by Pat Prince
In 2009, Butch Trucks, the drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, launched a multimedia website named Moogis (pronounced MOO-ghis) to coincide with the band’s 40th Anniversary Beacon Theatre run in New York City. Moogis (“moogis” was what his infant son said when he wanted “music”) instantly became a place where fans of the band enjoyed streamed and archived webcast concerts from the comfort of their padded computer chair. For a flat subscription fee of $125 dollars, fans had access to other exclusive content (both video and audio) dating back to 2000 and a social network of the jam band genre.
After a well-publicized scheduling dispute with the Beacon Theatre, ABB decided to take their annual New York City residency somewhere else this year. In March the band streamed 13 shows at the new venue, United Palace Theatre on the upper west-side of Manhattan.
After the Allman Brothers Band wrapped up their New York City run last month, Goldmine caught up with Butch Trucks to discuss what a music site like Moogis means to the future of the band and its genre.
With Moogis’ plans of recording, organizing and archiving all this musical footage, you’re becoming a historical librarian of sorts.
Butch Trucks: And, so far, what you are seeing is nothing but the very early stages of what I have planned. This is like beta testing. I came up with this idea five years ago but the technology did not exist to do what I wanted to do. What I’m after is the next paradigm for the music industry. What I’m going to do is wire five or six of the best jam band clubs around the country. We have plans to put together the next phase of Moogis which is going to expand to cover the whole jam band scene. If you’re a jam band music fan, what I want to do is provide the place to go.
We’ll also have a mobile unit that we’ll take around to the larger venues to get people like Gov’t Mule, Dave Matthews and people like that, that don’t play these little clubs. So two or three times a month, you’ll get the larger bands, too.
Moogis will probably change into a monthly subscription thing. It has to be concept of a subscription service. We don’t want to try to sell commercials. In fact, I think the new paradigm has to get away from that.
A monthly subscription service may be the way to go. There have been complaints about the current $125 dollar fee being too steep, and some people won’t pay that.
Butch Trucks: And a lot of people won’t. What we found out last year is that a lot of people in the industry were blown away because we were the first site to actually get people to pay $125 dollars. I mean, we didn’t blow the walls down, but we definitely opened the door.
Are you going to develop Moogis into more of an online social community?
Butch Trucks: Absolutely, I think that is critical. If you’re on the internet at all, you know that’s where the communities of today are being born. When I was a kid, you came home from school, you ran down the street, you found whoever lived in the neighborhood, and you started a ballgame. Now kids come home from school, they go online, and there are all these communities that have sprung up. What I’m hearing now is that the average kid is spending like 60 hours a week online. Maybe it’s not healthy, but it’s the reality. And I’m hearing that they’re getting bored with Facebook. My feeling is: let’s get something with a little more content, and a site like Moogis where you’ll be able to see a live concert every single night, and once we play the concert we archive every one of those concerts . We’ll also have videos where we interview bands. We’ll have chat rooms where people can chat about their favorite bands and argue with each other about ‘why my band is better than yours.’
Will Moogis offer downloads of archived shows?
Butch Trucks: I don’t know. One of the unique aspects of the Moogis model is that we won’t own these shows. All we are going to get from all of these bands is a limited license to webcast these shows, streaming video on our website. The bands own the product. So, once we finish a show, the band can sell downloads, or make DVDs and CDs out of them. Every single show that we do, (bands) can remix the show, re-edit it, fix it up the way they want. I would tend to think that we could offer a place where bands can sell their downloads. And here we would do it for whatever it costs us, not in a way to make profit. The Moogis model is to make money off subscriptions. We sink or swim off of that.
What I want to do is build a website where bands won’t get screwed, like we’ve been screwed for forty years now. Where bands can get the national exposure they need, and get the distribution they want, without getting screwed.
What is your opinion of the website Wolfgang’s Vault?
Butch Trucks: I think we have some very serious problems with Wolfgang’s Vault. Because Wolfgang’s Vault is taking a lot of our stuff and they’re selling it without getting licenses. They own all the tapes and everything — we have no question about that — but they don’t have the right to commercialize those tapes without getting licenses from us. The bottom line is, if you’re gonna take a band’s product and sell it, you gotta cut them in on the proceeds.
How did the Moogis webcast from the United Palace come out?
Butch Trucks: Wonderful. Because of the way the United Palace is laid out we had to use some very unique camera angles which made for a very different way of looking at a show.
So you were pleased with this year’s New York City residency at the United Palace?
Butch Trucks: The shows were phenomenal. Every night the band found new places we’ve never been before. It was kind of a laid-back audience, especially toward the beginning. Toward the end, it kind of picked up a little bit, but it definitely wasn’t that let-it-all-hang-out audience of the Beacon. And I guess, probably, what was most disappointing is: we do the Beacon, we sell 40 thousand tickets. We do the United Palace, we sold twenty thousand. But, all in all, given the circumstances, and given what the Beacon pulled on us, it went exceptionally well. It would have been nice to have played more shows, but it wasn’t in the cards. We had a really good time. And the bottom line is that we had a really good time. As long as we do that, that’s really what’s important.
