An Interview With NYC Taper: New York’s Live Music Archivist

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LOWER MANHATTAN: We meet Dan Lynch aka NYC Taper downtown near City Hall at lunchtime. This is Dan Lynch by day — a criminal defense and civil rights attorney with offices near the city courthouses. By night, his scenery changes a bit. The very next night, for example, he’ll be recording MGMT at Radio City Music Hall.

Dan Lynch aka NYC Taper at Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg

On the scene since ’07, NYC Taper is a beloved resource amongst indie rock bloggers like Brooklyn Vegan, Large Hearted Boy and Pitchfork and music fans worldwide. The intrepid recordist, Lynch and his four-track recorder and mic array capture an estimated 150 shows a year, capturing some of the best (mostly indie-rock) shows going down in our fair city. Through his website — http://www.nyctaper.com — he then provides show reviews, streaming recorded highlights and the entire concert as a free download.

Did you hear that Spoon played Cake Shop in the middle of the day this week? NYC Taper was there. Did you, like us, regretfully miss the Rocks Off Concert Cruise with Built To Spill a couple weeks back? Worry not, NYC Taper was on board. And when you just can’t swing a super-late-weeknight at Monster Island Basement, tune into NYC Taper — he may have you covered.

A sampling of NYC Taper’s summer ’10 recordings include Deerhunter and Real Estate at Pier 54, Franz Nicolay in Backyard Brunch Sessions, The National at Terminal Five, Flaming Lips at Central Park Summerstage and Holly Miranda at Vivo in Vino.

When Lynch or one of his three contributing tapers post the recordings, mixed in their respective home studios, they include the full recording details, i.e. Built To Spill on Rocks Off Concert Cruise: “This set was recorded with the Neumann microphones pointed at the stacks from about twenty feet, and mixed with feed from the soundboard. Soundboard + Neumann KM-150s > Edirol R-44 (Oade Concert Mod) > 2x 24bit 48kHz wav files > Sound Forge (level adjustments, mixdown, set fades) > CDWave 1.95 (tracking) > Flac Frontend (level 7, align sector boundaries) > flac.”

Stream “Carry The Zero,” and we guarantee you’ll want the whole recording — it’s completely exhilarating. You feel like you’re there, getting swept away and out to sea, singing along with all the enraptured fans. And always chief among them is Lynch, who does this purely for the love of it — really, read all about it here:

Where did the concept for NYC Taper come from, and how long have you been recording live shows?

The site started in May of ’07. But, I’ve been recording concerts for a couple decades, though never with this regularity or at this quality. There are actually a few of my nineties recordings on the site. [i.e. Black ’47 @ Paddy Reilly’s in ’96]. I’ve also been collecting music since the late 70s and going to concerts in the city since I was a kid, growing up on Long Island.

Prior to starting the site, I’d been recording shows and posting them up on whatever Bit Torrent site, and it just seemed like there was nothing to it. And then one day someone took one of my recordings and posted it on their blog, without giving any credit. Plus, they’d down-sampled it to MP3 at a really crappy bit rate, and it sounded awful. And I just thought why don’t I do this? Why don’t I set up my own blog?

Tell us about how you got started…

For the first two or three months, I didn’t really have a vision for where it was going. It was just about putting up recordings and having that control over where and how they be posted. But then, about three weeks after I started the site, I recorded Dinosaur Jr. and that was big. And then Wilco at Hammerstein Ballroom and — wow — I was getting all these hits!

Those were both bands that allow fans to record their shows. But ultimately, I began reaching out to get permission to record bands and building my contacts there. And the big switch was when I started to realize that it’s not all that rewarding to record bands that everyone already knows. I love Wilco and I’ll go see them whenever they’re in NYC and record the show, and it gets big traffic for the site, but it’s more rewarding to find the band nobody really knows and help them get out there, and then see them playing bigger and bigger venues and feel like you had a part in that.

Awesome. And so it really took off. Why do you think it was the right time for something like this?

Setting up at Glasslands for the Prince Rama and Deakin show 9/13

Well, there are two different ways to record a concert. There’s what I do — actually getting the artist’s permission and recording with high-quality equipment to produce something everyone can be proud of. And then there’s the other subculture of fans bringing in their tiny recorders and tiny clip-on microphones and recording concerts. Some of those sound okay but most sound pretty thin.

This whole subculture has helped me in some ways because artists accept the concept that whenever they play out, people can’t really be stopped from recording the show. And if you can’t stop people from recording, then you — the artist — want to turn that into something you can control. They know I do good work, so it makes sense for them to give me the access and I’ll go in and do it right.

What criteria do you have when deciding which shows to record?

Well, I don’t go to see stuff I don’t like. NYC Taper is also a live music blog, giving people information, links and generally a good review — creating a buzz around music I think deserves it. In some cases, my recordings have given bands more exposure, which has led to more success. And that is my ultimate goal with this.

People reach out to me all the time now, and sometimes the bands are really good. So it’s definitely ballooned. There’s also a social element to it — I put on a CMJ show every year and an anniversary show every May. I’m not trying to be a concert promoter, but it’s just something I can do now because I have this vehicle to promote and all these artist and venue contacts.

Did you start out thinking about NYC Taper as something you might build into a business?

No, it’s not a business. I’m not making any money and I don’t want to make any money. I also don’t want to lose my shirt though. I’ve invested a lot of money into equipment, tickets and travel, etc. but occasionally people donate some money. I was able to pay for about half of the server fees last year with donations. I also get a lot of invites and get on a lot of guest lists.

And as far as the actual recording — how do you typically set up? Do you have different configurations or methods?

It depends on the venue. I generally like venues that are going to let me plug into the soundboard any way that I can. And then I’ve got the 4-track recorder so I’m going to put two high-end mics somewhere in a good spot in the room. I’ll get 4 channels, and then mix it down however it needs to be mixed down.

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  • Joe M

    great interview! Dan and NYCtaper crew rock!