The Grateful Dead are often held up as an example of what wonderful things can happen when a fan base comes to mean more to a band than a record exec. The band is famous for its long-lasting drug-induced “Wall of Sound” tours. The Dead Heads were often treated at these concerts to 20+ minute extended versions of their favorite songs. Some fans were upset that all this music was going unrecorded—even today, it’s hard to buy a “legitimate” copy of anything but the most “vanilla” Dead recordings. Thankfully, the Dead didn’t mind fans bringing along a tape recorder and distributing their recordings. Far from allowing the RIAA to persecute music sharers, the Dead actually cordoned off a part of the stage for these fans to set up recording equipment! The mind reels.
However, a few days ago I heard that the Internet Archive, which had been hosting scores of these fan-made recordings, was sent a Cease & Desist Letter and removed the “infringing files”. However, now there is good news—several of the band members (including the bassist) have rallied to the IA’s defense, claiming that they had nothing to do with the C and D and in fact use the IA themselves! I want to focus in on something said by Phil Leash, the aforementioned bassist: “I was not part of this decision making process...I have enjoyed using Archive.org and found it invaluable during the writing of my book”. Here is another clear cut example of how an “illegal” online archive has enabled cultural research—which is vital if we are ever to learn more about who we are.