The Internet Archive maintains an enormous Live Music Archive of concert recordings, not all of them by the Grateful Dead. There are more than 17,000 such recordings in its Grateful Dead collection — 2,000 more than when last we featured it here on Open Culture — but one must compare that figure to the 250,000 items now in the whole of the LMA. “It would be a great story to have the first item as part of the collection to be some rare Grateful Dead recording from 1968,” says a post at the Internet Archive blog reflecting on the twentieth anniversary of the LMA last year, “but it is actually an unassuming Rusted Root audience recording from August 24, 2001.”
In addition to Rusted Root and the Grateful Dead, you can stream or download a wealth of recorded live shows from bands like Little Feat, Blues Traveler, My Morning Jacket, Los Lobos, and the Smashing Pumpkins, as well as singer-songwriters like Warren Zevon, Elliott Smith, Jack Johnson, Robyn Hitchcock, and John Mayer.
How wide or narrow a variety of musical experiences these names conjure up will, of course, depend on your perspective. But if they do share a major characteristic in common, it’s the fact, to their true fans, their live performances count for as much as — or, often, more than — their studio recordings. The truest (or at least most technically adept) such fans have donated their time and skills to make these live performances freely accessible and endlessly relivable on the LMA.
“For years, concert-goers recorded and traded tapes, but in 2002, the Internet Archive offered a reliable infrastructure to preserve performances files,” writes the Internet Archive’s Caralee Adams in a blog post marking the uploading of 250,000 recordings. “Partnering with the etree music community, the Live Music Archive was established to provide ongoing, free access to lossless and MP3-encoded audio recordings.” Over the past 21 years, “more than 8,000 artists have given permission to have recordings of their shows archived on the Live Music Archive, and users from around the world have listened to files more than 600 million times.” Whether or not you’re into jam bands, if you’ve ever enjoyed live music, have a look through the LMA’s 250 terabytes of recordings made in venues from stadiums to neighborhood coffee shops. There’ll be a concert for you, no charge for admission.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.