Indie Music

Rolling Stones & Fugazi Launch Digital Archives with Radically Different Approaches

FugaziMusicians have been using the web to amplify and extend their careers in a variety of ways. One still emerging solution is to create digital archives with content ranging from copies of old newspaper clippings to recordings of live concerts. Recently both the Rolling Stones and Fugazi opened online archives with quite different approaches to content and access that reflect their respective approaches to the business of music.

I feel stuck in cliches comparing the Rolling Stones, titans of rebellious corporate rock, and Fugazi, exemplars of DIY indie music, so I'll leave it at that. Comparing their approaches to recently launched digital archives probably says more about their views of art and the music business than anything else I could come up with.

The Stones Archives seems pretty threadbare at this point, in contrast to the rich reservoirs of history in which they participated, despite this self-description:

"The Rolling Stones have unlocked the door to their archive, full of music, film and memorabilia from their incredible, almost 50 year career. At you can listen to unheard music, view unseen photographs and films, and look at rare merchandise."

Maybe one day that statement will be true but currently it seems to be a highly controlled marketing tool for their release of "The Brussels Affair", an official issue of a previously bootlegged concert recording from 1972, plus related merch. Freebies include 30 second song samples and some related YouTube videos. In addition, there are photos of live performances and memorabilia from that time along with an interview with tour photographer Michael Putland.

Fugazi, who have been on "indefinite hiatus since 2003", recently opened the Fugazi Live Series archives which have been anticipated for over a year.

Fugazi's career was characterized by all-ages shows and low-priced "usually $5 to $7" tickets. They have around 800 recorded shows and are releasing them as individual downloads at $5 a show with a pay-what-you-want option. There's an All Access option for a $500 payment that is also pitched as a way to support ongoing development of the archives.

Each show has its own page with a sample track, a pic and comments, though the pic is often the same one of the band (see above thumbnail). They say they plan to include additional material and have an email on each page requesting photos from that show. They launched with 130 downloadable shows. While there is a tab in the site navigation to direct you to buyable stuff, it's not emphasized.

Both approaches have their merit and reflect the bands' differing approaches to business. The Rolling Stones, whose official website also has some basic archival material, are likely to continue to release chunks of free content tied to paid content and merch. Fugazi will continue to digitize shows in their raw state, add free related content as available and let the fans sort it out.

What do you think about these approaches and how would you do things if you were in charge?

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at All World Dance and This Business of Blogging. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

Share on:


  1. Has everybody forgotten about Phish? They have been releasing full soundboards of shows for years. Recently they have begun to release shows the next day, AND they allow ticket holders to use bar codes to get free downloads of the shows they attend.
    I honesty don’t see what the big deal is? Bands have been doing this since the ’90s and festivals have been doing this for the past 10 years. What would be really groundbreaking would be a venue releasing live recordings (acquiring the rights involved would be MUCH more of an accomplishment and the local fans would go nuts).

  2. You know, it’s just a blog post, it doesn’t require a history of every precedent in the world.
    I actually posted on after an interview with the founder. They provide Phish’s services:
    The Grateful Dead, of course, created the model that Phish followed. First allowing fans to tape, then creating their own archives.
    But for musicians out of other traditions, this is fairly new and it’s worth noting, IMHO.

  3. Thanks for responding.
    I understand it is just a blog post. However, it irks me when old models are touted as new. I apologize for the singular attack on your post, but a 1 sentence mention might provide a base for further discussion.
    To be fair, I’ll answer your direct question: What do you think about these approaches and how would you do things if you were in charge?
    I feel like the Rolling Stones are leaving a LOT of money on the table by having a threadbare offering. They could drive more traffic and generate more income with a better service. However, they are the Rolling Stones. How much traffic do they want, and how much effort do they want to put out.
    As for Fugazi, that is brilliant! Every Indie artist should take board recording and/or video of every show. This helps two fold: 1.) By listening and watching, young artists can find their flaws and areas of improvement, or they can notice a lick/groove that could be turned into future songs; 2.) This is great material for feeding the crowd via social networking until the artist is big enough to monetize that material.

  4. You’re right, some kind of mention would have been in order. I’m just always battling the urge to write way too much so I tend to cut out whatever I can.
    I can see how it looks like I’m saying it’s new when it’s more a new phase of development for artists that haven’t traditionally provided such archives.
    Thanks for your comments!

Comments are closed.