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Every music fan has a story about the concert that got away. Thanks to the internet, it’s possible for fans to get bootlegs of the shows they missed, but the recordings’ quality may leave something to be desired. After all, holding a microphone up in the middle of a noisy venue leads to a noisy recording. Still, those average quality (or worse) tapes are often the best fans have if they want to listen to a show without being there in the first place.

Lively, an app from a Seattle-based startup of the same name, is designed to offer fans a concert experience at home while supporting their favorite bands. Bands can plug an iPad with Lively’s Audio Manager app into the sound board at one of their shows, and then publish a recording to the service, which users can purchase.

The app is the brainchild of Seattle entrepreneur Dean Graziano, who also founded Visible Technologies.

In my experience, the recordings are excellent: vocals and instruments come through clearly, with a light hint of crowd noise to remind listeners that they are actually listening to a live performance. That sound quality sets Lively apart from the vast universe of bootlegs out on the wilds of the Internet: nobody needs to watch a shaky cell phone video or listen to members of the crowd talk about what they had for dinner.

Lively_App_Artist_20140411Because Lively is still relatively small, users shouldn’t expect to find the biggest acts available for purchase. It could be possible to pick up audio of the latest hot ticket in town some time in the future, but Lively is mostly playing host to smaller acts at the moment.

For right now, I’m actually perfectly happy with that. Lively has become an excellent tool for me to discover indie acts that I never would have heard of otherwise. I’m sure I’ll jump at the chance to get recordings from more popular artists when they’re available, but for right now, Lively is an excellent way for people to broaden their musical horizons.

People who aren’t interested in music can find a small handful of live comedy recordings, as well as some recorded talks from events like the Life is Beautiful Festival and ARA Seattle’s Women in Tech Forum.

Another excellent feature of the current platform is that many of the recordings are available for free. I’m sure the millions of dollars in funding Lively has brought in might have something to do with it, but it’s nice to be able to try out so many bands for free.

While Lively is a great experience, for the most part, its handling of files leaves a lot to be desired. Users get the worst of all possible worlds: in order to listen to a song, users have to download it from Lively’s servers, and eat up space on their device. However, they can’t transfer those songs into their iTunes library or anywhere outside the Lively app.

I’m totally fine with my music getting locked into a particular company’s ecosystem – after all, I listen to most of my music with a streaming subscription from Rdio – but I’d much rather have an option to stream the songs from Lively rather than eat up space on my iPhone with all the tracks I might want to listen to.

In a similar vein, the app doesn’t offer previews for what a show might sound like. That’s fine for people who have already seen the act in question, but I like to know what I’m getting myself into before dropping $10 on a show.

Still, Lively is one of the best ways I’ve found to pick up new live performances. It’s clear that the company has built a solid platform that could grow to host a plethora of top talent as well as emerging acts.

Lively is available for free from the iOS App Store, Google Play Store and Windows Phone Store.

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