June 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Music Archive Harnesses Archive.org’s Prodigious Live Music Collection

The Live Music Archive from Archive.org, an “online public library of live recordings for royalty-free, no-cost public downloads” according to its FAQ, doesn’t have a smartphone app of its own. Luckily, Josh Bergen’s Music Archive brings the whole shebang to the iPhone for $2.

There’s a lot to check out within this app: over 70,000 live concerts from over 2,800 bands. The app lacks any sort of editorial vision (unlike the Daytrotter or Wolfgang’s Vault apps), so it can be hard to get a good read on what you should expect to find within, which is a blessing and a curse. Any artist or band that so desires inclusion can be a part of the Live Music Archive, and while we appreciate that openness, it does create some clutter.

Music Archive solves this problem by putting search at the forefront of its design. You can also browse by letter, but again: Lots of artists are included in this collection, and there’s no particular filter for who gets included. If you’re looking for the band Spoon, you’ll have to scroll past Sandy and Roy McCann, the Sans Souci Quartet, Sara Petite, Sardine Head, and so on, so search is the better option.

The Music Archive app plays without any hiccups, for the most part. Some songs (each song is uploaded as an individual file) that are corrupt or don’t have proper files associated with them, but it’s rarely an issue. As far as listening goes, the only legitimate concern is the sound quality on some of the performances. Certain shows sound great. Others, like The Happen-Ins’ show from Stubb’s in Austin, could use some work.

In addition to serving up 2,800-plus artists, Music Archive stores each of your previous selections in the History tab, making returns to those artists easy. Or, if you really like a show you can save it to your Favorites for even easier access.

The app’s most glaring downside: It lacks a background playback feature, which means that you won’t be able to use Music Archive at any point while multitasking, even if your relatively new iPhone supports it.

Music Archive’s design won’t turn heads, like Daytrotter or Concert Vault, and many of its shows sound decidedly rougher, but the app holds a mammoth collection of music diverse enough to satisfy every listener in one way or another (with an emphasis on taping-friendly jam bands). If you can get past the bootleg-level sound quality in most shows, there’s something inside the app for most music fans to enjoy.

Is it worth your $2? It could be, depending on your appetite for live bootlegs; check the web version to find out before dropping the dough.

  • Music Lover

    There is free software (it’s also open source) that does a better job and has waaaaay more options, like downloading songs, voting on them, playing in the background, robust searching and browsing, etc.  It’s called Vibe Vault.