Dead Archives, Dead Downloads, Are We Grateful Yet?


The soundboards of Dead shows long available at archive.org are gone — we can stream those still, but only audience “tapes” are available for download. Glad I got mine in time! I guess this was coming? The Dead’s future is its past, its archive and vault, and no, I suppose we can each have a key… Get on those releases then. And bring us a sparkling Cornell 77 first!

The vault of memory, the memory of shows attended, that’s still ours to upload, download, and reload. The Dead are in a unique position, and as one of the first bands to set a policy precedent for how to treat the not-for-profit distribution of live recordings, their decision to revoke the downloads of soundboards from archive.org is worth paying attention to. This is the community that gave us the Well, the community that gave us social networks as well as tapers, crap veggie burritoes, and grilled cheese sandwiches served off a hibachi in the parking lot.

I remember getting excited at finally finding a good DAT tape of a show I’d only had as a glove compartment 17th generation bootleg. (My tapes fit in the glovebox, no need to put them in the boot… har.) Archive.org kinda eliminated that, which was a good thing as far as I was concerned, not really finding myself around too many deadheads these days. But that “hey, listen to this” moment of trading moment is a social thing. And in a sense it seems right that the Dead has finally “revoked us all these years.”

Phil’s comment on the distinction between soundboard and audience. Funny that the reproduction format mirrors precisely the policy: yours and ours. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t say the band had a choice. The Net makes violations easy, and certainly makes obtaining that show you always wanted very easy!

“They do something that nobody else does: they create mass hysteria of a very benign sort which makes people hear and see things that cannot be heard and should not be seen.” John Perry Barlow on the Dead, 1988

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