I find that decent live concert recordings almost always sound better, more authentic, and often more energetic than the studio tracks. Yet the live stuff is almost never heard on the radio. Why is that?

I guess it's good that I have the live versions of several albums in my collection. I really don't understand the music industry sometimes. Or maybe it's the general public I don't understand. It's not like Sony or ClearChannel are going broke...

Posted by jzawodn at March 17, 2003 09:37 PM

Reader Comments
# Marco said:

From what a musician friend tells me, studio albums start with the best of intentions, but then they start "tweaking" everything, so that in the end what you hear is a collection of people playing separately, rather than as a band, resulting in a sound that's less natural but more "perfect".

I guess radios just go where the money is... and promoters put the money in studio pieces because they're less spontaneous and more "predictable".

I, too, prefer live music--all the little defects add to the character of a song...

on March 18, 2003 03:39 AM
# Tzicha said:

Live albums I almost always prefer due to the creativity evident during the performance. Usually the songs are played as the artist envisions/intended rather some studio execs, plus elements are often added that give the song(s) an edge that makes most studio performances lacking. Some of my favorite examples: U2's live under a blood red sky, The Cure Show, Depeche Mode Songs of Faith and Devotion live.
When I do look for music on the Inter net, that is my focus: live recordings.

on March 18, 2003 05:27 AM
# Josh Woodward said:

I think your trackbacks are broken. So consider yourself tracked back. :)

on March 18, 2003 06:13 AM
# Dan Isaacs said:

You need to invest in an SACD player. Know a guy that has one, and the sound is incredible.

on March 18, 2003 06:18 AM
# Anders Jacobsen said:

I share your observation, Jeremy;

I, too, am a big fan of live music. I think bands like Pink Floyd REALLY distinguish themselves from for example more modern, "fabricated" music when their songs more than double in lenght in the live versions compared to the studio albums... It's simply brilliant :-)

on March 18, 2003 06:24 AM
# Dan Isaacs said:

Good point, Anders. Most of my considerable Pink Floyd MP3 collection is bootlegged live performances. And seeing them live (like 10 years ago) remains the best show I've ever seen. Nothing like a 20 minute version of "Money".

on March 18, 2003 07:45 AM
# Tim Conrad said:

SACD isn't the answer. It isn't the "quality" of the sound of the music, it's the music itself.

The problem lies in the mix process. As someone else suggests, people play parts of the song individually, then they get mixed together to turn into the final product you hear. Sometimes the musicians you hear on the album aren't even in the band. Plus, you have the whole producer thing and everything else going on. So, you have a band that's worked hard to get a certian 'sound', and they go into the studio. They have to work with a producer who might have a sligthly different take on what their 'sound' SHOULD be. Which, obviously isn't going to be the sound that the band is used to and so on. Also, little mistakes in the music are removed, which also loose some 'interest' in the music.

Plus, arguably, during the process of recording the music, depending on how the music was edited, there can also be degredation of quality in the music.

What is heard on the radio is purely dictated by Clear Channel. However, I don't know that live mixes were ever really prevailant in being played on radio. I think there's simply too much 'noise' in the mix for people to actually like it. Most of the 'live' recordings that I can think of that were popular, the 'live-ness' of the recording had mostly been removed. Of course, I've also heard horrible live recordings.

That being said, I think that live recordings also sound better because of the audience and the energy that gets created by that. Instead of being in a recording studio for the past two months recording something, the bands are energized from the performance, and this energy makes it into the recording as well. Plus, the little mistakes in music are there, which makes music more interesting.

on March 18, 2003 09:05 AM
# Someone said:

One of my favorite recordings is of Ella Fitzgerald doing Mack the Knife. She forgets the lyrics, and makes them up.

Amasing. You will NEVER see that in a studio recording.

on March 18, 2003 01:06 PM
# jesse lawrence said:

Speaking as both a musician and audio/recording engineer, I would have to say that this observation is completely dependant on the musicians.

Prime example: The Beatles. Aside from MacCartney, none were great musicians. Of course, we all know that the Beatles bowed out of live performance in '66, which is exactly the time when their most fruitful period began. The Beatles, under the influence of George Martin, possessed that "Studio Magic" that few other bands have. The same can be said of Floyd. Dark Side is widely regarded as one of the top 5 albums of all time. It has that "magic". Unlike the Beatles, Floyd is also fantastic live.

Now, lets talk jazz. Seriously talented musicians always thrive in a live setting. They learn their craft on stage (jamming), and they spend their lives there. Miles, Trane, Ella, etc, own the stage. I'll take live jazz anytime.

on March 18, 2003 02:11 PM
# Jan Chrillesen said:

I think the main reason for not playing live recordings on the radio is the fact that most songs tends to last at least 5 minutes long when played live. That's simply considered too long for most broadcasters. Even with studio recordings it's way too common to hear a song faded out in the middle of a solo.

Apart from that, I agree that the best released by some artists are their live albums.

on March 19, 2003 04:02 PM
# Doyle said:

Go to a concert at a bar and hear real music.

on September 24, 2003 01:29 PM
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on October 5, 2004 08:49 PM
# Mike MHz said:

What about dance music?

Things that simply can't be played with a live instrament, or are programmed in such a way that is impossible to play accurately.

Things that were never meant to be played live, what are your thoughts on that? But don't tell me that kind of music doesn't desurve recognition as music otherwise it wouldn't be so popular!

on April 7, 2005 01:34 PM
# Haley said:

I love listneing to real live concerts. the music is very genuine.

on October 18, 2006 09:48 AM
# Ben said:

I think some bands will ruin a song if not kept under control:(.

That being said, Radiohead is great live. Coldplay, though...

on January 5, 2009 07:43 AM
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