Master’s Thesis – The University of Chicago, Department of Music
In May of 2005, I completed my thesis for a Masters degree at the University of Chicago, entitled: “When we’re finished with it, they can have it”: Jamband Tape-Trading Culture (pdf).
First and foremost, this was my attempt at online ethnography and ethnomusicology, so it was a cultural study of Internet fan communities and their interaction with the bands they loved. However, this study also focused on the way that fan communities affected band businesses and their historical trajectory. While I focused topically on Grateful Dead, Phish and other so-called “jambands,” it was always about much more than just one musical scene, type of band or musical genre. In essence, I laid out the framework for what I have since dubbed the “live band business model.” In my opinion, this model has gradually emerged as the “new music business model” over the last 5-10 years. As album sales have struggled, business models have had to change, and artists have had to focus on touring (because, no matter what, the live concert experience can never truly be copied or downloaded). So without necessarily meaning to do so, the Grateful Dead, Phish, and many other similar artists have set a trend for other acts to follow, and independent-minded artists across the spectrum have slowly found ways reproduce it within their own scenes/niches.
Not all that much time has passed since I was asked to present this paper in front of my graduating class at U. of C. in the Spring of 2005, but so much has happened in the world of Internet fan communities, non-commercial tape-trading, and especially the larger digital music realm. As such, this study is in need of a formal addendum to catch up on the last few years. But since I’m short on free time for a formal research/study, I’m attempting to create a more gradual addendum by posting periodic thoughts/updates to my blogs (here and at Live Music Blog).
If you have any questions or would like to share your own comments/research, I encourage you to contact me.
Travis A. Jackson
Associate Professor of Music and the Humanities, University of Chicago