If you’ve ever wondered where to find the best collection of online live music, it’s probably a choice between Archive.org for quantity and Wolfgang’s Vault for quality.

Today’s news was the second best piece of email I’ve received this week, and the second best piece I’ve received in a long, long time: Wolfgang’s App, from Wolfgang’s Vault, is streaming its entire musical library, it’s entire, incredible, canonical library of live classic rock, blues, country, folk, jazz, soul, jam band…all of it, for free on its mobile app. From Bowie to Buffett, Hendrix & John Lee Hooker to early Pearl Jam, with stops with Dylan, Alan Jackson, all of it. It’s probably the largest single collection this side of Spotify, and perhaps bigger – if compared artist-to-artist. If Bill Graham – Wolfgang himself – or his team put on the show, it’s probably streaming on this app, and if you only listen to your favs via their discography, then you probably haven’t heard these shows before.

Who is Bill “Wolfgang” Graham?

“Wolfgang” is the nickname of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham. He got his start in the late 1960s in San Francisco, promoting the local acts such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin…and snowballed it into an incredible career working with the biggest acts of the 20th century, too numerous to mention in this article. Here, check it out on Wikipedia.

What is Wolfgang’s Music App?

wolfgang's music app logo - by wolfgang's vault

Wolfgang’s vault is named after Bill Graham’s collection. A huge warehouse holding Bill Graham’s tapes and memorabilia was sold off to Minnesota businessman William E. Sagan, who went into the business of digitizing the tape collection and selling the digital audio copies of the show, along with memorabilia, on his site WolfgangsVault.com., now Wolfgangs.com.

Difference between Wolfgang’s Vault and Concert Vault:

There is a sister site, ConcertVault.com, where you can listen to Wolfgang’s collection along with other collections gathered over the years. If you get a membership, it works in both places. Here’s where it gets confusing:

Where to listen to Bill “Wolfgang” Graham’s collection:

  • Desktop: ConcertVault.com, with the membership.
  • Mobile / Tablet website: ConcertVault.com, with the membership.
  • Mobile App: Wolfgang’s Music, streaming for free.

What you can do for free on the app:

I’ll admit, the App is a bit of a piece of shit, at least on Android, but it’s free and you can hear music, so there’s that. Here’s some more I sorted out while playing with it on my Google Pixel:

  • You can stream the music for free on the mobile app
  • You can save your favorites and play them back later
  • You can play it in the background while working in other apps
  • You can create playlists
  • You can create a queue of music to stream
  • You can navigate between pages and keep listening
  • You have basic player controls, but you have to press on the track length line to try and go back within a song. Not very precise, but it can be done
  • You can Chromecast stream it, but you have to do it through the Google Home app and cast your device’s screen & audio.

What you can’t do for free on the app:

  • You can’t download music to the app
  • You can’t play it offline
  • You can’t go back the album or artist you’re listening to. You have to go to the Queue to see what’s next or navigate the long-way around via the “Recently Played” by way of the “Favorites.” That’s the quickest way I found back to the album. Then, it doesn’t show you on the album which track is being played. Sounds menial, but when you’re quick browsing to see where you’re at on the album, this is huge. Grrr.
  • You can’t click on the articles or anything in the “Browse” section: Now, I don’t know whether or not you can do this with the membership, mostly because it doesn’t give me an error when I click on it. Grrr. Get used to finding something in browse then having to search for it again in “Search.”

Wolfgang’s Music is not without controversy

You can’t really buy a collection of live music and start selling downloads without a bunch of musicians and record companies getting a burr up their ass, especially in this day and age of dwindling music album and track sales. It’s exactly what Wolfgang’s Vault keeps running into over and over and over again.

As Janis Joplin (and Howard Tate) once sang, “Get it while you can.” Who knows how long this is gonna last.

PS: My the best piece of email I got this week.

The best piece of email I got was replies from Jonathan Gould, author of “Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life” regarding some back stories Otis Redding, specifically, exactly where Otis Redding was born. That was awesome.

Hearing Wolfgang’s Vault was going with a free streaming app just as I was considering finally buying into the membership was a close second.

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