Free as in speech, not free as in beer

Music downloads as a commercial proposition, crossed a crucial threshold this day last week. Apple announced that it had sold 300 million tracks on the iTunes Music Store (iTMS); however buried in the third paragraph of the press release was the real news that The Grateful Dead were coming to iTunes.

The Grateful Dead as well as being the best rock band in the world EVER, were revolutionaries in the music industry. The released a number of studio albums but made most of their money as a jam band touring the length and breadth of North America.

They allowed people who attended their concerts to record the concert for non-commercial use and issued their own recordings as Dick’s Picks.

Their studio albums are still available on vinyl, but The Dead embraced technology. Dead.net, their webside was a pioneer on the Internet, they developed a thriving merchandise offering early on; including ‘dancing bear’ silk ties for the former acid head turned sell-out capitalist. Lyricist Jon Barlow helped found the EFF (electronic frontier foundation) which defends personal freedoms online. Many of their live recordings are available for free download via archive.org, so long as they are for non-commercial use.

The fact that they chose to now release their commercial Dicks Picks compilations and Vault collection now on iTMS is a powerful message that the music download industry has matured and that the iTMS licencing provides consumers with a fair and equitable offering.