Wolfgang's Vault, which offers high-quality digital recordings of rock concerts, has been trickling out updates since I wrote about its new iPhone app last month. On Tuesday, the site will begin to offer a new optional membership model where $48 a year gets you $50 worth of merchandise, plus discounted downloads and other benefits.
Wolfgang's Vault offers free streams, and downloads that cost up to $12, of professionally recorded concerts, in various formats up to and including lossless FLAC files. The Vault got its start by buying the recorded archives from San Francisco concert promotion company Bill Graham Presents, and added to that with the King Biscuit Flower Hour, a live concert radio show popular in the 1970s and '80s. That means the vault is pretty heavy on music from the classic rock era. However, the same company also owns Daytrotter, which invites touring bands into a studio in Illinois to record a session, which adds nearly 800 sessions from modern, mostly independent acts to the archive.
Starting last week, the company began releasing hundreds of new recordings under a promotion called Cracking the Vault. It expects to add more than 1,000 new concerts over the next three months, including 150 shows by the Grateful Dead that have never been officially released. (Although, knowing the Dead, bootlegs probably exist.)
The new membership model allows true fans of the site to show their colors and become WVIPs. It's strictly optional--this isn't a new subscription service, but more of a fan club. An annual fee of $48 nets you $50 in merchandise (including posters, T-shirts, and other memorabilia) from the Vault Store, plus 10 percent off on all merchandise (you can take the 10 percent before you reach $50), 30 percent off on all downloads, unlimited streaming access from the iPhone app (non-members are limited to 10 hours a month), special offers, and exclusive download packages. Perhaps most interesting: if you're ever in San Francisco, you can arrange a tour of Wolfgang's Vault headquarters, which the company claims contains the world's largest collection of concert memorabilia.