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Linkin Park's cutting-edge tour souvenirs

Linkin Park’s cutting-edge tour souvenirs — The band is beating bootleggers by selling MP3s and photos of individual tour performances

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After conquering the worlds of nü-metal and modern rock, could the next step in Linkin Park’s evolution be…jam band? ”We change the set pretty drastically each night and come up with stuff on the spot,” says co-vocalist/guitarist Mike Shinoda. ”Every night, ‘Bleed It Out’ is completely different.” Now Linkin fans can follow in a hi-fi (and legal) version of the bootlegging tradition pioneered by Deadheads. For an extra $14.99, ticket holders can purchase a ”digital souvenir package” — a link to download MP3s and photos of that one-of-a-kind performance — roughly seven days after they’ve attended a show on the band’s current North American tour.

It’s the latest, online incarnation of the ”instant bootleg” phenomenon. Previously, artists like Pearl Jam sold physical CDs of live gigs weeks — or even months — after playing dates. ”Many bands have gone in this direction,” says Shinoda, adding, ”but what I’m really happy about is that the quality of the [MP3] mixes is nearly what we would put out on a live record. These would actually sound great on your stereo.”

The MP3s won’t be copy- protected, making it relatively easy for freeloaders to find them on the Web. But like the Grateful Dead before them, Linkin Park don’t mind if fans share their live recordings. ”I would rather they trade these high-quality mixes of a song on really special nights than swap links to crappy YouTube clips off somebody’s cell phone,” Shinoda says, chuckling. ”Which always sounds like s—!”