With Michael Hobson From The Music.Com
and Peter Gabriel fans are now aware of The Music.com and the service they
provide to the fan community. For those not in the know, The Music.com
creates and distributes soundboard live recordings, or 'official bootlegs'
for lack of a better word, which are not available in retail stores or on
retail websites. To date, these recordings have been made for a
select group of popular artists, including: The Who, Duran Duran, Peter
Gabriel, and of course, Genesis.
These discs, which are called The Encore Series, are pressed on aluminum CDs
(not cheap CD-Rs) and accomplish two major positives for rock bands: they
put quality soundboard recordings in the hands of the true fans who would
like the recording from the shows that they attended (or shows that they
could not attend) and it single handedly destroys the bootleg market for
that tour, which puts inferior quality recordings out on the market for
illegal sale (not to mention ensuring that artists receive some royalties
for the sale of these recordings).
Also, of note, collectors can buy soundboard recordings individually or they
can buy them as a complete set. There are even limited edition, numbered
packages in miniature metal road cases, complete with an autographed card and
miniature tour booklet for the completist fan who must have the ultimate
package by their favorite band or artist (we all know who we are, now don't
In September 2007, I had an opportunity to chat with Michael Hobson, founder
of The Music.com, to talk about the Encore Series, the origins of this
unique service, the recording of Peter Gabriel's 2003, 2004 and 2007 tours
as well as the 2007 Genesis Turn It On Again reunion tour, and about how
acts like Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins all came to express
interest in this innovative program.
World of Genesis: What is your
background and how did you get into this business?
Michael Hobson: I founded Classic
Records in 1994 to reissue famous Classical, Jazz and Rock LP’s for the
audiophile community. Now in its fourteenth year, Classic Records remains
the worldwide market leader for high quality audiophile LP’s. In 1998, I
founded TheMusic.com which, in addition to selling a wide range of audio
equipment and related music software (CD’s/DVD’s and LP’s), includes the now
famous Encore Series of Official Bootleg Recordings.
WOG: How did TheMusic.com first go from
concept to reality? Was the Encore Series part of that initial concept?
Collins mentioned that he had wanted to do an Encore Series type of project
for his 2004 world tour, but it never happened. Did you discuss that with
Phil at the time? Why didn’t it come to pass?
I know Phil mentioned that it
would not have been possible in America due to his label, Atlantic. Was this
also an issue in Europe?
MH: I can
confirm that Phil and Tony Smith, his Manager, were completely on board with
an Encore Series for Phil’s last tour. It was ultimately, and sadly,
blocked by Atlantic Records.
WOG: Has Peter Gabriel discussed doing
another Encore Series for his next tour?
I know he’s got an album
tentatively scheduled for a 2008 release. Does he plan that far ahead?
seems to have become a part of the Gabriel touring plans given that we have
now done the last three tours and the fans love it. I have no specific
information about PG’s plans for 2008 with regard to touring.
WOG: To the
best of your knowledge, was Peter Gabriel’s 2007 Warm Up Tour truly a warm
up for other shows or was it a warm up for a bigger tour next year?
MH: I asked
Peter that very question at breakfast the morning after the first show. His
response was “We’ll see.” I suggested to PG that the shows he played this
past summer in Europe would be well received in the States so who knows what
the Warm up was for – only time will tell.
MH: TheMusic.com was originally
conceived as a site used to identify new talent through the a process of
fans downloading tracks, listening and then voting “Hit” or “Miss”. If a
high enough percentage of listeners voted a song a “Hit” then the
artist/group would have the opportunity to record the song professionally in
Hollywood. The “Hit” would then be promoted to create buzz and further
artist development to help launch new talent. We unsuccessfully sought
Venture Capital funding, like many other startups of the pre bubble burst
After the tech bubble burst, we refocused the site as a music
related ecommerce site with two “shops” – the “Gear Shop” and “The Groove
Shop”. The “Encore Shop” was created to host the first Who Encore Series in
2002. We owe the current Encore Series viability to the courage of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry.
I can confirm that Phil and Tony Smith, his Manager, were completely on
board with an Encore Series for Phil’s last tour. It was ultimately, and
sadly, blocked by Atlantic Records.
Genesis 2007 North
American Encore Series Limited Edition Road Case
WOG: Why does it seem that it’s easier
to get permission to record these shows in Europe and release them than it
is in the United States? Is that a misperception or is there just less ‘red
Unions, Unions are the biggest issues in the States. Union rules and
compensation for “allowing” an event to be recorded often bear no connection
with the sales potential. Venues can also be an issue although less so.
Europe is and has always been more favorable for Live recording.
many copies does a particular Encore Series need to sell in order to be
considered successful? Were
there any that did not meet your or the band’s expectations in terms of
across shows vary greatly for reasons we don’t completely understand but
generally we are happy with sales of 500 units per show which sometimes
happens and sometimes doesn’t.
WOG: How did you go about marketing the
idea of the Encore Series to the artists themselves? How was the idea
initially perceived by the likes of those who first tried your service (like
The Who, Duran Duran, and Peter Gabriel)?
