It wasn’t too long ago that officially sanctioned concert recordings were a rarity, with most fans being forced to trade shoddily recorded bootlegs pulled from hand held recorders or sub par soundboards. Of course, both the quality and accessibility of live records has come a long way in just a few short years, and when the Palms Casino in Las Vegas opens the doors of its new concert theater the Pearl in March it won’t just be opening a mid-size live music venue in a city with no shortage of entertainment options, it will be putting the finishing touches on a fully fleshed-out system that could soon dominate the live concert recording landscape.
I was lucky enough to get a personal tour of the new facilities (which are still very much under construction) by casino gazillionaire and Vegas man-about-town George Maloof, owner of the Palms. Maloof gave me the inside word on just what he intends to do with the new venue, and why the next live record you buy could very well be recorded at his casino.
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The 2,500-capacity Pearl Theater (coincidentally, Maloof took a call on a BlackBerry Pearl phone during the tour) will be wired directly to the Palms’ recording in-house studio a few floors up, creating what will essentially be the first truly turnkey system for professional-quality live concert recordings.
The studio, which is loaded with state-of-the-art equipment (it’s one of only a handful of studios in the country that have switched over to Intel-based Macs, according to a Palms’ PR rep), has already attracted top-flight artists such as Timbaland, Lil John, Pink, and The Killers (they recorded their entire second album there.) The studio’s original purpose was to attract artists who would otherwise likely be recording in LA or New York. With the new theater, the goal is to also attract artists who are specifically looking to record a live album.
So just how big a deal is the seamless connection between the studio and the venue? Before, if an artist wanted to create a professional-quality concert recording, they’d have to haul in a remote truck filled with all the equipment. Because the studio is wired to the venue, live records should be easier and cheaper to produce than ever before. In other words, this is the first big-time live music venue that was designed with the recording of live concert albums in mind.
That would all be interesting enough, except that Maloof’s Palms just inked a three-year deal with iTunes, making them the exclusive provider of live concert recordings to the mega-e-retailer and including lots of clauses that throw Palms-recorded tracks and videos up on the iTunes home page (one of the first big releases will be an hour-long in-studio live video of John Legend that will get homepage status for two weeks, starting Feb. 10), essentially assuring that any live music recorded at the Palms has an instant and high-profile outlet.
“It’s a major deal for us,” Maloof told me. “We want to build up a whole catalog.”
The way I see it, this is the Palm’s vision: A touring artist stays in a suite in the hotel. At night, they take the elevator down to the concert venue, sell out the house and have the engineers next door in the recording studio lay down the show. The show is then uploaded to iTunes or turned into a concert CD or DVD. Everything is done under one roof, and with just a couple of button pushes.
“We’ve already been contacted by artists looking to record live albums,” Maloof said.