In a press release today, I read a most interesting thing about the long-running mega music marathon known as Lollapalooza. Founded in 1997 by Perry Farrell to say good-bye to the legend of Jane’s Addiction, the tour stalled out on the national level to be revived in a format similar to Bonnaroo, Coachella and this year’s Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco. While not a multi-day festival like these, the Bridge School Benefit has been doing much the same at the Shoreline Amphitheater for more than 20 years now.
Of course, the most frustrating portion of these festivals is the opportunity to see a wide variety and assortment of acts, and then never hearing their music or their collaborations again. In recent years, Bridge School has started recording and releasing acts by the artists, but it seems to me that in this day of high quality live recording and digital distribution, it shouldn’t be that difficult to release an entire live set from one of these festivals a few days after it ends.
For the charitable festivals (Outside Lands/Bridge School), this can increase the revenue poured into the cause, and for artist-centered festivals, it can help increase their revenue from the show. But really, it’s the unique collaborations that happen on stage between dissimilar artists that are usually the highlights of these shows. Tom Waits performing with the Kronos Quartet at Bridge School, Tom Petty sharing the stage with Neil Young. These are musical moments that are incredibly memorable to the audience (“Man, you should have been there when X and Z performed together!”) but retaining the way it sounded in your mind is much more difficult over time.
Now, with the line-up at this year’s Lollapalooza, featuring distribution revolutionaries Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, odd couple Gnarls Barkley, Bloc Party, Broken Social Scene, G. Love and Special Sauce and the rapidly diversifying Kanye West, the potential combinations are endless. How about Trent and Thom settling their digital download dispute through a mash-up of “Hurt” and “Idioteque?” Or Kanye and Barkley going “Crazy” over “Diamonds From Sierra Leone?”
Well, in an idea that sounds like it came straight from the MixMatchMusic garage, Farrell has announced that he will be attempting to collaborate with the Empire that is Apple and iTunes to release iTunes-only music from the festival in digital formats that could include on-stage collaborations followed up with studio releases of those collaborations for download. Whether Farrell is actually focusing on the release of the live performances isn’t too clear, but he talks openly about his idea of having bands who have performed on stage together at the concert working through the internet and various worldwide recording studios to put the songs together in a more polished format.
The talk of all of these artists coming together in music in some way gets my pulse racing. One can only hope now that Farrell doesn’t stop short. Sure, the idea of studio versions of these collaborations is very cool, but he should well know that with a festival like this, fans would love to get their hands on copies of the entire live set, and will certainly want to download the various combinations of these artists. All that’s left is to let Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails debate over which file format the songs should be available in to download.