By Ken Sharp
Twelve years ago, Wolfgang’s Vault was born. A musical wayback web portal guaranteed to impress music fans of all tastes and sensibilities, the company houses one of the most impressive collections of vintage music memorabilia numbering original concert posters, vintage tickets, handbills and more. Via the Concert Vault website, they offer access via a subscription to a huge archive of historic audio and video recordings capturing legendary performances from the likes of Bruce Springsteen to The Who, AC/DC to The Band, Hall & Oates to KISS, Rockpile to Aerosmith, Squeeze to Eddie Money. With the click of a mouse, those who subscribe have prime access to a virtual history of rock and roll spanning rock, blues, jazz, country, folk, bluegrass and indie rock. Navigating the site myself, if I wasn’t careful, I could easily find myself perpetually engaged 24/7 with the array of thousands of rare live shows and video performances on display.
Goldmine spoke with Grant Feichtmeir, the company’s director of eCommerce Operations, for a peek behind the curtain (see for yourself and check out what they have to offer by dialing up their two sites: wolfgangsvault.com and www.concertvault.com).
GOLDMINE: For the uninitiated, how would you describe Wolfgang’s Vault?
Grant Feichtmeir: Wolfgang’s Vault is the largest collection of music merchandise in the world available for purchase by the public. Originating from the Bill Graham Presents archives, which promoted shows at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland Ballroom, New York’s Fillmore East and hundreds of other venues, Wolfgang’s Vault has grown with the acquisitions of dozens of collections, archives and estates to round out its offerings. Most recently, Wolfgang’s Vault has launched a program to let third parties who own music merchandise to sell on Wolfgang’s Vault’s site.
GM: From your perspective, what’s the lure for music fans to become a subscriber to Concert Vault? What are the benefits?
GF: The recordings available on Concert Vault are the master recordings, of which 99 percent cannot be found anywhere else. A membership provides unlimited streaming capabilities to over 12,000 live and unreleased concerts with more added daily; two free concert downloads each week; over 2,000 downloads at $5 maximum each; and store credit to Wolfgang’s Vault for the cost of the membership, so it pays for itself.
GM: In terms of audio/video content (Concert Vault), share the kinds of artists and historic shows that are part of your archive.
GF: A few off the top of my head and so many more I’m forgetting:
• The Last Waltz – full concert, no edits
• Sex Pistols last show at Winterland 1978 (audio and video)
• The Who plays “Tommy” in its entirety for the last time in 1970 at Tanglewood (audio and video)
• The Who pulls a drummer out of the crowd after Keith Moon passes out on horse tranquilizers (audio and video)
• Bruce Springsteen at Max’s Kansas City in 1973 — weeks after first album (audio)
• Ron Wood joins Bob Marley onstage in 1979 (audio and video)
• 1955 Newport Jazz Festival (audio).
GM: Can you estimate how many live shows are part of your collection?
GF: Over 12,000 live concerts, and we’re adding more daily.
GM: What is the source for much of this archival material, Bill Graham’s collection?
GF: For the audio and video recordings, it started with the Bill Graham Archive, but we have also acquired King Biscuit Flower Hour archive, Record Plant Recording Studio Archive, Alan Bershaw Archives, Dawson Sound Archive, Ash Grove Archive, Newport Festivals Archives and a number newer recordings at SXSW, Noise Pop Festival and more.
GM: As a music fan, what live show do you repeatedly dial up on the site?
GF: I listen or watch a number of the shows listed earlier on a regular basis. Some of my favorites include:
• The Who at Tanglewood 1970 — they’re all dialed-in and watching Keith Moon is mind blowing.
• Ron Wood jamming with Bob Marley 1979 — I can’t get enough of our Bob Marley footage
• The Sex Pistols’ last show 1978 — for the historic value
• The Rolling Stones Hampton Coliseum 1981 — Keith Richards takes a swing with his guitar at a fan who runs onto the stage.
• Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Day on the Green” 1977
• Dawes playing in a barn 2009 on the Daytrotter Barnstormer tour
• The Lumineers 2012 SXSW
GM: While much of the audio resources are for streaming only, there are downloads available for select artists. Is this simply a case of licensing and brokering the deals with artists?
GF: Although we own the master recordings to over 12,000, we have either brokered or purchased the downloading rights to over 2,000 live concerts.
GM: The vast array and range of various genres represented on the site in regards to audio or video is mind blowing. How much material in your archives has yet to be transferred?
GF: We don’t like to release how much is still yet to be transferred, but we’ll be releasing new material for years to come.
GM: What have been some recent discoveries in terms of audio and video shows you can tell us about?
GF: It’s tough to select a few. The Ash Grove and Newport Folk & Jazz Festival recordings have been eye-opening. The clarity of the live recordings from the late 1950s and early 1960s was so well done – and so well maintained over the years.
GM: Is Concert Vault and Wolfgang’s Vault continuing on a quest for acquisition of audio and video material? Fill us in on the latest.
GF: We’re always looking to acquire more, always. Concert Vault with new audio and video; and Wolfgang’s Vault with new merchandise. It’s a never-ending search for more.
GM: In November 2014, you added a new feature enabling third parties to sell their collectibles through Wolfgang’s Vault.
GF: Yes. Since November, we have allowed third parties to sell their private music collections on our site. We are already selling thousands of third-party items and we get more every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s new or old, mint condition or vintage, Wolfgang’s Vault does the research, storage, shipping, customer service and accounting for the seller. They can basically sit back and receive payments by selling on our site.
GM: In terms of long-range plans, five years from now, how would you like the Wolfgang’s Vault brand to evolve?
GF: We feel that Wolfgang’s Vault can evolve into the biggest entertainment merchandiser in the world. We already have the largest selection of original music memorabilia; we’re currently at over 26,000 different items on the site. But we’d like to greatly expand our offerings into new product verticals outside of just the music genre. Expanding Concert Vault’s catalog is also a priority in the future. As Concert Vault acquires more historic recordings, records new performers and continues to offer a wider spectrum of music, it will set itself a part from the other streaming music sites who tend to focus on whether they can stream the next Taylor Swift single.