Live & Touring

Umphrey’s McGee Takes Another Music Tech Step Forward With Headphones & Snowcones

Headphones-snowconesUmphrey's McGee is currently on tour with another tech experiment to improve live show experiences for their fans. Dubbed Headphones & Snowcones, presumably after the song of the same name, a limited group of fans are able to rent headphones that give them a wireless feed from the soundboard. Though the offering faces some technical challenges, it's already changing the live experience for those who have tried it out.

Umphrey's McGee first rolled out Headphones & Snowcones back in May. They've been fine-tuning the system on the road and here are the most recent details:

"An idea long stewing in the UM incubator is finally coming to fruition. We are pleased to unveil an unparalleled live show experience – a pristine soundboard mix piped wirelessly to your ears through audiophile quality headphones….Utilizing technology identical to what the band uses, you will be armed with a Sennheisser in-ear monitor wireless pack and high fidelity Audio-Technica headphones, allowing you to experience the sonics of Umphrey’s McGee in absolutely unparalleled quality."

For $40 plus a $500 deposit (they're working on that roadblock), you get "belt pack & headphone rental, private viewing/listening area, and UMLive download of show (MP3)."

Though they say "Forget the silent disco," Headphones & Snowcones clearly owes a debt to that tradition.

According to Roy Furchgott, writing for the NY Times, the band is looking for options to bring down the cost including creating a mobile app so that fans can listen to shows via mobile devices using Wi-Fi. According to Kevin Browning, who came up with the idea and is described as a "strategy manager for the band":

"'That is very much being pursued,' Mr. Browning said. But there is a technological problem with sound delay, that makes the music broadcast out of sync with the band. 'There are logistical hurdles that have stumped some engineers above my pay grade.'"

But the experience itself is already proving to be a big success. Matt Heller, who rents out the equipment for Headphones & Snowcones at shows, shared one response:

"Mr. Heller said he rented a headset to a middle-aged fan in Los Angeles last March. 'He took his hearing aids out, put on the headphones and said he had never heard a show sounded that well…He was pretty much shedding tears.'"

Back in April, Chris Washburn related his experience in a Headphones & Snowcones review:

"It was the most clear and clean listening experience of my long concert-attending career. The unit did in fact work everywhere in the venue. I was bobbing my head in the bathroom, the beer line, the smoking porch, and most importantly right up front and center!…"

"Throughout the night I would pull out my earplug to remind myself of what I was missing. The result was the sad realization that this one giant leap forward in the concert experience had completely spoiled me and I would never experience a live performance the same."

Sounds like another win for Umphrey's McGee.


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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1 Comment

  1. Streaming to smartphones seems like the next logical step here, especially for catering to a mainstream crowd. How about a multichannel streaming system which allows the user to isolate each instrument and/or vocal mic? A live commentary track by the band manager or tour staff. From the app you can choose to isolate and record your favorite riff from your favorite guitarist. Sell the stems from each show.

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