MH: To market the Encore concept to
artists we typically approach management or the record company that the
artist is under contract to with a proposal. Often a face to face meeting
follows with a presentation on how Encore works. The Who were bullish on
the idea from the start as were Phil Collins and Genesis. Peter Gabriel was
at first reticent but came around after we had success with The Who and
because of his forward thinking and fan friendliness.
WOG: What impact, if any, do you feel
that the Encore Series has had on eliminating the bootleg industry for the
tours that you have covered? Is that a major selling point for most artists?
is the most effective way a band can combat illegal bootlegs. When an
Encore Series “official bootleg” professionally recorded, mastered and
pressed is available for a show why would anyone want something made from a
guy with a cheesy microphone taped to his head.
I don’t want the bootleg
recorders who record shows for their own use and not to exploit commercially
to be offended here so suffice it to say that our objective is to provide
fans with an official bootleg version of the show that the band supports and
is compensated for.
there any artists that considered your service but for whatever reason it
just didn’t work out?
has been the general feedback from fans about the Encore Series? How about
from the artists?
love Encore! Artists who care about fans love Encore as well. Bootleggers,
who attempt to illegally profit off inferior unprofessionally recorded live
I know that the discs
are taken direct from the soundboard, but has there ever been a time when a
band wanted to fix a show due to technical difficulties on a given night
(take an excerpt from a different night’s guitar solo, play with the EQ for
better balance, etc.)?
99.5% of all shows are as they were performed with no overdubs, no remixing
and no pieces from other shows used. For the most part these are direct to
stereo board mixes leaving little to do to in terms of repair work which is
exactly why it takes courage and touring experience on the part of a band to
even consider an Encore Series.
you present at the recordings of all of these shows? If so, what is it like
traveling from venue to venue with the band? Do you have much contact with
them during the tour?
typically am at the first few shows on a tour to make sure things run
smoothly and to build or rekindle relationships with key personnel such as
the tour manager, front of house engineer and management. The folks on the
tour are consummate professionals, and I would soon be sitting around in the
way if I went to too many shows. During the tour we are in constant contact
getting tapes delivered and approvals on artwork etc.
MH: Many and Most. A partial list
The Rolling Stones, Santana, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob
Dylan. I have pitched dozens of world class artists with a higher level of
success than all of our competitors but still with a relatively low success
rate overall. As I said, [doing] Encore takes courage and is not for everyone
– even though as fans we would like it to be.
is the advantage of using TheMusic.com to artists like the ones above as
opposed to doing it themselves independently?
makes almost no sense for an artist to do Encore themselves because of the
overhead involved. For one, you must have experience with internet sales,
making physical product, customer service and shipping. Most artists have
enough to do organizing the tour and performing. Further, aggregation makes
sense in that we can do two or three series simultaneously which makes more
sense in terms of overhead – personnel.
WOG: Are there
certain types of artists that would be more successful doing something like
the Encore Series than others? What criteria do you use when marketing your
services to different artists?
really requires two things. First the artist has to have a relatively large
and fervent fan base, and they have to play venues that are big enough to
support Encore. In other words, you need a certain number of people to buy a
copy of the show they attended to make the numbers work. That said, you can
have a show or two on a tour at a smaller venue/club which becomes desirable
to the large fan base – say if the Rolling Stones played the Roxy in LA for
WOG: I see
that for The Who, you are also doing DVDs of every night of their tour. Was
that ever considered for other bands like Peter Gabriel or Genesis?
MH: The Who
are innovators and decided to do DVD on the 2006/ 2007 Encore Series after
finding bootleg DVD’s in Japan two weeks after a US show during the 2004
tour. Also, DVD’s were possible because of the type of show The Who
performed on this tour in that they used a number of cameras that allowed
for us to capture the edited video feed that was projected onto the
screens. Without the cameras and screens video would not have made sense.
We have pitched it to other bands that have declined thus far for the most
part because of the desire to make a live DVD for one of the shows on the
tour for retail via their record label.
WOG: Do you
foresee a point when these sort of Encore discs will be available in
5.1 surround? That would certainly open up the market to audiophiles as well
as collectors of the group.
DVD’s we did for The Who 2006/2007 Encore Series included 5.1 surround. In
terms of an audio only surround release, I suspect that we would not pursue
that format – it makes the most sense commercially in the video context.
noticed at the Twickenham Genesis show outside of London that Brian May from
Queen and one of the guys from Pink Floyd was taking shelter under the sound
tent from the rain.
Is that a surreal experience to be working by the board
and suddenly have these celebrities walk in? Does that sort of thing happen
MH: On a
tour you run into celebrities constantly. Not being especially star struck,
I am usually not too bothered by it all and tend just to do what I am there
to do – make Encore run smoothly and successfully.
did the idea of the limited edition mini road cases come about?
MH: This is
one of our innovations to the official bootleg concept. As a collector, I
reckoned that there was a group of like minded fans of the band that might
want all the shows in a numbered collector’s edition.
