Not long after I posted this, the powers-that-be at Grateful Dead, Inc. suddenly, and without warning, removed all of the MP3 files from The Taper’s Section and The Grateful Dead Radio Hour and replaced them with streaming-only audio applications.
Not surprisingly, the comments sections overflowed with howling protests and bitter incriminations. The following week, David Lemieux, GD archivist and host of The Taper Section, posted a rather feeble explanation, which read in part:
Recently, I, and others that work on dead.net, became aware that certain fans
had been regularly downloading the tracks offered in the Taper Section. From the
very beginning, this program has always been intended to be a "for streaming
only" service. Downloading was never announced, described or promoted in any
manner. The situation that developed over the past months is very different than
my original plan.
Translation: “Bad Deadheads! When we posted these mp3s (complete with file size information), we had no idea that you would be downloading them!”
Please. That is disingenuous in the extreme. And insulting to boot!
“The situation that developed” was one where hundreds, if not thousands of fans, gleefully downloaded their favorite band’s music, hung around the website, generated a buzz, maybe even purchased some items from the online store. The horror!
I’m sure this is not David Lemieux’s fault. He’s a nice guy who really does seem to appreciate the band’s legacy. So, then who did pull the plug? And why? Was it the lawyers? Rhino? Bob Weir? No further information has been forthcoming.
Now, I could forgive the crude, but effective, “bait and switch” tactic if there was, you know, actually something to buy. CD/DVD releases have slowed to a standstill over the past couple years. Heck, give me the option to pay cash money for those MP3s! Nope. Nada. Nothing.
Well, sure, there is (yet another) “best-of” compilation available exclusively at Starbucks.
And a 24/7 Grateful Dead Radio Station is debuting on Sirius.
Then there’s the Grateful Dead videogame.
Uh...OK. Meanwhile, existing titles are slowly being allowed to go out of print.
I suppose they are going after a new demographic, trying to replenish the fan base. Maybe it will even work for them in the long run. But I doubt it – not without proper and respectful attention to the musical legacy itself.
Oh, and pissing off your biggest fans doesn’t strike me as the winning-est marketing strategy either. But, what do I know?
The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Think I’ll listen to some Tool.