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the Dead come around

What a short, strange trip it was.” (Aahh, relief.) As this Washington post article describes, “After the Grateful Dead angered some of its biggest fans by asking a nonprofit Web site to halt the free downloading of its concert recordings, the psychedelic jam band changed its mind Wednesday.”

Another vivid example of how community norms mediate the relationship between jambands and their fans. For more on this, see Mark Schultz’s forthcoming paper on Jambands, copyright law, and norms. (I may have mentioned this paper already, but that’s ok because it’s a great paper.)

3 thoughts on “the Dead come around”

  1. Slight correction. The band didn’t entirely change its mind: Soundboard recordings are no longer available for download; only audience recordings. I believe soundboards are available for streaming, however. In all honesty, the scene of self-entitled fans screaming bloody murder at the band’s decision was pathetic. I’m about as big a Deadhead as the next guy (Craig Johnston, my colleague, however, is 2 doors down, and I can’t hold a candle to him), but I wish the fans would grow up a little bit, learn a thing or two about economics, markets and property rights. These one-note community norms start to wear about as thin as a 40-minute Drums->Space after a while.

  2. Thanks for the correction. It remains interesting (to me at least) that the Dead took a different path than many bands, and perhaps that path teaches something about economics, markets, property rights, and norms in the music industry. (This is one of the lines of inquiry explored by Mark that makes his paper interesting.) The band set up a long lasting relationship with its fans and generally has been very responsive to community norms. Of course, the band has also shaped the norms over time and will continue to do so. The correction you noted seems to affirm the relevance of norms in mediating the relationship between the band and its fans. *Some* fans screamed and yelled; they were heard and responded to; but ultimately the band made a business decision, retained control over soundboard recordings, and shifted its practices (and the community norm?) going forward.

    (By the way, loved the last line of your post.)

  3. Good point — this does have the marks of a mediated position. But I still question the vector of the norm-shaping: It seems quite uni-directional to me. I just haven’t seen much evidence that the community appreciates economics or business in any meaningful way. There may be acquiescence to the band’s decision here, and, of course, the status quo will garner acceptance after a while. But I’ll be interested to see whether there’s any evidence that the community ultimately appreciates the nature of decisions like this one or simply goes along, taking what it can get and always asking for more. (Wow — paints a pretty bleak picture of my pals).

    By the way, thanks for the link to Mark’s paper. A Deadhead/political science prof friend and I have spent countless hours mulling over some of the unexpected norms of the jamband community (especially the impressive degree of uncompensated positive externality creation that goes on there!). It’s nice to see that others have noticed similar trends.

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