This month Kirk Anderson shares the story behind …
“eMULE”:http://www.netspace.org/~emule/: A Tale of 3 Mail Lists
Google "eMULE" and you’ll get back more than 18 million hits from all across the globe. Most have to do with a very successful peer-to-peer file-sharing client started in 2002 as an alternative to the then dominant but stagnating client eDonkey. You have to click through 9 more pages of hits until you reach one spelled eMULE. Clicking through more pages, you’ll see that eMULE also has hits from all over the world. This eMULE was officially started in 1995. eMULE serves as an unofficial internet gathering place for fans of the band GOV’T MULE; an unofficial fan solidification project; a long standing member in a one of a kind internet not-for-profit community of jam bands and global concerns which "Wired" magazine in a May 17, 2001 article called "...one of the Internet’s largest hosting services." The story of the 3 is intertwined and their history is a story of the rise of a band and the formation of a worldwide community.
eMULE: The Gathering Place: GOV’T MULE has an official tour hotline and an official website which keeps it’s fans up to date with all of the CD releases, tour dates, merchandise, appearances and side projects of GOV’T MULE and it’s members. There is a web ring which ties together all of the different official and unofficial forums and communities. eMULE is one of the many Internet mail lists made by the fans for the fans.
eMULE has changed a lot over its 10 years of life as well as it’s remained the same. eMULE’s subscriber base has grown from 30 to 300 to over 1,800. Many have come and stayed while many more have come and moved on. There has never been a central leader who dominated the landscape and conversation. Therefore, the fans who subscribe have always been the ones responsible for it’s success. The fans have been the ones who have maintained the feeling of family that flows through the community. From topics like agreeing or disagreeing on what their take of the music is to taping and trading of live concert recordings to gatherings before concerts, the fans have made and continue to make a home away from home.
eMULE: The Fan Solidification Project: In the late 1980’s and mid 1990’s, bands were beginning to tap into the new genre of music that followed the way of the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band. These bands had fans that allowed and pushed them to take chances during their performances. Their fans enjoyed allowing the musicians to take the basic structure of the song and expanding it to wherever their experience and imagination took the music.
These bands could generally not sign deals with the very few major recording/distribution labels. The labels wanted songs that were 2 minutes and 30 seconds that would be structured with the commercial musical formulae of the day. Independent (Indie) record labels were small projects with limited money and even less clout in the recording/distribution industry. The grassroots awareness and advertising campaigns were born.
A major part of the grassroots awareness campaign was to have the band tour as much as possible gaining new fans at each stop. It became important to hold onto each fan who was turned onto the music. Indies were experimenting with the concept. And since I wanted to get into the music business, so was I. I never asked for approval from the band or its management. Being new to the business, I was afraid I would be told I couldn’t try my ideas. I began to use the information I was learning through my presidency of the Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association as well as my work with other bands such as the Oakley-Krieger Band and the Robby Krieger Band. So I set the ideals of always coming up with projects that would give the regular Joe fans the chance to have more access to the band and therefore having a closer bond to the band than others, it would help keep the fans the band was converting.
The sharing of information across the country allowed me to have set list information for tours that had started before Atlanta. I began faxing the set lists and tour descriptions to the local radio stations before the DJ’s were hip to the online world. Before long, the DJ’s were incorporating these tips into their radio shows promoting a band’s local appearance. These faxes were exceptionally detailed about coming appearances by GOV’T MULE. Now the fans of eMULE had the chance to have their posts read and used by DJ’s in other cities. Fans in the city of the performance now had inside information about the shows they were getting ready to see. Fans across the country were prodded to do the same. The word was being spread and the fans were helping.
Out of eMULE grew the MULEtrane. GOV’T MULE was already practicing the solidification technique by allowing their fans to tape and trade their recording of the live shows. Again, a trail already blazed by the Grateful Dead and embraced by bands like the Allman Brothers Band and Phish. The idea, if fans spend their time and personal expenses to record and trade the live shows, then the music gets out t the people and the fan is more involved and more likely to remain a fan and turn on others. The MULEtrane was a tape tree that started with a good recording of a hot show (THE SEED) and that taper would provide one copy. Then the first person would make several copies for other people (BRANCHES). These branches would make several copies per branch for other fans (LEAFS). The MULEtrane would find the best recording of the best show each month and go through the process. At its height, the MULEtrane was getting out over 250 copies of the SEED each month.
