generated from the webcasting to people outside the region would at least balance out the number of fans that do decide to stay home.

      I also don’t agree with the idea that people will opt for the free Ustream/justin.tv alternatives. Those streams are absolute crap. At best they work 10% of the time, and when they do work, the video is mediocre at best and the audio isn’t wonderful. If I had to guess I would assume that it’s a result of the a/v input and processing power of an iPhone and the speed of AT&T’s network that causes the low quality. Any official band webcast would be linked in to a high speed connection using much better filming and audio equipment. That’s well worth the cost for a fan sitting at home who really does want to watch or at least hear the show.

      The one argument that I do think has some merit is the experience factor. The value of a show like 11-02-1998 with only 4000 people in attendance and the band playing Dark Side Of The Moon would have been much less had there been 3000 more people watching via the internet. Justin’s quote, “Who knows what [the band is] thinking….” probably sums this point up best: the band might just have a gut reaction to streaming being a bad thing. Even in this situation, however, I think the best comparison in this case is televised sports. There’s still a huge difference between saying “I watched that on the stream” and “I was there.”

      Sorry for the length. I’m not trying to pick a fight, but I really think all the arguments against doing this are straw man arguments or trivial at best. I’d also suggest that there is very little harm to trying this for 1 tour on a trial basis, and if the quality sucks, or the demand isn’t there, or if it appears to affect ticket sales, THEN the band/management would have a good reason to not offer it to the fans, aside from speculation.

      My real hope is that this update to the official band policy is their way of indicating that they will be starting an official stream for Fall tour and they officially aren’t allowing other people to stream, since their is an official alternative. Then we’ll all have a chance to put aside speculation and see if the stream is A) kickass or B) a total letdown that should be scrapped. I don’t know if it will be as great as I hope it will be, but I’d personally like to see it in action to know for sure.

      • http://yemblog.com Scott Bernstein

        Kane,

        I said immediately it was an oversimplification, but I truly believe the composition of the crowd will suffer from official streams. If Johnny Phishfan lives in New Jersey and there’s a show scheduled for Albany on a Tuesday night, I bet he chooses to watch the A+ quality stream over traveling three hours on a work night, whereas if there weren’t official streams he’d go see the show. I know I’d probably stay home and watch it rather than get home at 4 in the morning and go to work the next day. I don’t think streams should come at the expense of the actual shows. As Justin said, is this a virtual band?

        When I was referring to streams of the streams, I mean that intrepid Phish fans will capture the official webcast and stream it over all of the websites I mentioned. The same thing happened with Moogis webcasts and with the paid iClips.net webcasts. After a while hardly anyone will pay for the official streams since they’ll get access to the bootlegged official streams for free.

        I appreciate the reply and you certainly bring up good points. I also want to mention I live in the heart of Phish country and can never truly understand what those who live in the parts of the country that don’t get shows are feeling. I just think there are reasons that Phish shouldn’t offer official streams that often get ignored in these conversations. It isn’t as one-sided as some portray.

        – Scotty

  • http://www.kanejamison.com Kane

    Hey Scott,

    Good points across the board. I wasn’t aware that iClips webcasts were getting bootlegged. I’m not aware of anything over at Moogis aside from the Allman Brothers Beacon runs, didn’t know those were getting bootlegged, either.

    I’m not steadfast on all points. I think you’re right about people more than 90 minutes from the showing possibly staying home, particularly on a weeknight (and on the East coast where shows are more frequent and not quite as “must see”).

    I also think bootlegging would be an issue. It’s certainly an issue with LivePhish recordings, they usually take just a few hours to get passed around facebook using mediafire.com links. Streams would likely be similar; if not the live stream than a recorded version. Sadly you’d have to price the videos at very cheap in order to deter most of the illegal downloaders.

    But, I’d still be sad if they didn’t try it. Even with all the bootleg LivePhish copies, they still keep selling shows. Despite all the obstacles, I’d really love to see the band find a way to be successful in the streaming market. I think it’s a viable revenue stream and shouldn’t be totally thrown out the window just because of potential issues. While I think that live streams will certainly change some aspects of the live music business, I’m not convinced that the effects will be negative and widespread. I think the positive will outweigh the negative.

  • http://www.kanejamison.com Kane

    Hey Scott,

    Good points across the board. I wasn’t aware that iClips webcasts were getting bootlegged. I’m not aware of anything over at Moogis aside from the Allman Brothers Beacon runs, didn’t know those were getting bootlegged, either.

    I’m not steadfast on all points. I think you’re right about people more than 90 minutes from the showing possibly staying home, particularly on a weeknight (and on the East coast where shows are more frequent and not quite as “must see”).

    I also think bootlegging would be an issue. It’s certainly an issue with LivePhish recordings, they usually take just a few hours to get passed around facebook using mediafire.com links. Streams would likely be similar; if not the live stream than a recorded version. Sadly you’d have to price the videos at very cheap in order to deter most of the illegal downloaders.

    But, I’d still be sad if they didn’t try it. Even with all the bootleg LivePhish copies, they still keep selling shows. Despite all the obstacles, I’d really love to see the band find a way to be successful in the streaming market. I think it’s a viable revenue stream and shouldn’t be totally thrown out the window just because of potential issues. While I think that live streams will certainly change some aspects of the live music business, I’m not convinced that the effects will be negative and widespread. I think the positive will outweigh the negative.

  • mrMinorOG

    ya I hear both sides of the story but really… When it comes down to it seeing phish live is 100x better than a webcast, soundboard, bt.etree, tape or cd… Hell I don’t care if you simulcast it in IMAX. There’s no comparison and that’s where phish will constantly thrive. No matter if these guys do it legally or not. I live in AZ and will travel to the end of the earth to phish live… As long as I have vacation days :)

  • mrMinorOG

    ya I hear both sides of the story but really… When it comes down to it seeing phish live is 100x better than a webcast, soundboard, bt.etree, tape or cd… Hell I don’t care if you simulcast it in IMAX. There’s no comparison and that’s where phish will constantly thrive. No matter if these guys do it legally or not. I live in AZ and will travel to the end of the earth to phish live… As long as I have vacation days :)

  • me

    sounds like their paying attention now. taper420’s signal seems to be getting jammed