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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2002/03/20
by David Steinberg

The End of Tape Trading?

I tend to be fairly optimistic about trends in taping. Technology has
made it easier for people to exchange live music than ever before. In
other forums I’ve been known to speculate about being able to have
your entire music collection with you at all times. In the last
month though, developments have happened to make me less sure that
this could ever happen.
The first thing that caused fear was String Cheese Incident announcing
their On the Road series. Surprisingly, I don’t hate this idea.
Once I got a confirmation from Madison House that these releases will
be professionally mastered, fully packaged, pressed cds, $22 a pop
doesn’t seem too high for a show. In fact, I wish that Phish and the
Dead would open their tape vaults for similar plans. It’s not the
product that’s a problem, it’s what it does to the whole taper
dynamic. A lot of traders live by the rule that you should buy all of
the studio releases from bands you trade. Obviously if a band
releases ninety live albums a year, that rule goes by the wayside.
More ominously, this program can destroy the interest of tapers.
String Cheese Incident are being very careful to say the right thing
here. They constantly are reaffirming that they believe in taping and
have no interest in stopping it. When matrix soundboards are readily
available, will there still be interest in audience taping? SCI might
have no plans in dropping taping, but might tapers drop SCI? So far
at least, it looks like this is not happening. It will get
interesting to see what will happen with this plan. Fortunately SCI,
unlike Phish or the Dead, does not have a clause in their taping
policy saying that any show sold can no longer be traded online. If
they did – or if another band that does have that policy starts
selling their vault – that could destroy online trading before
programs like Furthur and SHNapster finish revolutionizing it [1].
Band policies are just one way taping could go away. Unfortunately
most file sharing programs didn’t stop at trading legal files. The
publicity that the illegal file sharing got has led to a backlash. I
mentioned in an earlier column [2] the pressure that Hollywood is
putting onto Congress. After a brief period in which the SSSCA was
dropped, Senator Hollings is bringing it up again. Once again,
Congress is seriously discussing make it a felony to give someone a
copy of EAC.
It’s not just the US this time that’s making stupid policies. Canada
might pass laws that assume everyone is breaking the law. They might
put a tax on MP3 players. Any player that comes equipped with a
storage mechanism would be charged $21/gig. For a 40 gig Neo player,
the tax would be more than the machine. [3]
This contradiction is what makes this such an interesting time to be a
live music fan. As technical obstacles get removed, legal and moral
ones are being put in their place. Right now we have more ability to
trade music than ever before in history. I hope we can still make the
same kind of statement in 10 years.
[1] If you haven’t used either of these programs, I suggest that you
do. The main problem with etree so far has been the difficulty of
getting into the servers. With the power of peer to peer file
sharing, something amazing happens. The more people who want a show,
the easier it is to get. That’s because more people will be sharing
it as they download it for their own use. Speeds that were amazing on
an ftp server are becoming routine on Furthur for me, and the
selection I’m seeing there is stunning. At this moment in time cd
trading is as easy for a newbie as it is for someone who has been
doing it for years.
[3] For more detail on this, see
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New
Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live
music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His
Phish stats website is at
and he was the stats section editor for
The Phish Companion.

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