NOISE: In praise of Live Music Archive...

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Guardian intern Joseph DeFranceschi holds forth on his favorite music download site, Live Music Archive, and offers sundry tips:

If you’re reading this blog, you’ll probably be interested in the online musical goldmine known as the Live Music Archive.

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Wilco -- just one of those stellar bands you find on Live Music Archive. Courtesy of www.nonesuch.com.

In the constant search for free music downloads, it is rare to stumble upon some that are high quality, easily accessible, and don’t require neglecting everything experts warn of regarding viruses and spyware. Remember when Kazaa’s coolest finds were those MP3s of outtakes or live records of crappy, scratchy sound quality? This database features complete concerts, entire album outtakes, and full radio performances, all in usually fantastic sound quality. You won’t find the hit singles here, but you can download rare live concert recordings that cannot be found in stores.

Most artists -- ranging from indie acts like Wilco and jam bands such as Grateful Dead to jazz players like Pat Metheny and bluegrass pickers such as Tony Rice – permit taping, and as a result there are more than 2,000 bands on LMA.

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Check out live recordings of Pat Metheny on LMA, why don't you? Courtesy of www.patmethenygroup.com.

While this short article will only introduce you to downloading shows in MP3 form, there is a huge community of live music traders and numerous sources that offer free music downloads. The self-proclaimed “leader in lossless digital audio distribution on the Internet” is etree.org. Check out their website (www.etree.org) for tons of good information, software downloads, and links.

As for LMA: the easiest way to access the archive is by downloading one of their many shows in MP3 form. Although they sound fine to most people (including an audiophile like me) never burn these to CD and, should you get into trading these shows, which is perfectly legal, never trade anything from an MP3 source. Without such a rule, the quality will get worse as people repeatedly transfer the music from CD to MP3 and back again. That’s why those Kazaa tracks sounded so shitty.

Visit www.archive.org/audiowww.archive.org/audio. Some things you might consider are the source (soundboard recordings (SBD) are usually crystal clear with little annoying crowd noise), user ratings and reviews, venue (smaller venues usually make for better sound and radio studio performances are even better), and set list.

Note that not all shows on LMA are available in VBR MP3s. Some are kept as loss-less Flac and Shorten files. See wiki.etree.org for instructions on how to deal with these and the free program you’ll need to change them to CD form.

Here are some other online resources to check out:

-- Music.ibilio.org. Get shows by the Meters, Ben Folds, Radiohead, and others. They come in Shorten and Flac file forms so read about how to convert these to CD form on wiki.etree.org.

-- Bluegrassbox.com. Sign up for an FTP login and password for tons of free acoustic music from 1954 to the present.

-- bt.etree.org. This etree.org site has almost 3,500 shows for download in bit torrent form.