TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Grateful Dead Drops Download Ban After Fan Revolt

Grateful Dead Drops Download Ban After Fan Revolt

Michael Kahn (
Sat, 3 Dec 2005 13:02:10 -0600

By Michael Kahn

Facing a revolt by its famously faithful fans, The Grateful Dead
backed away on Thursday from a move to block "Deadheads" from
downloading the jam band's concert recordings for free.

The San Francisco Bay-based band had asked an independently run Web
site to stop making thousands of the group's recordings available for
free download.

But the founder and director of the Web site
Brewster Kahle, said in an online posting on Thursday that bootleg
audience copies of the band's concerts had been restored for free

That reversal came after fans, known as Deadheads, reacted angrily to
reports the group had asked the site to halt swapping of Grateful Dead

Many saw that request as a betrayal, since the band had always
encouraged fans to tape its concerts and then trade the tapes for
free. Some also threatened to stop buying merchandise in an online
petition that quickly garnered more than 5,000 signatures.

"It appears doing the right things for the fans has given way to
greed," the fan petition said.

Bass player Phil Lesh posted an apologetic message on his own Web site
saying he did not know the band had asked operators of the site to
take down the recordings.

"I do feel that the music is the Grateful Dead's legacy and I hope
that one way or another all of it is available for those who want it,"
Lesh wrote.

Grateful Dead spokesman Dennis McNally said a major concern for the
band was that trading music over the Internet did not create the same
sense of community as trading tapes in person.

"There was a consensus to address this issue and it got addressed," he
said. "We are confronting an entirely new set of circumstances with
moving new music around, and we are struggling with it like a lot of

The booming popularity of digital music and the market now led by
Apple Computer Inc. with its "a la carte" music purchasing service and
popular iPods has made free downloading over the Web a tricky issue
for bands like the Grateful Dead.

During its heyday, the band became one of rock's most successful
touring acts by playing improvisational concerts that varied nightly
and which spurred fans to eagerly collect and trade tapes of shows.

The band, which traditionally put an emphasis on touring rather than
recording and selling records, generated millions of dollars of
revenue from their shows.

But with the 1995 death of lead singer and guitarist Jerry Garcia,
band members no longer keep up such an active tour schedule, making
the Internet an important source of revenue.

The Grateful Dead, which first gained fame with its free-form
psychedelic style during the 1960s in San Francisco, offers its music
on the Apple iTunes service as well as its own Web site.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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