While there are some Deadheads sympathetic to this decision which is an obvious move to generate more revenue from their own online digital downloads, for the most part this action has only met with confusion and for many Deadheads frustration and anger. The backlash has reached mainstream media now (NY Times and Rolling Stone) and as of yesterday Barlow stated that they plan to try and remove all Grateful Dead shows from the web.
Still there is no official or even unofficial explanation from those that made this decision. Only many rumors, some which seem to have a good deal of validity, the deal in the works between GDM and iTunes. Many see this as the beginning of the end of Deadheads sharing live music freely and openly with total consent of the band. These decisions should be explained.
Why have they done this when there is still a lot of dusty multitrack material waiting to be mastered after all these decades? How can they sell recordings, even SBDs that were recording not by the organization but by Deadheads themselves? What about shows that have AUD splices where the SBDs did not catch some of the music? Archive helped provide many SBDs that were missing from the vault, will these be eligible to generate revenue? Before this move the community was VERY respectful about trading and spreading SBDs that became official releases, but if it seems that the entire value is going to be considered a release then we can only assume at this point that it is against the wishes of the bands to trade that music, either online or by spinning a dusty cassette of 5/8/77 for someone who has never heard a Grateful Dead concert before.\
Another thing to consider is that recently Deadheads have been creating “matrix” recordings, recordings composed of both a SBD and an AUD source. 5/8/77 is one of the best examples it is made from the clear SBD and 2 outside AUD sources and is above and beyond the straight SBD. This was pulled off achive of course but I wonder if the future will be some Deadheads paying $18 for that show, straight SBD but other Deadheads will be illegally trading the matrix recording of the show because not only does it sound superior to what the Grateful Dead will officially sell, but because many Deadheads still think its wrong to pay for a show that was given freely to the community for almost 30 years.
Personally, I continue to struggle with this movement. To me – coming from the now lost days of cassette tape trading – the music was always free and meant to be free and this tradition was started by the Grateful Dead themselves. Without the fans to spread the music it’s clear they would not have been nearly as popular as they had reached. Now they are saying that the music should not be free, that now after 40 years they may be reversing their policies. This still seems wrong to me, why should the digital age change spell the death of this long standing tradition.
David Gans of Grateful Dead Hour, lots of info here:
NY Times (must login):
Petition now at over 3000 signatures (also has comments from the individual:
(THere are several other petitions floating around as well)
x-posted to thebus, phish (due to Phishs policies have always been so similiar to the Grateful Deads), and visibleink
Just today Phil states he was not part of the decision and was not even informed.