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Festivalink.net: Live Music From the Stage to Your Computer


For years, music lovers have faced a quandary. How to enjoy live concert recordings at home? Festivalink.net is a new company that lets music lovers capture the magic of their favorite festivals legally.

David Bromberg doesn't currently have a record label, and hasn't released an official album since 1989. But that doesn't mean his fans aren't enjoying new material, such as this April 2006 performance of "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down."

Until recently, there were only two ways to obtain live music: By purchasing commercially released live albums or concerts taped by fans and distributed through illegal downloads or trades. But now fans of David Bromberg, Tim and Mollie O'Brien, Doc Watson and other top acoustic music performers have another option. They can purchase from concerts from Festivalink.net.

Festivalink.net is a legal music download service, one that compensates both performers and songwriters by paying them the royalties they do not receive from illegal copying and distribution. They are paid per download, just as a record label pays an artist per each CD sold.

But providing fair compensation to all involved in making the music is not the only way in which Festivalink.net downloads differ from the illegal recordings that are often available after a concert or music festival.

Festivalink.net sets are produced by professional recording engineers, and are of the same standard as their studio work. As General Manager Ann Blonston explains, that's not usually the case with fan-made recordings.

"Typically, if you see those microphones sticking up out of the sea of people [at a festival], it is usually just a couple of stereo microphones pointed at the [public address] system. They're picking up the guy sitting in front of them clapping, just as much as they're picking up what is coming from the stage, whereas our recordings are actually recorded by audio professionals on-site, so it's a direct audio feed. And then it is post-produced in a recording studio, so, hopefully, what we have done is captured the best of the live experience with a good recording, and then we've post-produced it to get rid of the annoying things, like the guy clapping in front of the microphone," she says.

Jefferson Airplane founder and current member of Hot Tuna, Jorma Kaukonen, was one of the first artists to sign up with Festivalink.net.

"We're just getting started with that, and we're really curious to see how it's going to work out. It's really nice to make the music available to people in a legitimate way, and we're going to see how it works. I think it's going to work pretty good," he says.

Jorma Kaukonen's prediction was correct. His two Hot Tuna sets from Merlefest are among Festivalink.net's top sellers. As for the sound quality, judge for yourself. Listen to Hot Tuna performing "Praying On The Old Campground," recorded on April 28, 2006.

Downloads from Festivalink.net are available in a variety of formats. MP3s at 128 kilobits per second resolution are the least-expensive and the quickest, with a 45-minute concert set downloaded in as little as 15 minutes.

Festivalink.net also offers a higher quality FLAC "lossless" format that is decoded on your computer. While it sounds better, FLACs cost more, and take longer to download. A FLAC file is 10 times the size of an MP3 file. For that reason, FLAC is not for the downloader without a high-speed Internet connection.

And for fans without dependable Internet connections, Festivalink.net sells fully-produced concert CDs. The company's Ann Blonston says living outside the United States doesn't mean you're out of luck, when it comes to purchasing live recordings.

"The Web is worldwide. And so are we," she says.

Festivalink.net has only been in business a few months, but users can already choose from a library of more than 20 live performances. Recordings from the famed Newport Folk Festival will soon be added to that list. You find out more by visiting their website: Festivalink.net.

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