March 04, 2004

Music Download

Carry a Concert Home in Your Pocket


Published: March 4, 2004

AXWELL'S in Hoboken is better known as a showcase for new rock acts than for new technology. But that could change later this month when the club becomes a testing ground for digital kiosks that will enable clubgoers to download a recording of the show to a small U.S.B. drive almost immediately after a performance.


The experiment is the brainchild of eMusic Live (formerly the Digital Club Network and a sister company of the online music service eMusic) and represents the latest initiative to offer concertgoers instant digital recordings of shows they have just seen. After the kiosks are introduced at Maxwell's and the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Tex., eMusic Live plans to install others this year throughout a network of 23 clubs nationwide from which it has been Webcasting live shows since 1999.

"We'll just be opportunistic about how this evolves," said Greg Scholl, a managing director at the private equity firm Dimensional Associates, which acquired eMusic from VU Net USA in November. Besides eMusic and eMusic Live, the firm's holdings also include the Orchard, an independent music distributor that supplies both online music sellers and physical record stores.

As Dimensional seeks to integrate the online offerings of eMusic and its live music affiliate, Mr. Scholl views the kiosks as a way to help draw new subscribers to eMusic, which specializes in independent and alternative music. EMusic fans were irked last fall when the service's new owner capped the previously unlimited number of downloads at 40 for $10 per month or 65 for $15. It now offers up to 90 downloads for $20 per month.

EMusic is not alone in trying to woo concertgoers with the instant delivery of concert recordings. Last year Clear Channel Communications introduced its Instant Live program, in which the concert giant uses dozens of CD burners at venues to pump out mastered CD's minutes after shows end. Last year bands including Phish and Pearl Jam began offering MP3 downloads of concerts through their Web sites within 48 hours of performances to satisfy demand from avid fans. EMusic Live itself started selling instant live CD's at certain clubs last year, including Maxwell's.

But with its digital kiosk plan, the company is taking the next step in instant audio gratification. A prototype of the wall-mounted kiosk, created with help from the interactive media design studio Funny Garbage in Manhattan, features a touch screen that gives users a few options for getting shows. For $10, nonmembers of eMusic can download a concert in about 30 seconds by entering an e-mail address (to generate a receipt, the company says), swiping a credit card and then inserting a U.S.B. drive with a 128-megabyte capacity, either their own or one they can buy from a dispenser attached to the kiosk at an anticipated price of $20.

Eventually, eMusic subscribers using a U.S.B. drive would be able to enter their account information and have the individual songs that make up the concert deducted from their monthly plan. Subscribers could also use the kiosk to log on and order the concert for download the next day from the eMusic site. Nonsubscribers could simply enter their e-mail address to begin a free 50-song eMusic trial and a free download of the show the next day. Kiosk users will someday be able to download concerts directly to an iPod or other portable music player.

While still working out some kinks with its homemade machine, the company expects it to be in place at the South by Southwest conference on March 18 and at Maxwell's a week later. EMusic Live's president, Scott Ambrose Reilly, said club owners throughout its network had expressed enthusiasm for the project.

Maxwell's co-owner, Todd Abramson, expects that the kiosks will appeal to the serious music fans who frequent the club. "I would think people would treat this as a new toy and be excited about the technology," he said.

Carry a Concert Home in Your Pocket

Posted by Craig at March 4, 2004 04:51 PM