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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13680/secrets-of-the-most-successful-touring-band-of-all-time/

Secrets of the Most Successful Touring Band of All Time

August 24, 2010 by

While other bands posted signs at their concerts saying, “Recording and photography of tonight’s performance is strictly prohibited,” the Grateful Dead encouraged fans to record their concerts and shoot pictures of the show. FULL ARTICLE by Doug French


Kerem Tibuk August 24, 2010 at 9:14 am


Another “give up your property rights, it is better for you” argument. If you can call it an argument.

I keep wondering why you don’t call for the abolishing of property rights in cheese. Many cheese producers keep giving away cheese in supermarkets. This must prove there shouldn’t be property rights regarding cheese. Or am I missing something.

Bala August 24, 2010 at 9:18 am

” Or am I missing something ”

Yes. Lots. Does that help?

Stephan Kinsella August 24, 2010 at 9:47 am

Kerem, I hate to rock your world, but see Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price, http://www.amazon.com/Free-Future-Radical-Chris-Anderson/dp/1401322905

J. Murray August 24, 2010 at 10:26 am

You’re missing quite a bit. This article is just further proof that the modern concept of IP is actively harmful to those who try to hold onto it. It’s not terribly surprising. IP is a government construct and government constructs never work.

Brian Drake August 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm


If you’re actually dedicated to property rights, you should oppose IP because IP is (to modify your strawman quotation) “give up your property rights because I had an idea”.

After all, IP isn’t about controlling people’s minds, it’s about controlling the expression of ideas through actual property. You can write a song and I can listen to it (and thus it is now in my mind as well) and IP enforcement leaves me alone. But the moment I try to use MY property to express that song that is in MY mind (such as playing it on MY guitar for people willing to pay me), suddenly, you, as the originator of the song claim a right to control ME and MY property. How exactly is that congruent with property rights? It is the pro-IP crowd that is anti-property, not those that recognize ideas are not a valid method of obtaining ownership (control) over actual, scarce resources.

Statureman August 24, 2010 at 9:28 am

And it’s not an argument. It’s an EXAMPLE of finding success without the need for a bureaucracy to wring money from the fans. Quite a good answer to the “how do things work with no IP?” question. Your cheese argument doesn’t follow. You can’t take a piece of cheese and make 10,000 pieces of cheese from it.

Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails has also used this model. If I recall correctly he made a about a million dollars off an album he gave away for free.

Statureman August 24, 2010 at 9:44 am
weak stream August 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Yeah, it’s an example of finding success without the need for the Gummit, which is elegant thought, indeed. Maybe there has just not been enough creativity regarding the whole IP thing because most people are using the Gummit plus lawyers to do their bidding. Since the advent of internet “stealing”, I have become sensitive to IP and have taken on a “steal it first, then, if its got merit go back and buy it” so as to patronize and reward the artist.

SKPeterson August 24, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Radiohead is also experimenting with a variant of model (electronic downloads on a “pay what you want” format before a physical album release).

Beefcake the Mighty August 24, 2010 at 2:22 pm

The Grateful Dead suck; they’ll never be as good as GWAR!

Jake_nonphixion August 24, 2010 at 10:59 pm

HAHAHAHAHA space aliens are awesome

David Meerman Scott August 24, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Doug – thanks so much for this thoughtful review of our book.

As the Web allows millions of people to share, those who adopt a Grateful Dead style model of giving it away gain more exposure – and if they are good – people who want to do business with companies and people. Had Doug charged for the content on this blog, he would be doing something much different than he is by giving away his excellent content.

weak stream August 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm

As someone not a fan of the Dead, I was not aware of the concert taping/selling. Seems like a great way to make money off your IP. I was never quite compelled by the anti-IP arguments but feel that something is missing in terms of protecting some genius’ ability to make something of himself. If the genius can make something that makes others lives better/easier the society owes him something, no? Franklin never tried to patent his “stuff” but he was long retired by the time he was out of the pedestrian newspaper business and so didn’t care about money. Ayn Rand warns that in the absence of IP protections many more Atlas’ will “shrug. I think libertarian IP arguments are valid but I don’t want to risk that smart people stop caring because they’re otherwise stuck working at the local hardware store for ten bucks an hour

