Call Them Hippies, But the Grateful Dead were Tech Pioneers

“What sets the band’s “Fare Thee Well” gigs apart isn’t that these options are available, but that they exist in large part because of the Grateful Dead itself: The group and its associates pioneered rock concert broadcasts, making it a regular practice starting with a show at the Carousel Ballroom in 1968.

The Dead, long stereotyped as hippies stuck in the Summer of Love, surely seemed anachronistic by the time it disbanded in 1995 after the death of guitarist and songwriter Jerry Garcia. But the Grateful Dead remains one of the most innovative and tech-savvy bands in pop history. Long before it became necessary (or cool) to do so, the band embraced a DIY ethos in everything from manufacturing its own gear to publishing its own music to fostering a decentralized music distribution system. The Dead’s obsession with technology was almost inseparable from the band’s psychedelic ambition and artistic independence.”

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More genuinely progressive than most prog rock, the Grateful Dead and its legion of fans embraced a spirit of innovation that could be called entrepreneurial if the pursuit of profit didn’t so often seem secondary. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the band’s constant experimentation with sound systems and musical equipment. The Dead and its extended family essentially created the sound of modern rock-and-roll concerts, rejecting the small amplifiers and tinny PA systems of the 60s—think of the Beatles at Candlestick Park—in favor of ground-shaking stereo and quadraphonic sound.

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Only a few years ago, a crew of jam fans created GroupMe, a group texting app ideal for mass communications at shows and festivals, eventually selling it to Skype for millions. Probably, there will be Deadheads using it to find one another in Chicago and Santa Clara, if they haven’t already adapted to some newer tech. Heads continue to play with new configurations, lately including the Bluetooth-enabled Zoku. Billing itself as “the Secret Society App” to anonymously find “tribes off-the-grid in real life,”  Zoku works even when the Deadheads inevitably overload the local cell network, as they did during the shows in California. Others are in various stages of development. The secondary ticket market for the Dead shows has been the hugest of the summer, according to StubHub, but the fans also have the Deadhead-friendly face-value ticket site/app CashOrTrade at their disposal to level the playing field a bit.

Via Wired

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A Manifesto for the Future of Music Technology Research

“Meaningful innovation happens when fields intersect – yet those who work in music technology are too often siloed in distinct fields within universities, industry, startups, journalism, hobbyist and fan subcultures. We don’t always know how to think together, and we often do not know what others can contribute. We don’t even know what we don’t know. When fields do come together, old hierarchies too often overshadow the spirit of collaboration and mutual learning. Institutional barriers challenge our ability to work together, from the way organizations are structured to reward-systems that encourage people to keep doing what they have always done.

Let’s Build Better Worlds

Music technologies make worlds. Let us make better worlds. Let music technology do good, serve public interest, foster belonging, justice, collaboration and sharing, enable greater access to positive musical experiences and personal connections, and create durable objects and practices.

We call for greater awareness of the cultural forces already in new music technologies, and the courage to challenge or change them when the collective good demands it.

Ask of any music technology: For whom will this make things better? How? Is it open or closed to creativity and innovation it has not yet anticipated?

Ask of any policy: Whose rights and opportunities are being promoted? Whose are being eroded? What idea of culture does it presume?

Ask of any practice: Who is invited to join in? Who is left out? Where will it find support?

Ask of any organization: How does it help people come together? Does it exploit them in doing so?

We must create more opportunities for people to engage one another through music. We must fight for people’s rights to create music and music technologies, and to enjoy music free of rent-seeking and unwarranted legal intimidation. We must stand up to abusive musical practices, from exploiting people’s dreams of making a living in music, to criminalizing whole classes of audiences and musicians, to subjecting people to hearing loss, to the use of music in coercion, warfare and torture.

We are Music Technologists. We work in science, art, engineering, humanities, activism, social science, policy and industry. We believe in music technology and we want to build better worlds. We invite you to join us.”

Via Music Tech Fest | A Manifesto for the Future of Music Technology Research

David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists

First, a definition of terms. What is it we’re talking about here? What exactly is being bought and sold? In the past, music was something you heard and experienced – it was as much a social event as a purely musical one. Before recording technology existed, you could not separate music from its social context. Epic songs and ballads, troubadours, courtly entertainments, church music, shamanic chants, pub sing-alongs, ceremonial music, military music, dance music – it was pretty much all tied to specific social functions. It was communal and often utilitarian. You couldn’t take it home, copy it, sell it as a commodity (except as sheet music, but that’s not music), or even hear it again. Music was an experience, intimately married to your life. You could pay to hear music, but after you did, it was over, gone – a memory.

Technology changed all that in the 20th century. Music  – or its recorded artifact, at least – became a product, a thing that could be bought, sold, traded, and replayed endlessly in any context. This upended the economics of music, but our human instincts remained intact. I spend plenty of time with buds in my ears listening to recorded music, but I still get out to stand in a crowd with an audience. I sing to myself, and, yes, I play an instrument (not always well).

We’ll always want to use music as part of our social fabric: to congregate at concerts and in bars, even if the sound sucks; to pass music from hand to hand (or via the Internet) as a form of social currency; to build temples where only “our kind of people” can hear music (opera houses and symphony halls); to want to know more about our favorite bards – their love lives, their clothes, their political beliefs. This betrays an eternal urge to have a larger context beyond a piece of plastic. One might say this urge is part of our genetic makeup.

All this is what we talk about when we talk about music.

All of it.

That’s what I always say!

Simon Napier-Bell on the music industry | Music | The Observer

As long as the major record companies controlled the industry, artists had to accept these conditions. But the majors’ grip on things has almost gone. For years they saw it coming but did little to change things. Now each week brings them more gloom. CD sales are down on last year, which were down on the year before, and the year before that. Sony and BMG amalgamated, but brought themselves little benefit in doing so. EMI and Warners tried to go the same route, but failed. So EMI was taken over by someone with no knowledge of the record industry. Guy Hands of Terra Firma fame promised to reinvent the whole business plan; he started by parting company with Radiohead.

But outside of the industry, who cares? Pop music has never sounded better or more vibrant, never been more easily available to the listener. The only people who are suffering are the people who brought it on themselves. The major record companies.

Turn It Up: Story of the decade: The fans rule — just ask Radiohead

Previous decades were dominated by personalities and movements, larger-than-life figures such as Elvis Presley and the Beatles, and cultural shifts such as hip-hop, rave music and punk. But the 2000???s belonged to music technology and delivery systems. Most of all, the decade belonged to the fans.

by Greg Kot