While the tapers who attended and recorded the concerts made up their own mini subculture within the Deadhead community, the fans that collected tapes were a much bigger subculture. Deadheads often had hundreds of tapes in their collections and actively sought recordings of significant shows. Before the Internet, people freely passed tapes to friends, who made copies. These friends would share them with their friends, who shared them with their friends, and so on. Deadheads played their tapes in college dorms, at work, and at home—turning on still more fans.
Deadheads also spent hours creating beautifully hand-drawn "covers" for their tapes, especially if a particular show had special meaning (i.e., you met your wife at the concert or your first child was born on that show date). Fans might draw the dancing bears on the tape cover and then give the tape to a friend.
All of this copying and sharing and creating was fully sanctioned by the Grateful Dead, whose only stipulation was that recordings not be sold for commercial purposes.
The music industry put strict barriers around artists' content, a battle that continues to this day. According to copyright law, a fan could make a copy of an album or a cassette tape but was not supposed to share ...