Fans were invited to take newspaper-advertising clippings of the band’s performance in their city or recent relevant comments from eMULE and take them to the band. The members of GOV’T MULE always took the time after each show to meet every fan that wanted to come up to meet them. With a clipping, the fan now had something to talk to the band about. It’s extremely nerve racking for most fans when they meet their musical hero’s. Now the fan had an icebreaker. Now the band had another fan who had an experience that helped solidify their support. EMULE helped to tie it all together.
eMULE: Contributing Member to Jam Bands and the World: If you read the PHISH.NET article in last year’s August issue of jambands.com you begin to understand eMULE’s position as it relates to other jam band forums on the internet.
Officially started in 1995, the idea of eMULE is the same as for any interest group on the internet. In this case, the interest was personally favored rock bands. In early 1990’s, most people with "internet" access were either at the Pentagon or other government agency. The rest of us dialed up Usenet connections of interest with our monochrome monitored "computers" and posted our thoughts on topic arranged "Bulletin Boards." Then came the commercial online adventures like Prodigy, Compuserve and America Online (AOL). They allowed one to dial into one number for many subjects, where bulletin boards before required you to dial into a different number for each different topic. The ability to easily find other people across the United States who had the same interests as you blossomed. The Allman Brothers Band had always fostered a community feeling amongst its following and online service extended this feeling.
On June 11, 1994, GOV’T MULE gave it’s first performance at the Elizabeth Reed Music Hall in Macon, GA. Something special was born. In 1994, I had heard of something called an Internet mail list where you subscribe to the mail list. Whether you had an Internet connection or were using an online service, you post something to the list and a copy is email to everyone else who subscribes. So instead of going to a bulletin board to post and read other posts, the process was more automatic.
Well, not at first. I wasn’t savvy enough to understand the technology. Since AOL gave several screen names with each account, I dedicated one to MULEemail. Don’t forget, there is still no formal commercial internet and no World Wide Web. A web page was something of the future. MULEemail functioned as a manual mail list where posts were held until once a day, a single email was sent which contained all of the day’s posts out to all subscribers.
Little did I know that the fans of Phish had already blazed this trail. At first, I was turned onto an automated mail list for the Allman Brothers Band that was hosted at Netspace. The online community of Phish fans was lead by Lee Silverman. Together the fans of Phish as well as other student groups at Brown University helped finance the purchase of a then roaring 486 computer to serve as the host for all of the student and Phish online forums. Technically still a Brown University project, the University required that all resources be shared. Students started human rights watch forums, software bug alerting forums, the original Biglinux forum as well as the forum for Phish and other jam oriented bands who did not have a forum with the big labels. Phish.net went huge having over 15,000 subscribers who receive the mail list as well as all of the other resources housed under the Phish.net umbrella.
Time flowed and indie labels began to gain footholds. GOV’T MULE changed it’s management to Hardhead and eventually Warren Haynes and Allen Woody left the Allman Brothers Band and joined Matt Abts to concentrate fulltime on GOV’T MULE. The World Wide Web became more pervasive and allowed all bands to get past the marketing power of the big labels and reach, through grassroots, directly to the fans. Lee Silverman was joined by Jack Lebowitz and the rest of the Phish online presence graduated from Brown University and became a stand alone not-for-profit entity called the Netspace Foundation.
Netspace’s place in the growth of the internet is now a little lost in the ever growing hype of the commercial World Wide Web. Netspace’s place in the nurturing of the jam band phenomenon is now a little lost in the din of the growth of the indie and the World Wide Web. Netspace still is the host to over 20 mail lists and web sites for official and fan based music forums as well as forums for the continuation of Graduate studies and Female Playwrights. I suggest you check out the impressive list of other music related lists housed at Netspace as I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’ll find quite a few other forums might be to your interest.
eMULE continues as a fan organized supplement to GOV’T MULE’s official online presence. Still mainly an Internet mail list, eMULE has recently launched its web site. Over the next years, the fans will begin to add forums to the eMULE web site. Over the next years, eMULE will be there as the online experience changes. Over the next years eMULE will be there as the need for fan solidification changes. Over the next years, eMULE will be there as a place that the fans of GOV’T MULE can go to continue building their relationships and learning about the music and themselves.