Allman concert to go instantly to CD
By DAVID MENCONI, Staff Writer
Forget the T-shirt, here’s the ultimate impulse buy at a concert: A compact disc recording of a show you just saw, available before you leave the venue. And Raleigh is one of the first cities in the country where it’s being tried.
After 18 months of preparation, Clear Channel Entertainment will unveil its arena-size “Instant Live” program at the Allman Brothers’ North Carolina concerts — Saturday in Charlotte and Sunday at Raleigh’s Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek. Within minutes of the end of both shows, concertgoers can buy a three-disc set for $25.
WHO: The Allman Brothers Band, with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.
WHEN: Sunday, 7 p.m., rain or shine.
WHERE: Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek, 3801 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh.
Cost: $24.50-$37.50. $3 parking fee added at time of purchase. Day-of-show price is $2 higher.
CALL: Ticketmaster, 834-4000.
MORE INFO: 831-6666, www.alltelpavilion.com.
“We’ve done this in clubs in New England, and the first fan got the first disc roughly five minutes after the last note was played,” says Steve Simon, the Clear Channel executive vice president in charge of the project, from his Boston office. “As we’re ramping up the scale, I’m sure it will take a little longer at the outset. A fan in Raleigh might have to wait 10 or 12 minutes. But we expect to do better over time.”
Simon says the venue will use 27 CD burners, each with a seven-duplicator drive. So 189 discs will come off the assembly line every 3 1/2 minutes. The sets will feature generic packaging and artwork, but future products should get fancier as the “Instant Live” program takes hold. Eventually, a Web site will be available where buyers can download and print out track lists, credits and even event-specific cover art for the discs they buy.
Don’t count on finding these CDs in stores soon . For this test, the discs will only be sold at tents on the amphitheater’s side plazas and by the front gate. Eventually, mobile hawkers with wireless credit-card terminals will sell discs in the parking lots afterward. You’ll even be able to pre-order the discs when you buy a ticket.
Concert recordings are a growing trend, with bands like Phish and Pearl Jam selling MP3s and live CDs of virtually every show they play. But those discs can take days or weeks to get. Instant on-site availability is a new wrinkle, and the Allman Brothers make a fitting guinea pig. The group has released numerous live albums , including 1995’s “2nd Set” — which was partly recorded at Walnut Creek. The Allmans’ loyal following in this area also factored into the selection of North Carolina as the test market.
“It’s an area where the band feels they have a particularly strong audience base, and you want to start this where your following is deeper and stronger,” Simon says. “When I started working on this idea, the Allman Brothers were the band I used in hypotheticals to present the concept. These guys get up and play without fear. They’ll change the set list every night, and how they play a particular song. So they’re perfect.”
As for how long it will take before this is a standard feature for every show, that’s not clear. Executive director Bob Klaus says Walnut Creek will have more “Instant Live” shows this year, but nothing is confirmed.
One hurdle to clear is getting record companies to go along . Tom Lipsky is president of the Allman Brothers’ label, Sanctuary Records Group/North America, which is promoting the group’s new studio album, “Hittin’ the Note.” Sanctuary permitted the Allman Brothers to participate in “Instant Live,” though not without reservations.
“No label wants to be on the dance floor first with this,” Lipsky admits. “We decided we would be, but in limited fashion. It’s just for a few dates, not the whole tour; no retail, only venue sales. There’s only so many dollars in the market, the economy’s tough, the industry is already competing with downloading and burning. We have our hands full already. Having additional records competing with existing records we’ve put out, there’s risk to that.”