The Taping Pit

The Grateful Dead played more than 2300 concerts beginning in 1964. They took a different approach to making music and selling music than their contemporaries. Most other bands recorded albums, and toured in order to support the album. The Grateful Dead toured, and occasionally recorded an album to meet contractual obligations.

They preferred playing live music for their fans rather than recording albums in the studio, because they enjoyed the relationship that they had with their fans. They were the first band to collect names and addresses of their fans (the DeadHeads) and started a mailing list in an effort to update their fans on what they were doing.

They allowed their fans to tape their concerts, which was revolutionary at the time. The fans who taped their concerts became known as “tapers”, and eventually so many people wanted to tape their concerts that the Grateful Dead had to create a “taping pit”, a section of each arena or stadium where tapers could set up their taping equipment. A typical taping pit looked like this:


Music industry executives and fans of other bands didn’t understand taping. The first reaction was “you’re giving away your music-that’s a terrible idea”. But the Grateful Dead understood their fans and their music, and realized that the best way to “spread the word” about their music was to give it away. Jerry Garcia was quoted as saying that “after we play it, we are done with it-let the fans enjoy it”.

I first came to know and love the music of the Grateful Dead through some of these tapes. My first exposure to the Grateful Dead was listening to concerts on tape, not by listening to their albums.
My book “Can Openers” was released last week. I have had the following five experiences in the past 5 days:

1) Yesterday, I Googled my book and myself. I learned that someone in Australia is re-selling 10 copies of my book for about $30 apiece.
2) Someone else has taken my book and made a .pdf version of it available for distribution.
3) My book made it into the top 20 in its category (humor essays) after 5 days on the market.
4) I walked into my exercise class this morning, and one of my classmates congratulated me on my book release (I never told her about my book).
5) Someone that I don’t know sent me an email this weekend, asking what the 24 letter word was in my essay “Soft Shoulder”.

When I started my website (, now also, my first essay was entitled “Is This Thing On?” The idea was that I was (metaphorically speaking) setting up a microphone, and speaking into it for the first time.  I created the blog for fun and for free.  My hope was that I could write, and maybe people would read it.

I took a moment to look up from my microphone this weekend, and it looks like there are people in the taping pit.


%d bloggers like this: