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Grateful Dead: The Original Social Media

Some great thoughts from Dave Churbuck about the Grateful Dead’s contributions to (inventions of) the cultural phenomenon we now call the open-source / content-sharing community.

In the mid-80s I found a BBS called the Brokedown Palace where Dead Heads posted ASCII files of the shows they owned and the shows they wanted. You could download other Dead Heads’ lists, see what they had, and propose a trade. It was strictly honor system. The preferred media were Maxell Gold 90 minute tapes …

The process was simple. You’d identify the ten tapes (two per show generally) from another trader’s list which were usually annotated in terms of their quality and “generation” or the degrees of separation away from the original recording …

An email would be sent to the person you wanted to trade to, and they in turn would look at your catalogue, select ten they wanted, and off you went to the store to buy a box of Maxells. For a day or two you’d copy your tapes to the blanks, provide the set lists, stick everything back in the box, wrap it up, and snail mail it off. A few more days would go by and like a miracle a box of tapes would arrive in your mailbox. I never once was screwed in the transaction …

The Dead were the first band to encourage their fans to record shows and share them. As Garcia said, when the band was done with the music it was the fan’s to share. The only rule was no selling or profiteering and the fans were self-policing, criticizing anyone who tried to sell bootlegs.

Read Dave’s full post here.

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