Goddard Lewko August 24, 2010 at 6:23 pm

This would make more sense if innovation occurred primarily in large, expensive chunks of inspiration that were long in the making, but what’s rather surprising is just how derivative most innovations really are. Henry Ford didn’t build the first mass produced car (That was Ransom E. Olds), James Watt didn’t invent the steam engine (his was just an improvement on the Newcomen engine), and Michael Jackson didn’t invent the Moonwalk (Which itself has been in use by several performers of different styles since at least 1932). All of these people took ideas from other people and improved upon them in their own way, a process which is happening almost constantly, from experimenting with a recipe in a cookbook to musical remixes to deriving part of complex mechanical and electronic systems from existing designs.

To put it another way, if most people imagine innovation as a big stick of dynamite with a long fuse that needs time to go off, I’d liken it more to the same amount of explosive power in the form of hundreds or thousands of firecrackers set to go off in a chain reaction as soon as the first one detonates. One idea makes waves through the minds of those exposed to it who then continue to form ideas based on this new information working down the line in very rapid, small improvements over the original. If you impose limitations on this data by granting legal privileges to control its dissemination, you’d essentially be cutting up the firecracker chain into little bits and pieces that have to get lit independently one at a time. This could only make the process slower, and in real world terms give us less room to innovate.

But some people are rather quick to idolize the origin of things and not the origin of what made those things great, no matter what the real cost is to innovation or property rights. There’s a certain objectivist lady I know, for example….

weak stream August 24, 2010 at 6:53 pm

For sure, this is one very pressing issue considering that technology is so important to us. “Every poet is a thief”- Bono. Indeed. I think we need to pay people “something” for their contribution without making the “post it” guy’s great, great, great, great grandchildren aristocrats. I agree that anti IP generally forces people to think outside the box on how to make something out of powerful ideas but sometimes it isn’t that easy. Also, the pro IP people never mention how many inventors artists engineers have been ripped off by patent enforcements. And then again many times simultaneous invention occurs as happened with the Newton/Leibnitz “Fundamental Theory of the Calculus. So then what? I honestly dunno.

gene August 24, 2010 at 8:53 pm

it’s funny how the socalled “free market” advocates fall like flies when it comes to IP.phrases like “we need to pay something for their contribution” [don't take it personal, just using the phrase as an example] sounds very socialistic to me. we also might need to take care of everyone’s health care or pay someone’s salary or bail someone out.

if you want to pay someone something, go right ahead. other than that, free exchange can take care of things.

if someone doesn’t want to sell IP, it is their right, if they want to sell it outright, it is still their right, if they wish to construct a contract limiting production, etc., it is still their right, all without the state.it is the state that tells everyone else what they have to do without their consent in order to monopolize an idea, usually more to benefit large corporations rather than the originator.removing

IP laws does not impoverish anyone, in simply frees the market to work in the most unrestrictive manner

weak stream August 25, 2010 at 4:09 am

Gene, I’m not being a socialist here when I say that we should want to pay smart people for their ideas. This is not a handout. Please don’t compare it to welfare. This is probably the most challenging question in business today.

Peter Surda August 25, 2010 at 4:57 am

The redistributive effect is unavoidable. The extra money that should go to “inventors” needs to be taken from someone else.

Jake_nonphixion August 24, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Mr Lewko,

Great response… that was the most concisely illustrated argument against IP laws that I have ever heard. Thank you

HL August 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Excellent article. A nice reminder that the market is more than some phantasmal concept. It is real. It involves human beings expressing themselves by enriching those who give them what they want. Any manager who clings to stupid outmoded ideas, like charging me $20 for 3 expando file folders because you have a patent on it (die, arschloch!!), is setting himself up for longterm failure. Think outside the box. Where is your real value – sell that. Develop that. Make your customers happy and they will return the favor. (One reason I dislike IP, beyond Kinsella’s brilliant and irrefutable work, is that it encourages laziness and stupidity. To think some clod who “invented” expanding folders can enrich generations of his family by merely hiring IP pitbulls makes me nuts. Nuts. If the rules of my profession did not require paper files, I would go all digital. For the cost of three folders that can maybe hold 1,500 pages of data, I can get two 8 GB memory sticks that will hold tens of thousands of pages of data.)

