The shows involved the construction of a wall on stage throughout the first half of the show. Once complete, members of the band performed in small openings in, atop, in front of, or even behind the wall. The album artwork featured the life-masks of the four band members in front of a black wall; the masks were worn by the "surrogate band" during the song "In The Flesh". "Goodbye Blue Sky" and parts of "Run Like Hell" were taken from the 17 June 1981 show, the very last performance by the four-man Pink Floyd until the 2005 Live 8 concert.
Is There Anybody Out There? contains live versions of all the original songs along with two additional songs: "What Shall We Do Now?" and "The Last Few Bricks". "What Shall We Do Now?" was planned for the original album but removed just before release. (It remained on the lyric sheet for the original LP, but excised from future CD re-releases.) "The Last Few Bricks" was an instrumental bridge between "Another Brick in the Wall (Part III)" and "Goodbye Cruel World", and contained themes from "The Happiest Days of Our Lives", "Don't Leave Me Now", "Young Lust", "Empty Spaces" and "What Shall We Do Now?", all transposed to D minor. It was played to allow the bricklayers to almost completely seal off the stage before Roger Waters appeared in the last brick-wide space in the wall to sing "Goodbye Cruel World", ending the first set of the show. This music never had an official title before the release of the live album. Fans named the track "Almost Gone" on some bootleg albums of the shows, but the official name was suggested by producer James Guthrie during the mixing of the live album. The album also contained two spoken tracks titled "MC: Atmos" ("Master of Ceremonies" for the first North American release), which served as introductions to the songs "In the Flesh?" and "In the Flesh", respectively. These were performed by Gary Yudman, MC for the Earls Court and Nassau Coliseum shows. The second version was a section of a recording of his speech from the first version, played at slower speed to parody the frustration ("The band is about ready to begin, I think ... No, not quite yet") of waiting for the band to start.
The tracks differed slightly from the studio album, primarily in terms of longer intros and extended solos. Due to the constraints of vinyl records, the band had been forced to severely edit many songs for the album, removing whole sections, many of which were restored in concert. For example, "The Show Must Go On" had an extra verse that was deleted from the original studio recording (but included in the lyric sheet, even on the latest CD releases.) "Outside the Wall" was longer and re-arranged with mandolin, accordion, clarinet, acoustic guitars, tambourines and more natural-sounding vocal harmonies from the quartet of Joe Chemay, Jim Farber, Jim Haas, and Jon Joyce. (This would be the third official version of "Outside the Wall" available to the listener, following the extended orchestral version from the 1982 film.)
Is There Anybody Out There? was re-issued in the US and Canada in July 2005. James Guthrie, Joel Plante and Kim Richards supplied the label with new masters, and thus the mastering credit was changed from "Doug Sax and Gavin Lurssen" to Guthrie, Plante and Richards. The booklet features some songwriting updates and mentions that the MC: Atmos on disc one used a sample of "We'll Meet Again" by Vera Lynn.
The album reached #19 on The Billboard 200 and #1 on Billboard's Top Internet Albums charts. The disc was certified Platinum (signifying sales of half a million copies, as it is a double CD) in the US in May 2000. This was the first of two Pink Floyd albums (other being A Foot in the Door – The Best of Pink Floyd) not released on vinyl.