There is perhaps no greater authority on the archiving of rock concerts than Matt Lundberg.
The vice president of programming at the live concert archive site Wolfgang’s Vault has overseen development for two of the finest mobile apps in the field: Wolfgang Vault’s own Concert Vault app, and Daytrotter’s app, which Lundberg and his team created for Daytrotter.com.
Together with Music Archive, a third-party app for the non-profit “internet library” Archive.org, Lundberg’s apps make up an unrivaled triumvirate. All three allow for quick and easy streaming of live music to your smartphone (iPhone and/or Android, depending — links below), accessible without any logins or subscriptions, so that you can carry around literally thousands of concerts with you at all times.
Each serves different factions of the larger listening community: Daytrotter for the hipper, dare we say hipster crowd; Music Archive for those seeking deep cuts and independent artists; and Concert Vault for, as Lundberg puts it, “people who actually went to those shows in the ’60s and ’70s.”
Evolver.fm caught up with Lundberg to talk about the current state of concert archive apps, and what his team is doing to usher in the next generation in this niche. Afterwards, we take on each app for a review.
Chase Hoffberger, Evolver.fm: Legend has it that there’s a contingency of Concert Vault users who don’t even know Wolfgang’s Vault exists as a web site.
Matt Lundberg, Wolfgang’s Vault vice president of Programming: The app got a fair amount of publicity in its first year-and-a-half that it was around. We were Macworld UK‘s App of the Year in 2009. We got mentioned in a fair amount of places, so there was a good amount of people who would just go to the app store and grab it and go. It’s pretty quick to get into once you load it onto your phone. So I do think there are a fair amount of people who don’t even get to the site.
Evolver.fm: How does usership for the app compare to what you’re seeing with the site?
Lundberg: I still think that the app gets fewer users than the website gets, but it’s growing. Our demographic is a little different than Daytrotter. I think they’ve got a younger general group of people. We cater to a fair number of people who actually went to those shows in the sixties and seventies. I think there’s a large number of those people who don’t even have a smartphone yet. I would guess it’s probably within the 20 to 30 percent range — but growing. I listen to the Vault more on my phone and my iPad at home.
Evolver.fm: I noticed that neither your app nor Daytrotter’s allows permanent downloads of songs and concerts.
Lundberg: You can download MP3 files from Daytrotter sessions for free, and on a pretty significant number, you can download apple lossless versions of the same files for a small fee. 30 to 40 percent of the Vault’s concerts are available for download, all for a price. The challenge when you get into mobile devices is that if you’re going to download permanently, then you need some kind of transaction facility built into it. That’s either a purchase transaction if it’s a permanent download, or subscription requirement if it’s an interactive stream or temporary download.
The problem is [the] transaction. We wanted our apps to be really easy to use. I just drove from Manhattan to Syracuse and listened to the Vault the whole way. 3G coverage is good enough that I could do it in my car and didn’t have to worry about downloading anything and storing it on my phone [ed. note: He must have an unlimited data plan]. The problem with downloads on a phone is then you start to get into the issue of “where do I keep my files?” So far, that’s been on a computer and then you synch your mobile device to it. That’s starting to change with the iCloud and obviously the cloud stuff from Amazon and Google too. There wasn’t a whole lot of debate on our side. It made much more sense to have you stream it on your phone than to put a commerce module in there and have you buy it as a download as well.
There are also complications as far as how to pick your commerce module. If you’re on an iPhone app, Apple pretty much won’t let you transact anything outside of an iTunes transaction. So it becomes a pretty simple business decision too.
Evolver.fm: What about offline playback? Is that something the Vault has considered?
Matt Lundberg: That gets into temporary downloads and fully interactive streams. If you look at apps from Napster or Rdio or MOG — they all have that. That’s something that we’re looking at; we don’t have that yet. It is a different licensing scheme that you’ve got to comply with, but it’s a nice feature.
Evolver.fm: It does seem like the focus is on getting people to listen quickly and easily.
Matt Lundberg: So far. Our apps only play audio at this time. We don’t stream video to them.
Evolver.fm: What is Wolfgang’s Vault working on right now to usher in the next generation of concert apps.
Matt Lundberg: What we’ve discussed here would definitely reflect what’s on our plate from a technology standpoint. One would be offline listening, which requires this temporary download concept. The other is whether or not we incorporate video. The third thought here is that those developments turn the app into a much higher value app, so we need to start thinking about whether or not we want to incorporate that into a part of a subscription service. We do have a membership program [WVIP], an enhanced member service where you can get higher quality streams and other benefits for an annual membership fee. If you include at offline listening and video, that’s a pretty significant step up in value adds.
The only other thing that I’d mention is that we spend a fair amount of time curating our collection. It’s a pretty interesting collection, and it’s very unique. We publish playlists — at least a couple per week — that focus on the different aspects of the collection. Finding better ways to expose those and make them more interesting is something that we spend some time thinking about, too. We put one up last week that was Memorial Day Radio Jams. It was all a collection of songs you’d hear in the archives that are related to heroes and memorials and stuff like that. We’ll do other ones that are specific to the time or specific to the genres of music. Personally, I listen to the playlists as often as I listen to specific concerts.
As promised, here are those reviews:
(Photo courtesy of Flickr/Jean-Luc Ourlin)