The Early Beginnings of Direct-To-Fan: How Grateful Dead and Phish Made It Happen - hypebot

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Suzanne Lainson

I get frustrated with people who are relatively new to music and assume that signing with a label was the only option for bands pre-Internet. And that now the Internet has opened so many more opportunities for them.

Back in the day, there were other bands besides the Grateful Dead and Phish that used the direct-to-fan model and did well at it. These bands recorded their own albums, sold them directly to fans at shows, and made great margins as a result. What cost $1.50 to manufacture could be sold for $15 (a generous margin that would go directly to the band).

Any band with a decent fan base would make enough to fund their touring, to fund the next album, and often enough to pay themselves a decent living.

Kylea

Some examples of bands would help your argument. Seems to me the author stated the Grateful Dead and Phish because they actually had success with their business model of direct to fan marketing. Both bands mentioned were able to become successful pre-internet and has nothing to do with the bands using the internet to get direct to fans until much later in the band's careers. Because Phish never was attached to a label other then their own, they were able to adjust their business model to include the internet during a time when the major music labels were struggling to keep people interested in buying cd's.

Suzanne Lainson

I am not responding to this article's author. I am tossing this out because of all the techies who believe the Internet has rescued musicians from the clutches of major labels. But there have been entrepreneurial musicians in the pre-Internet days, too. Not just the Grateful Dead and Phish.

String Cheese Incident and Yonder Mountain are two Colorado-based bands who made money selling direct to fans. And of course two examples of non-Colorado musicians doing this were Ani DiFranco and Mannheim Steamroller.

There are others, but their names may not be as familiar to you because they have had more of a regional or niche presence. But going back at least as far as the cassette days, some musicians have been putting out their own music and selling it at shows.

People too young to have experienced those days, or older ones who weren't going to packed shows featuring unsigned artists may not realize the extent to which such things were done.

I've gone to many such shows where the musicians (either singer/songwriters or bands) performed and then sold their own albums from the stage. Years ago I would catch Wind Machine, for example, at a number of Colorado events and buy their latest album on the spot. Even further back, my parents befriended a roving cowboy singer/songwriter who would hit the Southern Colorado circuit and sell his own cassettes. And so on.

Suzanne Lainson

Sorry if you guys thought I was commenting about the article. I was not. I was just venting my frustration about how little many people know about how bands survived before the Internet.

Most bands were never signed to labels so if they were going to make a living at music they had to figure it out on their own.

And selling albums directly to fans was a way that many of them were able to do it. It didn't start with the Internet, and there were other bands beside the Grateful Dead and Phish who used that model. But often they remained local or regional so they didn't become nationally famous. Still, they had 1000s of fans who bought what they put out and that was enough to keep them afloat.

Zac

Incidental tangent: I consider myself to be a pretty knowledgeable Phish fan, but I'm unfamiliar with the removal of a track that the record label thought would be a hit. What track and album are you talking about?

Zac

Ok, after doing a little research, I can narrow it down to Runaway Jim from either Picture of Nectar or Hoist, OR Simple from Hoist. I'm thinking probably Simple.

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