Unlike other bands, the Grateful Dead encouraged concertgoers to record their live shows, establishing "taper sections" behind the mixing board where fans' recording gear could be set up for best sound quality. When requesting tickets to a show, a taper would request a seat in the special section reserved just for them.
People attending a Grateful Dead concert for the first time were often surprised to see the forest of professional-grade microphones rising to the sky in the audience. Tapers, as these Deadheads are known, were allowed to freely record Grateful Dead shows using their own equipment. Photography was also encouraged.
Allowing fans to tape concerts was highly unusual as conventional wisdom held that if fans made their own recordings, they wouldn't need to buy records. The Grateful Dead once again rejected conventional wisdom.
The tapers became a subculture within the Grateful Dead community. It was the tapers, more than anything else, who ensured that past performances were captured and shared. Fans poured over these recordings, amassing deep knowledge about performances, including the order of songs played, how each song was played and its length, and the improvisational elements within each one. The tapers became the band's curators and historians.
Rather than prevent their audience from taping their concerts, as every other band did, the Grateful Dead set their music free by allowing and encouraging these tapers. You would have ...