As this NYT story says, the business interests of The Grateful Dead are clashing with the band's heritage as the original open-source jam band.
The band recently asked the operators of the popular Live Music Archive (archive.org) to make the concert recordings – a staple of Grateful Dead fandom – available only for listening online, the band's spokesman, Dennis McNally, said yesterday. In the meantime, the files that previously had been freely downloaded were taken down from the site last week.
Dissent has been building rapidly, however, as the band's fans – known as Deadheads – have discovered the recordings are, at least for the time being, not available. Already, fans have started an online petition, at www.petitiononline.com/gdm/petition.html, threatening to boycott the band's recordings and merchandise if the decision is not reversed. In particular, fans have expressed outrage that the shift covers not only the semiofficial “soundboard” recordings made by technicians at the band's performances, but also recordings made by audience members.
To the fans, the move signals a profound philosophical shift for a band that had been famous for encouraging fans to record and trade live-concert tapes. The band even cordoned off a special area at its shows, usually near the sound board, for “tapers” – a practice now followed by many younger jam bands.
But more broadly, it suggests that a touchstone of baby-boomer counterculture – the recording made by and shared, sometimes via mail, among hard-core fans – may be subverted in a digital era when music files can be instantly transmitted worldwide. …
The contretemps makes clear that the band's decades-long support of fan recordings and trading did not anticipate the popularity of music online.
“One-to-one community building, tape trading, is something we've always been about,” Mr. (Dennis) McNally (the band's spokesman) said. “The idea of a massive one-stop Web site that does not build community is not what we had in mind. Our conclusion has been that it doesn't represent Grateful Dead values.”
Most fans, he continued, “understand they were being granted an extraordinary privilege, and they responded by taking it very seriously” by respecting the band's wishes not to sell their live recordings. “This is not the same situation,” he added.