The Tangled Web

The Web's most intriguing music-related destinations. This week: U2, Liz Phair and Phish.

STILL HAVEN'T FOUND WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR? In another instance of free online file-sharing taking an authorized route to large-scale distribution, U2 MP3 treasure trove hosts hundreds of complete U2 concerts for FTP download.

"We tell people who come to our concerts that they can tape the shows if they want," reads a quote from frontman Bono plastered across the margin of the site. "I think it is cool that people are so passionate about our music."

In that spirit, the site is home to 767 (and counting) complete U2 shows, with individual songs in either MP3 or Shorten form. Individual live files on the site date from a 1980 television appearance up through promotional concerts from June 2003. The most recent count of its file catalog listed a whopping 20,869 MP3s.

U2Site founder Mark Freedman started the project in November 2000, by converting his 15 U2 "bootleg" live CDs into MP3 files and making them available through an FTP site. His original plea to fellow traders -- archived on the site -- suggested that "there are dozens more" U2 shows out there, and he hoped to get more contributions. In two-and-a-half years, he has had to exponentially revise his projections, as the archive has become "the largest live U2 MP3 site in the world."

"It's purely a labor of love," Freedman says of the site, which he pays for out of his own pocket. The band was informed of the effort during its 2002 Elevation tour and gave its support on the condition no money was involved. Freedman says Bono joked "...because I'll know where to find his car if he does [make a profit]."

Liz PhairPHAIR PLAY: Fans who purchased a copy of Liz Phair's latest self-titled album (Capitol) have the opportunity to download an exclusive EP titled "comeandgetit" from a secure site. The five-track EP is available as a single download from a restricted section of Phair's official Web site, which will be unlocked when a purchased copy of "Liz Phair" is inserted into the computer's CD-ROM drive.

The EP comprises five unreleased tracks recorded during the sessions for the new "Liz Phair" album -- "Jeremy Engle," "Bouncer's Conversation," "Fine Again," "Hurricane Cindy" and "Shallow Opportunities" -- but the artist says that the new tracks are much more stripped-down and informal than those on the album.

"The songs on the EP have a totally different vibe from the record," she says in a statement. "[They] show a different side of my songwriting which will be familiar to old fans whose support has meant a lot to me over the years and hopefully will draw new fans deeper into my music."

PhishPHISHING LIMIT: The success of jam-band juggernaut Phish's concert downloads series, paired with the fact that users appear to have shared the wealth, has forced the group to institute a time limit on the service. The band sent out an e-mail to all previous users of the service last week explaining that it will only allow a 48-hour time window from the time of purchase in which to download any show.

"The cost of bandwidth to support unlimited downloads over the past six months has grown out of proportion to the number of sales," the message said. "In fact, we've reached an average of three complete show downloads for every one show purchase ... We did not want to raise the price [of downloads], nor did we want to discontinue the download service. Therefore, limiting the time you have to download a show was the most viable option."

The service, one of the first ventures by a rock band to sell multiple official live concerts in digital form, currently has 19 archival Phish shows for sale alongside 10 shows featuring frontman Trey Anastasio and his side band. The site is taking pre-orders for recordings from the band's summer tour, which began last night (July 7) in Phoenix.