Already at the forefront of issuing authorized “live bootlegs” of its shows, Pearl Jam will on Sept. 1 launch its own digital download store via its official Web site. Hours after their completion, full concerts from the group’s fall tour will be available for $9.99 as 192K MP3s, which are nearly 50% higher than the standard bit rate.
Each show will feature special artwork; a slide show with photos from the performance will run while the files download. The initial plan is to make all of Pearl Jam’s upcoming shows in Canada and the United States available to download, excluding an Aug. 29 concert in Missoula, Mont., that is doubling as a political fundraiser for U.S. senate hopeful Jon Tester.
As with past incarnations of the bootlegs, which were initially available only on CD, the material will be mixed on the fly by longtime Pearl Jam engineer Brett Eliason. Eliason’s company, Basecamp Productions, also developed the software to power the download store.
The idea to embark on such an endeavor has been floating around the Pearl Jam camp for several years. “The thing we were looking for was a really good way to manage the thing,” Tim Bierman, manager of Pearl Jam’s Ten Club fan organization, tells Billboard.com. “That’s where Basecamp came in. They developed a killer application I’m really confident the fans are going to love.”
In an interesting twist, the files will be encoded without DRM (digital rights management) restrictions, allowing them to be burned to CD and transferred to portable MP3 players. Select material will also be available from such digital services as the iTunes music store.
Bierman says plans are not finalized for a potential CD component of the bootleg series, but acknowledges, “we may make a limited number of the best shows from the tour available on CD via the Ten Club. We’re going to wait to hear back from the fans about how the system is going so far.”
During a recent round of beta testing of the initiative, a live version of “Rats” from a 1994 show in Boston was made available for download. Could that portend the release of vintage shows from the archive?
“Down the road, we’re also planning, based on fan feedback, a program that would dip into the vaults and find some of those great shows,” Bierman enthuses. “That’s the beauty of having Brett involved. Not only do we have the input from the fans, but we have the input of the guy who has been there the whole time.”
Since launching in 2000, Pearl Jam has sold more than 3 million copies of shows from the bootleg series, according to a spokesperson.