Add the signature
card and you have a perfect ultra fan / collector’s product and the birth of
The Encore Series Deluxe Roadcase Edition.
fans tend to buy the complete sets rather than individual shows? Of those
who buy the full run of Encore Series discs from a particular tour, what
percentage of them buy the metal road case over the less expensive cardboard
fans just buy the show they attended. The tour cases usually sell out and
the collector’s editions vary in terms of the number sold.
metal road cases are incredibly cool and very well made. How do you
determine how many road cases a particular artist will get? I noticed that
the numbers have varied slightly.
number of Road Cases offered usually is determined by the size of the tour
(number of shows and venue size) as well as the size of the fan base.
Another factor is the number of times a band has been out on tour in the
recent past and how different the set list varies over the tour.
been said that Genesis are releasing a live album at the end of
the 2007 tour. Is that a good thing or a bad thing for the Genesis Encore
Series? Or, is an official live album, in your opinion, catering to a
totally different audience than the Encore Series does?
official live album or DVD at retail has virtually no impact on Encore and
vice versa. Encore is for the concert fan that wants to remember the show
they attended to relive the experience. An official release is generally
for a wider audience of fans who are less likely to have attended a show.
The two products can live separate lives and minimally be complementary.
Genesis Live in
Philadelphia 2007 - Part of the New Encore Series
WOG: Where there
any added challenges in recording any of the outdoor shows on the 2004 or
2007 Peter Gabriel or the 2007 Genesis shows being that they were in an
outdoor setting – often times with poor weather conditions?
recording is always somewhat challenging in that you don’t have walls to
support the concert hall sound. One the other hand, a great mixer like Ben
Findlay can adjust to recording/mixing outdoors to make recordings that are
fantastic – some of my personal favorites!
the fact that Genesis did not change up the set list on the European leg of
the tour hurt their sales at all as opposed to the 2007 Gabriel tour where
there are quiet a few different set lists to choose from?
I would think that
Gabriel’s constantly evolving set list is really the formula to a better
selling Encore Series, because it gives an added incentive to owning the
whole run. How well have the current Genesis and Gabriel Encore Series
MH: Changing the set list affects the
number of multiple shows purchased by fans but doesn’t have much effect on
single show sales which are driven by the number of people attending and
awareness that an Encore disc is available for the show they attended. In
general, variable set lists do have a beneficial effect on overall sales
across a series.
WOG: Do you
tend to recommend that an artist doing these sorts of Encore Series projects
makes an effort to mix up the set list a bit?
MH: Yes, we
suggest that variable set lists are desirable but that is purely an artist /
management decision based on the type and scale of show being performed
WOG: Are there
particular Encore Series shows by Peter Gabriel or Genesis that, in your
opinion, stand out as being more exceptional than the rest?
MH: I love
all the shows in that they are all unique even though the set list may not
WOG: Do you have
a favorite moment from recording these shows?
MH: My favorite shows are the ones that I was in the best
mind set for which had little to do with the performance since these
superstar artists always deliver a high level of performance. Usually the
first shows have a certain excitement and tension and the later shows
more refined as the band falls into the groove completely.
WOG: Why was there
such a delay with announcing the Encore Series for the North American leg of
the Genesis tour this fall?
Genesis North American Encore Series was on and then off on now on again
mainly the result of control issues which I will not comment on other than
to say that I laud Atlantic Records for its decision to allow a Genesis
Encore Series for the North American tour.
The Music.Com's Mike Hobson
there ever been any acts that were so critical of a particular show that
they did not want it released as part of the Encore Series?
was a Duran Duran show that we refused to release regardless of what the
band wanted to do. Simon LeBon had quite a tough night vocally at one of the Hard
Rock shows in Las Vegas near the end of their warm up tour and it did not
Genesis fans have mentioned that they wished the Live Earth performance had
made the Encore Series. Was this omitted due to the shortness of the
performance of because of legal issues around the release of any
performances from that benefit show?
shortness of the performance was the main issue although there may have been
others if we had pursued it. The Manchester show later that same day was
Collins has mentioned in interviews that he used to listen to the board
tapes and make constructive suggestions to band mates based upon the prior
night’s gig. Are you aware if that is something he still does?
believe Phil and Mike have listened to Encore recordings, but I am not aware
whether it was to make adjustments to the show or not.
other artists are you working with in the future as part of the Encore
MH: We will
continue to pitch Encore to artists for which it makes sense. We have no
specific plans beyond Genesis in North America so we’ll have to see what
WOG: If you
could do an Encore Series for any living artist, who would you choose?
Zeppelin if they reformed for a tour.
WOG: Do you
see expanding the Encore Series into other genres like Jazz or Country
MH: We have
pitched country artists but without any success as yet – I’d probably have
to move to Nashville to make a country Encore series happen. Jazz would be
interesting for say Norah Jones if you consider her style jazz.
GENESIS 2007 band photo with (Left to Right): Chester Thompson,
Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Daryl Stuermer
Special thanks to Mike Hobson and The Music.com for granting this
interview is © 2007 David Negrin and may not be reproduced in whole
or in part without permission. For more on The Music.com or the Genesis or
Peter Gabriel Encore Series, please visit