Phish, America's biggest jam band, are putting their jams online for easy downloading at a friendly price. Beginning with the group's four New Year's week reunion shows in New York City and Hampton, Virginia, fans without tickets can go to a new official Web site -- livephish.com -- to purchase complete soundboard recordings.
The concerts are being offered in unsecured MP3 files, ready for CD burning, at $9.95 for a two-set gig and $14.95 for a three-set night. Premium files in CD-quality sound go for $12.95 (two sets) and $18.95 (three sets). The biggest challenge is we're doing it unsecured," says Phish manager John Paluska. "We're relying on an honor system. But we've made it so affordable that your friends will say, 'Stop bothering me about copying it, and pay your own ten bucks.'"
Created by Phish in cooperation with their label, Elektra Records, and the popular unofficial jam-band site nugs.net, livephish.com is an experiment in spreading the music beyond the committed tapers' community. "The taping experience is part of our community," Paluska says. "But we're trying to provide a simple way for people to get this music. The Internet is really tailored to turning something around quickly. And there is something a little more ephemeral about it."
Phish is working with Brad Serling, the man behind nugs.net, to create user-friendly downloads. Shows will be encoded and online at least forty-eight hours after the band plays the last note, if not sooner. The site also includes specially designed CD artwork for each concert at no extra charge. "We are coming out with archival stuff as well," Paluska says, referring to the band's huge library of live tapes, "but we're taking it one step at a time."
The response to the bootlegs of the first four shows will determine how much of the winter tour Phish will offer online, but the band does not plan to get as exhaustive as Pearl Jam's seventy-two-volume document of their 2000 world tour. "My hat's off to them for doing that," Paluska says. "It was a bold thing and probably the inspiration for getting us going with the Live Phish stuff. But it's a bulky thing to release all your shows. We struck a happy medium between [the Grateful Dead's bootleg series] Dick's Picks and Pearl Jam's kitchen sink."