Part 4: How To Get Started

You have few or no tapes, and without anything to offer in trade you feel like your collection is never going to grow. Fear not, there are many different roads you can take. This section is mostly Grateful Dead oriented, but tape traders of other music should be able to find some useful information.

Grateful Dead Hour

If you live in an area that has the Grateful Dead Hour radio program hosted by David Gans you will be in business. The GDH runs every week with live Grateful Dead music from recent shows to old rarities. Call or write the station running the GDH and tell them how much you like it. If it is an NPR or other non-commercial station make sure you send them a little money when they have their fund raisers. If no station near you runs the GDH start bugging some to get it. If you find a station that is interested, you can contact David Gans at the addresses listed below. Cutting out commercials and other announcements you can often, but not always, fit the GDH on one side of a 100 minute tape. I use a 110 to be on the safe side and don't try to cut anything out.

Here is the Grateful Dead Hour broadcast schedule.

Local Friends

After the GDH, the next best way to get some tapes is to meet tape traders in your area. Many Deadheads, including myself, are more than happy to loan out tapes for people to copy. Just make sure you take very good care of them and do not loan them out to anyone else. Also dub them quickly and get them back as soon as you can. It would be a nice gesture to give the lender a little something for his kindness. He/she should not *expect* something though. Always remember how someone helped you out and be willing to lend tapes to others who are just starting out.

Buying Tapes at Cost

For a variety of reasons sometimes tape traders need to liquidate part or all of their collections. The most ethical price is the cost of the blank tape. Some feel they deserve at least something for their effort in acquiring the tape. Also the cost of blanks can vary quite a bit. This will be debated forever. To me $1.75-$2.00 a tape seems to be a fair price in most situations. The price could be a little higher if the tapes are metal or Maxell XL-IIS or lower if they are normal bias tapes. Tapes that are old and played to death should be less. The recipient of the tapes should pay the postage. Don't be willing to pay too much out of desperation to get new tapes. Something will come up. It is considered unethical and technically illegal to sell tapes above the cost of the tape. Use your best judgment.

Tape Trees

Getting on tape trees will not only guarantee you the tape being treed, but if you are in a good position on a tree you can get a few additional trades out of it. This is where high quality equipment can help you out as tree placement is largely based on that.


When all else fails you can always grovel for people to make you copies if you send blanks. Keep an eye out on the Internet for people making offers. Also look in the classifieds of Unbroken Chain, Dupree's Diamond News, and Relix for people willing to spin tapes for blanks. Be polite when asking people to make copies for you and don't be put off if they won't do it. Usually when people offer to spin for blanks they will get deluged with requests and end up with more than they can handle. When someone offers to make you tapes DO NOT send more than was agreed on. Don't deal with anyone asking for something in exchange like you sending 5 blanks and him sending back 4 and keeping one. There are too many people willing to do it for nothing. It is a nice gesture to let the taper keep the Maxpoints. It is also a nice gesture to send something along as a way of saying thanks. It does not have to be much, something like stickers, tape covers, or the like

Make things as easy as possible for the person making tapes for you. Get a padded envelope and address it to yourself and have the correct postage on it. (see section on shipping). Put the blanks in the padded envelope. Put the padded envelope inside a non-padded large envelope addressed to the person making the tapes. Include a list of the shows you want or ask the person to pick favorites from certain years or all-time.


Melissa Agar has set up a system that runs periodically to get new Grateful Dead tape traders in contact with tapers willing to spin for blanks. A similar system is available to Phish Phans. Here's how it works:

Newbies and tapers contact Melissa Agar ( to join the program. She will then help them connect with each other. Tapers can ask for more than one newbie which is encouraged so that lots of newbies can be helped out. She'll match newbies and tapers up, let them know who they're matched with and they can trade from there. She'll also help connect newbies who can then get together and start trading amongst themselves with their new tapes.

There are some qualifications which must be met in order to join the program.

