Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

First Page



That the Grateful Dead were "different" undoubtedly is true on a broad social level. But it is not so easy to ascertain how they were different in the business and legal aspects of their enterprise. The ephemeral nature of their approach stems from the fact that they conducted their affairs within and alongside the world of statutes and contracts and yet provided themselves with a great degree of independence from that world. This Note will comment on the Dead's perspective on and their ultimate rejection of many of the business and legal strategies traditionally ascribed to in the industry. After a brief introduction to the ethos of the Grateful Dead--essential as a frame of reference into their collective character--this Note will provide summaries of common music industry practices involved in signing onto a recording label and getting one's material marketed, distributed, and sold. It will then examine the law that protects exposure of artists and their work. The reader should keep in mind that the law views songwriters and recording artists as separate entities. In practice, this distinction applies in most instances. This Note, however, will assume that these parties are one and the same, partly because the Dead both wrote and recorded their material, and partly to avoid the inconvenience and redundancy of having to draw out this distinction in passim.