June 10, 2007

Grateful Dead MP3s – Free & Legal!

I am not a big fan of the MP3 format. I just don’t think it sounds very good. I am definitely not willing to pay cash money for an MP3 file. However, I have long believed that the music industry could embrace the MP3 as a marketing tool, rather than a revenue stream.

Over the past eight months, - and with little fanfare - David Lemieux , archivist for the Grateful Dead, has been literally giving away MP3s from “The Vault” every Monday at The Taper’s Section. No complete shows or sets, but, week after week, Mr. Lemieux presents a generous sampling from 30 years (1965-1995) of recorded music, much of it previously unreleased. The overall conceit is to take a look at each particular week in Grateful Dead history with Mr. Lemieux making brief, cogent commentaries on each offering. Sometimes he digresses from that mission to honor requests or otherwise mix it up a little bit, which means you never know what to expect.

Speaking as someone who has (almost) every available recording plus literally thousands of “bootleg*” recordings, there are some spectacularly rare performances available here (see esp. 4/25/77). The Taper’s Section has served to make Monday mornings something to look forward to, and that’s saying something.

* A misnomer/signifier which is subject to further clarification.

By freely offering these treasures, Mr. Lemieux has forced me to actively listen to MP3s on my home stereo and I’ll admit that they sound about as good as MP3 is gonna get: No worse than – maybe even a little better than - a crummy analog cassette. But, for free? What the heck. If I had an iPod, I’d be all over this stuff, believe you me. Good on the Grateful Dead for pricing MP3s according to their inherent sonic value: $0.00.