Are you still upset at the Beacon?
Butch Trucks: A little bit. The guys at the United Palace had been after us for the last two or three years. We have been actually taking less money to play and stay at the Beacon. We’ve stuck with the Beacon. And last year, especially. They completely redid the inside and we were there for the grand opening and made a big deal out of it for our 40th Anniversary.
It’s strange, because last year the COO of MSG Entertainment, the company that owns the Beacon, told The New York Times that the band was “a mainstay, a staple of the Beacon and everything it stands for.”
Butch Trucks: Well, we have been. And I kinda hate it because we were at 188 sellouts in a row. This year we would have gone over 200. But I’m not sure we even want to go back to the Beacon.
Didn’t you say after last year’s residency that things might be winding down for you?
Butch Trucks: Oh c’mon, man, I’m 62 years old!
But it seems like you’ve got your second wind now.
Butch Trucks: I’m having more fun now playing than I ever had before in my life. But I’m still 62 years old. I’m not ready to quit now, but I am realistic enough. I’m kinda surprised that at 62 I can still play with the intensity and the power and still have as much fun as I do now. But I’m not really expecting to do that at 70 or 75. And I’m a helluva lot closer to 70 than I am 20. So yeah, I’ll have to say it’s winding down. Exactly what that means, we’re just taking a day at a time now. Or a show at a time.
At least, with things like Moogis, and the continuation of the band’s annual residencies, the Allman Brothers can end things more gracefully, on a higher note. Watching The Who perform at the Super Bowl this year … I didn’t think it was their finest moment.
Butch Trucks: I’m afraid I’ve seen enough of those kind of bands … like every time I see the Stones, I just cringe. I mean, The Stones could never really play but what they did was legitimate. It was valid. But it was valid because they were young, in-your-face, up-the-establishment, you know. Now the sonofabitch (Jagger) is a knight of the realm. He’s 70 years old and he’s still up there, in-your-face … to me, it’s the epitome of self-parody. Now, on the other hand, I think someone like John Coltrane or Miles Davis can play as long as they can get on the stage and have enough energy to really put something into it. That’s not young, in-your-face. The only thing that made The Rolling Stones valid was that. Once they weren’t young anymore, they became silly. That kind of rock and roll, it reaches a point where you should stop. You need to take a look in the mirror, you know.
And playing the Super Bowl … it’s a good thing not many bands do it.
Butch Trucks: Well, if there’s one thing I’m sure of it’s that The Allman Brothers will never play the Super Bowl.
I think your fans will be happy about that.
Butch Trucks: Back when Saturday Night Live was just getting started, we were the number one band in the country. We were selling out Madison Square Garden four nights in a row and all that kind of stuff, and Belushi and Aykroyd were really good friends. Every time we came to New York, they came to the shows and we would wind up watching the sun come up, doing the wrong things in bad places, and they kept on this “You need to do Saturday Night Live!’ That was the hottest show going and we were the hottest band around, but we said ‘How long can we play?’ and they said ‘We’ll give you a couple three minute spots.’ We said, ‘We don’t know a three minute song.’ They kept it up and kept it up, but we never did do it, because we just can’t do that. So, I think it’s the same for the Super Bowl. We just don’t fit.
What is the most cherished item you have of the band’s history?
Butch Trucks: This Rock and Roll Hall of Fame statuette’s kinda cool [inducted in 1995]. I got this Grammy sitting here but … I think we would be one of the best examples of why the Grammys are total bullshit. In the ’70s, you have to give it to us, we did something new and original. We added something to the rock and roll canon. We did it differently than anybody had ever done it before us. We took the blues, rhythm and blues and all that, and we took John Coltrane and Miles Davis, and we added them all together. And we were the bridge to fusion. I mean, it was from us that Mahavishnu (Orchestra) and bands like that came. That’s where we sit in musical history. So, we are an original band. Not only that, but in the ’70s we were incredibly popular. Between ’73 and ’75, we were the number one band in this country. We drew more people to concerts than any other band. We sold more records than any other band. Do you know how many Grammys we got back then? Do you know how many nominations we got? We got one nomination. One nomination in all of those years. You know what it was for? Best cover art for Eat a Peach. We didn’t get a single nomination back then for anything to do with music. This one Grammy we have, we won for a twenty-five year old song. I think it was just a ‘throw em a bone.’ for “Jessica” [Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance]. I mean, how silly is that?!
End note: Next, the Allman Brothers Band will be playing the Wanee Festival in Florida, April 16-17, then capping off their touring with a performance at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Sunday, April 25th, and a June 26 appearance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival.