Deadhead Victory

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just days after Grateful Dead Merchandising pulled download access for the band’s live-show music files — and some angry Deadheads threatened to boycott buying Dead albums and concert tickets — there has been a bit of an about-face.

From the Associated Press:

Internet Archive, a site that catalogues content on Web sites, reposted recordings of Grateful Dead concerts for download after the surviving members of the band decided to make them available again.

Band spokesman Dennis McNally said the group was swayed by the backlash from fans, who for decades have freely taped and traded the band’s live performances.

“The Grateful Dead remains as it always has — in favor of tape trading,” McNally said.

Just a break here: When the moratorium on downloading was announced initially, that did not mean that tape-trading was suddenly forbidden. Tape trading was never at issue.

OK, let’s continue:

[McNally] said the band consented to making audience recordings available for download again, although live recordings made directly from concert soundboards, which are the legal property of the Grateful Dead, should only be made available for listening from now on.

The soundboard recordings are “very much part of their legacy, and their rights need to be protected,” McNally said.

Representatives for the band earlier this month had directed the Internet Archive to stop making recordings of the group’s concerts available for download. But fans quickly initiated an online petition that argued the band shouldn’t change the rules midway through the game.

“The internet archive has been a resource that is important to all of us,” states the petition, which also threatened a boycott of Grateful Dead recordings and merchandise. “Between the music, and interviews in the archive we are able to experience the Grateful Dead fully.”

Sounds fair to me. Economic realities have led to recent downsizing at GDM; if the organization’s resources have been spent to record concerts through Grateful Dead Productions soundboards and to process them to be available in MP3 format, it’s only right for it to receive compensation for it. The concern was over the fan-created audio files. Many Deadheads spent untold hours doing their own recordings, turning their tapes into MP3 files, and uploading them to sites such as the Internet Music Archive in hopes of sharing the peace, love, and vibes of the Grateful Dead’s live performances with other fans.

Fan taping was a longstanding tradition in our freaky little family. The Grateful Dead was one of the first bands to allow and encourage its fans to record its shows – which was an amazing gift. After all, no two Dead shows were alike; having one’s own permanent record of the experience was a very big deal. And, as said numerous times by Jerry Garcia, the band’s late guitarist (and our hero), after the band was done with the music, it belonged to us. Trading tapes – never for money, only for free – was a way of sharing something rare, special and meangingful with others.

On the day Jerry died, I hosted a candlelight vigil for the guitarist in Baltimore. Among the many amazing things that occurred that August night was something that touches my heart today: A young man whom I had never before met presented me with a cassette recording of the Grateful Dead’s final performance with Jerry. I mean, wow

So, yes, pulling access to fan-created audio struck many fans – even those of us who did not support the boycott – as being harsh, cruel and, well, un-Deadlike. It didn’t help that GDM announced its new policy in such a haphazard way; even Dead bassist Phil Lesh wasn’t aware of what was going down until after it had happened. It’s no wonder many fans thought that even trading was in jeopardy.

Thank heaven McNally finally spoke and reassured us that the audio created by fans will be available for download. I suspect that is what Jerry would want. And GDP-created audio will be available for streaming: You won’t be able to keep it, but listening is A-OK. That sounds completely fair to me.

This is good news. I hope protesting Deadheads will be able to relax, forget the boycott business and sleep soundly, because we know two things: The Dead does listen to and care about its fans. And the music never stops.

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4 thoughts on “Deadhead Victory

  1. This is such a slap in the face to Jerry’s memory and to John Perry Barlow, who besides being one of the lyricists for the Dead is a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that has fought tooth and nail to keep the internet free and open, created the notion of “creative commons” and helped establish the internet archive.

    This is Bob Weir’s doing, not Phil Lesh’s.
    Being that Bob was raised in Atherton, Ca., an enclave for the superrich next to Palo Alto (Larry Ellison lives in Atherton), Bob is just coming home to roost.

    Many hippies would like to think that because the Dead made the music that they love, that the Dead are hippies too. That might have been the case for Jerry and Phil (an artist with an honorary PhD from Stanford), but Bob was born with a diamond-encrusted silver spoon up his rectum. Of course, they were all wealthy because of the band, but they were artists first and foremost. I know a few folks that know Bob, including somebody from RatDog, his solo band. Bob Weir is and always was a spoiled rich kid for whom this whole “strange trip” always was about the money. He has the arrogance to match. Of course now that they are taking a hit on concert tickets, they (Bob) are trying to monetize their recordings.

    As is, Bob Weir is just milking the last of the Dead legacy dry, and touring with Jerry “sound alikes” as opposed to really moving forward with his music. He could easily live for years on end on the money he has and never feel a pinch or keep on making a name for himself as an artist with current art. He’d rather
    rest on his often coked-out (this I say from talking to folks that know) ass and rehash old songs that will never be the same because Jerry isn’t alive to give those songs (even Bob’s songs) their magic. He just doesn’t have the creative juice to be original and relevant anymore, if he ever did. Without Jerry’s tutelage, it’s not obvious he would have lasted long enough in public memory to have the option of pissing on his fans 30 something years later.

    Bob betrayed his fans years ago, and only now they are catching on.

  2. Hey now, friend. I guess you could call me a sad hippie too — after Jerry died, I knew things would change and that the changes would not be good. But I comfort myself with this: GDM made a decision, fans reacted, and GDM made an adjustment: We will continue to have free access to fan recordings. And of course tape trading will continue. Yes, this flies in the face of Jerry’s ethos and JP Barlow’s work, but at least we have access to something. I choose to be grateful, because it certainly could be worse.

    As to Bobby, I won’t speak to the allegations regarding his behavior and motivations. It is established that he grew up in a rich family. Beyond that, I just don’t know and I don’t feel comfortable slamming him.

    I’m trying to keep the faith, maintain fairness and perspective and do the righteous thing, and I don’t want to lose my cool over things I can not control. But yeah, we have to acknowledge that things are changing. Still and all, this darkness got to give… and perhaps it will start with me and with you.

    Peace!

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