By Clive Young
New York (November 30, 2005)--Digital downloads have had the RIAA up in arms for some time now, as music fans freely give away music to each other over peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. Now, the Grateful Dead--who might be considered purveyors of the first P2P network back when fans mailed cassettes of concerts to each other--is likewise cracking down on the practice. Unsurprisingly, legions of Deadheads are seriously bummed, man.
According to The New York Times, the band's beef is with Live Music Archive (www.archive.org), a website that has made thousands of Dead shows available for free download. The recordings include not only audience tapes, but a selection of board tapes as well, all free for the taking.
That the shows are circulating is no surprise--the Grateful Dead supported tape trading between fans for years, going as far as to provide special "taper" areas where audio-minded fans could set up recording gear without the worry of mics getting jostled by gyrating dancers or picking up the stoner two rows over complaining that they never play "Dark Star" anymore.
With high-speed broadband internet now available in most areas, however, the thought of downloading an entire concert--or entire tour for that matter--is no longer unthinkable. And with the Grateful Dead no longer touring following the passing of Jerry Garcia 10 years ago (remaining bandmembers still make the rounds as The Dead, with audio provided, as ever by Hercules, CA-based Pro Media/Ultra Sound), the band has started selling concert recordings from its archive at its own website, www.gdstore.com. As a result, archive.org's freebies represent serious competition.
According to the band, however, the clampdown is not a monetary decision but a philosophical one. Group publicist Dennis McNally told the Times, "One-to-one community building, tape trading, is something we've always been about. 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."
In an attempt at compromise, the band has asked Live Music Archive to make its concerts available only for listening online, via streaming. For serious fans, this is likely to be a mere inconvenience that will do little to stop their downloading efforts, as many shareware programs like Ambrosia Software's Wire Tap are available to record audio streams, converting them to MP3, Wav and other formats; as a result, fans will probably just go back to trading concerts one-on-one with each other once again, albeit digitally.
Grateful Dead Store
Live Music Archive
Pro Media / Ultra Sound
Ambrosia Software Wire Tap
By Clive Young