People attending a Grateful Dead concert for the first time were often surprised to see the forest of professional-grade microphones rising to the sky from the audience. Tapers, as these Dead Heads were known, (lawfully) recorded Dead shows using their own equipment.
Dead fans had been taping shows since the early days of the band in the mid 1960s. Of the more than 2,300 shows the Dead played, approximately 2,200 were taped, but as the band's success grew, so did the number of tapers, which caused problems. Concertgoers began complaining about the way microphones blocked sight lines to the stage.
Rather than banning taping, the band innovated by setting up designated taping sections at concerts. In return for sanctioning taping, the band requested that tapers refrain from selling tapes to other fans or using them for other commercial purposes—but it did encourage them to make copies to give away to their friends.
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