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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2010/12/24
by David Steinberg

What’s an NYE Party Without Streamers

What is it about LivePhish and NYE? In 2002 Phish made a surprise announcement that the shows would be for download immediately after the show. After some back and forth about whether this would be for special occasions or more common, every single show since then was available for download. 2010 brought a new announcement, the sold out portion of the NYE run will have a live stream. Since Hoodstream started, people were begging for a more official stream and now there is one. The question now is if this is a precedent and if so, what does it mean.

There are a few possibilities here. This is could be a one-time treat, but the creation of an elaborate FAQ makes that less likely. Conversely, excluding the non-sold out Worcester shows from the mix makes it unlikely that every show will be available. It looks like the options are that either every sold out show will be webcast or the “big” shows will be. Not much would change if they just broadcast a popular show or two, but if the decision is to broadcast anything that sells out, things would get much more interesting.

The theme of the past few years throughout the entertainment world has been cocooning. With the advent of home theatres and high definition television at the same time that venues have become places designed to suck every last penny from customers, it’s just easier to watch the game from home or wait for the movie to come out on disc. One of the few exceptions has been seeing concerts. In the time of the Internet where you form friends based around common interests instead of geographical proximity, the fact that we’re all willing to travel to see these shows is the reason why I have actual in person interactions.

It seems silly to think that people will stop touring in order to sit in their living rooms, but there’s another factor at play here. At the same time that it might become much easier to have a concert-esque experience in one’s living room – one with no beer lines or wait for the bathroom or chatterboxes next to you – travel is becoming a serious pain. Instead of lowering fares during the recession, airlines responded by reducing flights. This means that all flights are overcrowded, the slightest weather issues can lead to massive delays (I have a friend stuck in Paris for 3 days due to the London snow.), and airfares are out of line with the current salaries people are receiving these days. As if that weren’t enough, we now get the exciting decision to either get bombarded with X-rays or let ourselves be groped for the honor of getting on these flights. This tips the scales more towards just enjoying the show at home.

Fortunately, there is an obvious way for Phish to combat this, and it’s a method that they’ve been using throughout 3.0 – the special venue. Seeing Phish on my couch might be superior than going to Camden or Hartford and dealing with the issues there to go to some cookie cutter shed. However, Indio and Telluride, the Gorge and Red Rocks, the Fox Theatre and the Asheville Civic Center, even the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, all of these were far more special experiences to attend than just the concert. I expect this movement will continue throughout 2011.

What will have to change is the over saturation of the northeast. The tiny fall tour venues not selling out, Phish being unable to sell out 12/28 in a traditional northeastern venue, all of this was pointing in this direction already, but having the option to stream the shows makes the decision to actually attend more difficult when this is seeing Phish, “yet again,” instead of being some kind of a special treat. Having season tickets burnt me out on seeing baseball in person as going to 30-40 games a year was much different than occasionally seeing a game or two.

This will affect the online community too in more ways than just making it even more of a center of the fandom. Would YEMblog’s tweets (Disclosure: I tweeted twice for YEMblog and hope to do it again soon.) be as important when people at home are hearing the show? The focus could be more editorial than factual. Would reviews get harsher? One effect that even the spotty iPhone streams had was make people feel like they were at every show while not having the adventures and social interactions that can combat the jadedness of seeing your 14th show in a row. People forget this now, but LivePhish was revolutionary when it first started. Having nearly every show stream would also be so, and would affect every aspect of the Phish experience. Ultimately – trepidations above aside – I suspect it’ll be positive, leading to better venues, a focus on the fan experience at shows, and less stress over being shut out because at least you get to experience the show in real time. Sure, I’d probably go out and upgrade my television and computer instead of flying out if they repeated leg one of last summer, but that just would make the shows I did attend more sweet. Phish might be out on the cutting edge again, and I’m fascinated to see how this will play out.

*****

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 Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at http://www.ihoz.com/PhishStats.html and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He occasionally posts at the Phish.net blog and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page

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