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Of Note

Published: 2005/11/29
by John Wood

Letter To The Editor: Grateful Dead Soundboards


While you reserve the right to publish a story for a given artist as you see fit, here is one longtime music lover who is disappointed that you have not addressed both sides of the removal of Grateful Dead (GD) soundboards from In fact, the actions taken by Grateful Dead Productions (GDP) are not the genuine issue here.

The REAL problem is that many Deadheads have become spoiled brats!

Besides an obvious business decision, people are tending to forget the simple fact that the music the Dead made was and is theirs, and it is their right to do what they please with it, whether we like it or not.

Plain and simple. Please cut the "Jerry said" crap, because unless you wrote the words and the music, only your copies of the recordings you acquire are yours! Hunter and Barlow penned (most of) the lyrics, and the musicians wrote the arrangements; none of the music is copyrighted to the general public.

GDP had and has NO obligation to put up the soundboards on!

Many artists — not to mention large recording companies — are far, far stingier about their body of works and recordings more than the Dead. Take a look at the latest John Lennon 2-CD compilation; how many times can you see the same material be repackaged?!

I foresaw this happening a long time ago, which is why my philosophy for downloading has been: "If you can download it, do it now." As a result, I have a library of Grateful Dead recordings and many artists I'll enjoy for many years to come. If you relied on streaming from and other sites — and I know people who did just that instead of downloading — then that was your mistake to begin with.

Besides, a good number of the GD boards that were on — particularly the years from 1979 – 1986 — were of lousy quality anyway. If you weren't listening to layers of cassette hiss or a poor transfer, you had to deal with fast pitch making it sound more like Jerry and the Chipmunks; and fast pitch is a major buzz kill for me, because that exists throughout that given recording; far more so than the occasional pop. If it sounds like shit, I won't listen to it! Life is too short to listen to shoddy quality recordings, and to these ears, there were too many poor quality and flawed recordings on to begin with.

The main difference is that there is now one less method to acquire a copy of a given GD board. Besides, I got to the point that the only GD boards I was downloading were only the ones meticulously re mastered by Charlie Miller. There are plenty of GD boards circulating right now on four bit torrent sites, so for now, there's your source for downloading Grateful Dead boards!

You don't think there will be another FTP site down the line?! It's a cat-and-mouse do-it-now-before-you-catch me game, one that numerous bit torrent sites have been doing, and which I fully anticipate will continue; especially in light of GDP's actions.

My beef with all this is simple: The GD download series is overpriced! $12.70 for one single disk (FLAC) while
29 cents more can buy me a crisp 2-CD Hot Tuna soundboard from last year?! Take a look at" for reference. If GDP had the sense to make a subscription series or do a bulk shows value (i.e., download 10 3-CD shows for $100), I'd be purchasing them with no problem. But at $20 per 3-CD show? Sorry, but there are wiser ways to spend my hard-earned cash. Brad Serling's business model makes far more sense for the and other live pay download sites he operates; more so than GDP's.

Plus. there's a whole world of music out there outside the Grateful Dead! Download a killer show from, for example. Check out other artists on; that alone helped me determine whether or not to check out a given artist.

I'm so backlogged by over 300 shows of all artists I've downloaded that I haven't listened to yet, let alone burn CD copies of. Those who rely on listening to music online instead of downloading their own copy are making a mistake anyway, because if I want to listen to a show, it is always from my copy. Personally, I've accumulated so much over the past five years alone that it will take me the next 3-4 years to really listen to them all and enjoy. I download and share all I can now because I believe there may be a time when you won't be able to without dealing with plenty of legal issue. So, when I fill out a drive, I'll buy another and start filling it up….and so forth.

However, the way this was done by GDP — and I certainly have mixed feelings on the chosen methods — I wonder if it will indeed be reflected in sales. If the GD download series fails to produce a profitable business, then what will happen?! And there's already plenty of product out there; it's not like you're stuck to listening to 2-3 "live" albums, which most of those contain studio overdubs or are edited (a big beef…if a recording is musically flawed beyond degree, why release it?!). It will be interesting to see what happens.

There's no taping section at Bob Dylan shows; yet, look at how many recordings circulate via the bit torrent sites. Same with Neil Young and many other artists. We have been living in a spoiled age where you can download 2-3 shows overnight, wake up from a good night's sleep, and listen to them the following morning — and I've been doing that for over five years. It surely beats having to make cassette dubs and dealing with trips to the post office and paying for postage. It has also allowed me to accumulate a collection, with some recordings I previously thought unimaginable; such as 72 CDs of Beatles sessions from 1969, and a 26-CD set of Dylan recordings and interviews from 1966.

It's not a big deal to me, because I already have plenty of recordings to enjoy; simply because of my "download now and don't wait" philosophy. It is also because I've long anticipated moves like GDP's. For the record, I have purchased over 90% of Dead product over the years, including the terrific 10-CD Fillmore West 1969 box set; and a consistently satisfied customer (except for the download series prices).

Yes, I have some mixed feelings similar to many folks, especially to GDP's abrupt method of removing the shows. Again, though, it is the artist's right to do so. The past week has shown me that there are many people who are cluelessly naive to the fact that the Grateful Dead has been a business first and foremost for over TWO DECADES!!

It's those kinds of decisions that kept that business going, whether people want to admit that or not. It was a business decision to start mail order service and mail order tour booklets. It was a business decision on how to start the Dick's Picks and vault series. It was a business decision to start a taper's section at Dead shows in 1984, then to have taper's tickets via mail order. It was several of those business models that trickled over to many a show by artists who allow taping, including many of the artists in the jam band and bluegrass genres. It's about making and sustaining a LIVING! Any business worth their salt does just that.

I for one refused to sign that petition, because there are many a Deadhead who are really spoiled brats whom take the mile when given an inch. I've already gotten many miles from the Dead over 22 years of being on The Bus, to the point that boycotting their product and live shows by its surviving members is both childish and selfish.

There are some fine audience recordings out there too. You know people will continue to find another way to circulate recordings, but in numerous cases, it will be out of spite: It is far too easy to do so just via the Internet alone.

This is why I say: If you can download it, do it now! Nothing is forever, and that is what many people should learn from GDP's actions. Just be thankful for all the recordings you already have and which have circulated; the past two years via,, FurthurNet, FTP sites and bit torrent sites.

I proudly signed the "Thank You, Grateful Dead" petition, and have given many thanks over and over to the Grateful Dead for changing the rules of concerts and recordings forever.

If your readers have any common sense, especially of history, they should too!

John J. Wood Boulder, CO

"Shifting powders back and forth, Saying black comes south and white comes north, In a whole world full of petty wars, Saying I've got mine and you've got yours…" – John Barlow

[The writer, John J. Wood, is an original contributor to DeadBase.]

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