Springsteen Live Download Details Emerge And They're Not Pretty

Bruce Springsteen's official store has put up a page selling USB Wristbands that get you MP3 downloads of an official recording of one of The Boss's upcoming shows for $40 a pop. Now that these details have emerged, Springsteen fans - who have been clamoring for live downloads for years - aren't thrilled with the method The Boss will use to distribute the recordings.

While bands such as Phish, Pearl Jam, Metallica and Umphrey's McGee have been at the forefront of the movement to sell official recordings of live shows, Springsteen looked to Matchbox Twenty front man Rob Thomas for advice on how to implement the program according to Backstreets.com's interview with manager Jon Landau. Matchbox Twenty sells live recordings for $40 per show using USB wristbands. Users plug the flashdrives held on the wristbands into their computers and a program downloads 320mbps MP3 files of the concert from a server. There's no lossless option for fans wanting the highest audio quality and the $40 price point makes collecting lots of recordings an expensive endeavor. Why not just sell downloads directly from a website like the bands mentioned at the top of this paragraph do to skip the whole wristband situation?

Backstreets.com is among the chorus of Springsteen fans questioning the use of the wristbands and the price. The Bruce fan site's article has quotes from a source close to Springsteen who explains The Boss is going after more casual fans who want to take home a souvenir from a show they attend rather than hardcore fans:

A source close to the tour confirms this was indeed the thinking, with those fans attending in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia the primary target, not the die-hard collector. "This is meant for the other fan — the one who might only see one show on the tour or ever."

The source went on to explain that they never intended this as the way super fans were supposed to collect shows: "We are not expecting them to go to the online store and buy a boatload of wristbands!"

Another Springsteen fan site, Stay Hard, Stay Hungry, Stay Alive, has even harsher words for the program in an essay titled "Total Disaster as Springsteen Tries to Sell Recordings of Live Shows." The essay reaches the conclusion, "The only accurate characterization of this program is that is a massive blunder on the part of Springsteen, and shows a total lack of understanding of his fanbase and of technology generally."

What we have here is a classic case of "be careful what you wish for." Springsteen fans have been begging for live downloads and now they are here and the fanbase is up in arms. It will be interesting to see how the Bruce Camp reacts to the hubbub. It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see the notorious control freak cancel the program altogether, but hopefully Landau and Springsteen will see the validity in fans's complaints and provide another option to obtain the recordings that doesn't use the wristbands and offers lossless files.

[Published on: 1/18/14]

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