Curt Howland August 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm

If only the pro-I.P. types could make a rational, logical supportive argument, instead of a sad, angry mix of labor theory of value and “they’re taking our jaaaaaabs!”

I was pointed to these, by F. Paul Wilson:



I think you can tell from the URLs the position he takes. It’s sad to see such otherwise excellent, logical thinkers brought low. Such _anger_.

Curt Howland August 24, 2010 at 7:18 pm

In re-reading, I note in word-thieves-ii that Mr. Wilson makes the following statement:

“Every time I bring this up I hear, “Look at the Grateful Dead – they let people record them live and share the tapes and it only increased attendance at their shows.”

“Apples and oranges. The Dead’s revenues came from their tours, not their records. Those so-called bootlegs (they can’t be real bootlegs if they’re sanctioned) advertised their concerts, which were not free. You had to pay to see the Dead live. (That was not intentional. Okay, maybe a little.)”

So I guess this blog post and his directly relate. They’re taking his jaaaaaaab!

Ben Ranson August 24, 2010 at 7:10 pm

From what I have read about the Dead, I suspect that their attitude towards bootleggers was part of their overall permissive and sometimes experimental attitude towards business. While the Dead’s attitude towards bootleggers was admirable, their overly permissive business attitudes ultimately cost them a great deal of money.

Examples: 1) Repeated drug arrests involving the band and crew. 2) Lenny Hart, father of drummer Mickey Hart, embezzled a bunch of the band’s money. 3) Despite attempts to assemble the world’s best touring sound system, the band’s gear was notoriously problematic. 4) Their road crew was known for being among the rudest and least professional in the business. 5) Ultimately, five members of the Dead died young; three of these deaths were due to drug use.

There is no question that the Dead as a touring musical business took a long time to professionalize, and lost a lot of income to unprofessional behavior and poor management.

I personally applaud the Dead’s fairly open attitude towards copyright, but I find it difficult to believe that the Dead’s marketing was ever anything except improvisation.

Curt Howland August 24, 2010 at 7:21 pm

“ultimately cost them a great deal of money.”

While an interesting idea, I have to ask: How much would being restrictive have cost them?

It’s also irrelevant. They made money. Lots of money, while making lots of people happy. More money but less people happy sounds more like Microsoft.

MarkHu August 24, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Kinsella is being modest by not mentioning his own important contribution to understanding the IP issue fully. Sounds like a lot of people in this discussion thread need to read Jeffrey’s review of Against Intellectual Monopoly (Cambridge University Press, 2008) by Michele Boldrin and David Levine. Not to mention http://blog.mises.org/13302/without-rejecting-ip-progress-is-impossible/

Barry Loberfeld August 25, 2010 at 8:48 am

“While other bands posted signs at the entrances to concert venues saying, ‘Recording and photography of tonight’s performance is strictly prohibited’ …”

That is not an example of IP law. Venues have a right to determine what is allowed on their private property.

Michael McLees August 25, 2010 at 12:22 pm

The article makes it seem like 2 things are occurring. 1- That ripping, copying, and sharing music has always been as easy as it is now and 2- that The Grateful Dead have benefited from such things in terms of album sales. To the first point, copying an album in the 70′s was very difficult and costly compared to copying a CD today; no one will argue this. To the second, I don’t see how the argument could be made that copies (lo-fi and difficult to get by today’s standards) help their sales when their biggest sales came before the year 1990. If all that free copying really leads to sales, why are their newer albums (released more and more into an age of easy free sharing) not the sales successes of their earlier work?

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