By: Joseph Smith
For The News & Observer
Brenda Griffin didn’t mind the wait. Not after a 10-hour car drive from her home in Tallahassee. Not after attending three Allman Brothers Band concerts in as many days — in Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh.
Griffin was one of the close to 800 fans who stood in line Sunday night for up to 45 minutes after the Allman Brothers concert at Alltel Pavilion for a chance to pick up their own copy of a live CD of the show, thanks to Clear Channel’s “Instant Live” program.
The program, which started in small clubs in Boston and debuted nationally on the Allman Brothers tour, uses 27 CD burners — each with a seven-duplicator drive — to mass produce copies of the full concert and package the CDs in a three-disc set for fans to “extend their concert-going experience,” said Steven Simon, executive vice president of Clear Channel Entertainment’s Music Division. The price is $20, with half the proceeds going to the band and the other half to Clear Channel.
“It’s definitely worth it,” said Griffin, who has been to more than 100 Allman Brothers concerts. “It’s better quality than you’d get in any studio-produced CD or even a taped show. Plus, you’re going to have to wait in the parking lot to get out anyways.”
One of the few complaints from fans — whether they were die-hards or first-timers — was that they had to “sober up” while they waited. Several boisterous fans in the back of the line started a “free beer” chant after about 30 minutes of standing.
“I’d wait out here for an hour or two — if they had some beer going,” said Josh Hines, a 26-year-old Raleigh resident.
And for a little more than the price of two, 24-ounce beers — which cost $8 at Alltel — fans said they saved tons of time and effort in getting the lasting memory of the live concert.
“I don’t have to smuggle things in and try to bootleg it in order to get a live copy of the show,” said Heather Shepheard , a 31-year-old Durham resident who was attending her first Allman Brothers concert. “Plus, since you’re at the show, you might be able to hear your own voice.”
Shepheard was one of many fans who pre-bought the CD just after arriving at the concert. “Instant Live” salespeople stood at each gate, greeting fans with a short sales pitch and a small flier about the program. Fans were then directed to one of the six tents; at the tents, fans could listen to a copy of the previous night’s show in Charlotte, to verify the sound quality. Simon said 16 microphones were on the stage’s soundboard and eight microphones were dispersed throughout the crowd.
“I’m pretty big on sound quality,” said Kelly Sanders, a 25-year-old Dobson resident. “I’ve got plenty of friends that tape and I trade with a lot of tapers, and you can definitely tell the difference between a soundboard copy and a taper copy.”
Simon said Clear Channel tries to make the taping of the show as “authentic” as possible. He said the company pays extra to make sure Diamond Time, a clearinghouse in New York, takes care of the royalties for a “universe” of cover songs the Allman Brothers Band plays — so the band doesn’t have to worry about licensing issues. And Simon said the band doesn’t give set time limits for songs, which sometimes can lead to one track being spread out over two CDs.
“We will bend over backwards to try to preserve that spontaneity,” Simon said.
Simon said the company had three “practice runs” of “Instant Live” at the Allmans’ stops in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Buffalo before Clear Channel started selling the CDs in Hartford on Aug. 3. He said 500 CDs were sold there, with about 800 purchased in Charlotte on Saturday night.
And Simon said Instant Live could be back in North Carolina again, as Clear Channel is close to an agreement with Moe, a smaller jam band, and is in discussion with a few other “big name” acts.
“It’s so hard to get live material out of the store,” said Jackson Dent, a 39-year-old Greensboro resident who has seen 25 Allman Brothers concerts. “So to get three CDs of that quality for $20 right after, it’s a good deal.”
Here’s how the “Instant Live” program went down to the minute.
6:05 P.M. — Several “Instant Live” salespeople greet fans at the gate with fliers about the program. They give short sales pitches and direct prospective customers to one of the six tents where fans can pre-buy the CDs, getting vouchers to turn in after the show.
8:35 P.M. — The Allman Brothers hit the stage. Sixteen microphones are on the stage soundboard and eight more are in the audience to give CD purchasers that “live” feel.
11:04 P.M. — Concert ends after an encore performance by the Allman Brothers. Fans start walking toward the two pickup tents for their CDs.
11:22 P.M. — First batch of CDs arrives, and the line starts moving — slowly but surely.
11:31 P.M. — Several fans in the back of the line start a “Free Beer,” request/chant.
11:49 P.M. — The last fans in line at the main gate grab their CDs and head home.