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Web sites that stream free concerts (updated)

Updated
Purchasing concert tickets is getting increasingly expensive, but what if you could stay at home and watch your favorite concerts for free? Thanks to the Internet, music fans can do just that. From Radiohead to The Rolling Stones, the following websites will let you stream live and pre-recorded concerts so you don't have to deal with overpriced beers and sticky floors.

FabChannel.com (update below)
FabChannel is the closest you'll get to attending a concert from the comforts of your home. This site hosts over 700 full-length concerts from major and indie bands such as Bloc Party, The Black Keys, The Fratellis, and more. Performances are streamed from one of two concert venues in Amsterdam — Paradiso or Melkweg. (The site also has partnerships with two venues in Barcelona and with the Roxy in Los Angeles.) All of the shows are professionally filmed by FabChannel crew using different angles and cameras. (You can take a look at the FabChannel equipment here.)

Most of the site's concerts are filmed in widescreen although a few are in standard aspect ratio. Quality-wise, video looks great on a laptop, but suffers from pixelation in full-screen mode. Sound quality, however, is consistently good. Each concert is preceded by a brief Google ad, however the rest of the show is commercial free. Recordings include everything from the moment the band comes out to seconds after the final encore. (Opening acts are not part of the stream.)

The site's interface and video player are second to none. When watching via the embedded window, a small sidebar to the right of your screen lists the concert's set list and lets you jump to any song with a simple click. (Otherwise, concerts play as one continuous stream.) While listening to any song, you can also click on the "buy" button to purchase it from the iTunes Store. (Of note, the link takes you to the European iTunes Store.)

Concerts take a few days to post, but each show is posted with the band's and record label's permission. (Universal Music is one of the site's biggest labels.) Most concerts remain archived, but in some cases the band or record label only grants temporary permission to stream its footage. In those cases, the concert is marked as "expired," as with this Lily Allen show. In addition to streaming shows, FabChannel also integrates well with other sites. For instance, members (membership is free) can embed concerts onto their Facebook pages, MySpace profiles, or Blogger accounts. You can also download select tracks for free or have the site e-mail you for when they stream live concerts. Our one nitpick with FabChannel — you can't control the volume setting on the site's player. It's either on or muted. But that's a small fault for a site that's otherwise doing everything right.

Update: Unfortunately, the deteriorating advertising market and the lack of record label participation has caused FabChannel to shut down effective today. The site's concert archives will remain available for streaming until March 13. Click here for the press release.

NPR: All Songs Considered: Live in Concert
Boasting the most eclectic online music collection, NPR's All Songs Considered is a great source for music fans who like all musical genres. The site hosts full-length concerts and exclusive studio sessions from both mainstream and obscure artists like Radiohead, Tom Waits, Los Romeros, Antony and the Johnsons, and Josh Rouse. The show is recorded weekly and while most of the concerts are audio-only, a few contain video. The quality of the videos is excellent (slightly sharper than FabChannel), although you cannot watch videos in full-screen mode. Likewise, despite having a set list for each show, you cannot skip to specific songs during a stream.

Fortunately, commercials are kept to a minimum (only one brief spot is aired before each stream) and RSS feeds can keep you up to date on new and upcoming concerts. Should you want your concerts to go, you can download each NPR stream as a podcast from the iTunes Store for free.

Wolfgang's Vault
Wolfgang's Vault is a musical paradise for classic rock fans holding over a thousand legendary rock concerts from performers like Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and Eric Clapton. The site was started by Bill Sagan after he acquired the concert recordings that belonged to music promoter Bill Graham. Since then the site has grown to include hundreds of vintage recordings, all of which are commercial free and licensed by BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC.

Before you can stream any concerts (audio-only), you must sign-in to the site. (Membership is free.) Once you've browsed through the catalogs and found a show you want to watch, the pop-up player is launched as a separate window. It includes the show's set list and lets users jump from one song to another at any time. Sound quality is excellent as these are master recordings from Graham's archives rather than copies. Songs, however, are treated as individual files so you'll hear a slight pause after each song, which is great if you don't want to listen to the audience in between songs, but it does detract from the concert-like experience.

Wolfgang's Vault recently launched Concert Vault for the iPhone/iPod, which lets you stream its entire music collection for free from your iPhone or iPod Touch.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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