Here are my thoughts for what it's worth. If they look way too long, and you know all the general issues, then skip to the end
Lossy vs. Lossless (in general, when you have a choice): Just for the benefit of anyone who decides to chime in on this conversation, I think it is worth mentioning why some people get so worked up about this. Some people have a bias against *any* lossy file because they are (or at least consider themselves to be) true audiophiles or genuinely have sensitive ears and the $50k stereo systems that allow them to hear the difference between CDDA and a 320kbs compressed file. Others are biased by bad experiences with the crappy mp3s that everyone was trading on napster back in the day. Now for me personally, given current technology, my not as sensitive ears, and the fact that I often listen to much of my music on the go (i.e., car or ipod), I generally listen to either 192kbs variable bit rate LAME encoded mp3s or sometimes 256 or 320kbs cbr mp3s. They sound pretty good to me on that equipment, and yet they are small enough that I can fit a ton of music on my ipod nano. That said, I still keep the original CDs, or in the case of live stuff, the original lossless files. I also have begun to archive my whole music collection in lossless formats (in addition to mp3s) for the sake of my home stereo and the realization that hard drives keep growing, etc. and soon I might as well ditch lossy files altogether when possible because it won't cost much more to have the best quality.
Lossy vs. Lossless (live music trading, when you have a choice): When I first started trading music online (mainly U2, the site is u2torrents, but also dime, tdd, etc. but then counting crows as well, mostly here) I didn't understand what everyone was so worked up about, given my previous thoughts. So I researched, and just for those who might not understand, in the days of trading tapes, etc., you lost quality with every copy. So generations mattered (e.g., 5th copy sounded worse than one copied directly from the master). Of course, the tapes and equipment used mattered too. Well with lossy files, like mp3s, you might not lose any *audible* quality for *most* people with first encoding. But then what inevitably happens is that someone takes those mp3s and burns a regular CD. Then someone takes that and encodes it again to mp3. Generations of cassette tapes got worse, but generations of lossy encoding get a lot worse. Re-compressing a song that was already compressed doesn't just introduce hiss or noise, you actually lose more and more of the original music! Somewhere online you can find a site where they take the same music and let you hear a compressed mp3 vs. one that has been re-compressed 5 or 6 times. The difference is astounding, even for non-sensitive ears. Thus, while I will listen to live music in lossy formats for my own convenience, I only trade the best source I own, to keep the trading pool as pure as possible. That's also the rationale for so many of the policies on sites like this, and I completely understand.
Lossy vs. Lossless (when you have no choice): Now we get to the real discussion at hand (sorry). Some live shows are only available in a lossy format. Many concerts were recorded on minidisc, which uses its own lossy format (ATRAC) for recording, except for more recent hi-md recorders that can record in PCM mode. Thus, no truly lossless copy exists. These are allowed on most sites, so long as they are the originals (i.e., not a minidisc copy of a show available in better form). Even here at Crowstown, I have downloaded such shows despite the policy. Other times, the original source has just disappeared or (in some well known cases) been kept out of public trading circles. In these situations, I AGREE that the trading community would be best served by trading the best known copy of these shows. As pointed out in prior posts, a crappy recording that happens to be lossless will lose everytime in my book against a masterfully recorded show that only exists (for us) as a lossy source. There are ways to prevent people from trading re-encoded versions of these sources (md5 checksums, etc.). It is so true that these are being traded anyway via snailmail, and that just seems silly with such technology available. A separate forum sounds like a great idea, however, as we would want to clearly delineate between the two types of sharing. If a lossless source turns up and someone thinks, "oh, looks like this show is already in circulation," then we all lose. It would have to be clear, and I would advocate the sharing ONLY of shows generally known not to be available in lossless format (e.g., Simon's list, traders like Geoff). Maybe I'm just being selfish as a fan who does not have some of these shows, but I think everyone would benefit from a separate forum, and I don't see the downside so long as we 1) determine which shows qualify, 2) share only what seem to be the best sources we have, 3) clearly separate these from the lossless stuff (with begging for upgrades), and 4) use some type of checksum to avoid the future re-encoding problem.
Finally (for anyone still with me), I want to say thanks again to Simon for all his efforts. I wish I could seed more here, but I lost my boot collection several years back, and it is actually only through the generosity of this community that I've been able to not only rebuild, but acquire so many new shows. I've seeded the only stuff I have that's not already here, but I'm sure there are those of you who have stuff (maybe even from Simon!) that you could share. If torrents are too complicated for you (they can be tricky), I'd be happy to walk you through it. If you don't have the time, hard drive capacity, bandwidth (comcast people, that's you), etc. then perhaps you could mail a copy of the show to someone like me (this is an open offer!) with the condition that I (or any of you) will then seed the show here.
That's it for now,