Newbie Qualifications:
1. You must be willing to send blanks and postage to your parent.
2. You must be a newbie with fewer than 10 hours on tape.

If you meet these qualifications, send the following form:

------------------------------cut here----------------------------------
Subject line:  adopt-a-head newbie

Mailing address:
Taper Qualifications:
1. You must be willing to accept blanks and postage.
It would also be nice if you would be willing to take on more than one person, but that's not required.

If you still want to become a volunteer parent, send me the following form:

----------------------------cut here------------------------------------
Subject line:  adopt-a-head parent
Mailing Address:
Number of children you want to adopt:

She will continue to do the program periodically, with the goal being running the program signups every so many months.

Suggestions On What Tapes To Start With

When you are getting your first tapes you obviously will be looking for tapes you want, but you should also keep in mind what tapes will make good trading potential. If you try to get low generation tapes of really good shows, you will then have some good stuff to offer in trade. Most of the classic shows are really common, so be patient and wait for good copies to turn up. Eric Doherty makes some good points:

"The most important thing for me when collecting tapes (although not always anymore as I search for rare tapes) is getting quality low gen recordings. High quality low gen tapes are what people are looking for and you should get them whenever you can. If someone has a 1st gen SBD of some show in 1973 you should pick that over some unknown generation tape from 1972. You are likely to find that '72 tape on other lists, but you may not find a SBD/1 of that '73 show again. What you are looking for when you trade are tapes that will allow you to get other tapes. It is all one big game. Consider your SBD/2 1973 tape a key which you use to get a SBD/2 of some 1970 show. I also think it is valuable advice to wait for better quality tapes when you can. I waited about 6 months to get a copy of 8/27/72. I saw it on lots of lists, but I was looking for the best copy I could get. If you do not absolutely need a copy of 2/15/73 then wait around and see if something better turns up later. The fewer times you have to upgrade shows the more money you will save and the more tapes you can collect. It frustrates me when someone picks an AUD tape from '93 on my list over a SBD/1 rare 1970 show. They are going to get a lot more mileage out of that 1970 show, and that is the trick to this game, IMHO."

Once you get a few good tapes you should be all set for trading. Use your best tapes as bait.

Essential Tapes

This is a short list of some of the classic tapes that are out there. Most of them should be readily available and have good sound. This is certainly not all of the great shows but a good sampling. Any respectable Grateful Dead collection should have most of these.

02/28/69 - Fillmore West
03/01/69 - Fillmore West
02/13/70 - Fillmore East
02/14/70 - Fillmore East
05/02/70 - Harpur College
02/18/71 - Portchester
04/29/71 - Fillmore East
05/11/72 - Rotterdam, Netherlands
05/26/72 - London
08/27/72 - Veneta
02/09/73 - Maples Pavilion
05/26/73 - Kezar Stadium
02/24/74 - Winterland
06/18/74 - Louisville
06/28/74 - Boston
10/19/74 - Winterland
10/20/74 - Winterland
02/26/77 - San Bernardino
05/08/77 - Cornell
12/31/78 - Winterland
10/27/79 - Cape Cod
06/14/85 - Greek Theatre
10/09/89 - Hampton
03/29/90 - Nassau
09/16/90 - MSG
09/20/90 - MSG
12/31/90 - Oakland
09/10/91 - MSG
10/31/91 - Oakland
06/20/92 - RFK


If you are planning on really getting into Grateful Dead tape trading you should get Deadbase. This book will give you all the setlists, reviews, statistics and also has a section listing favorite tapes for individual years and all time, among many, many other features. Deadbase IX covers everything up through 1994 and should be available in October 1995. The yearly editions have extensive stats and multiple reviews for just that year. This project is no longer being done, so Deadbase 93 is the last one. A new version called Deadbase Jr should be available in July 1995. This smaller book will contain setlists through 1994, basic statistics, venue information and the current Deadhead survey. Ordering information:
                        Book Rate       Priority
Deadbase Jr.              $18             $20
Deadbase IX               $30             $33      add $9 for hardcover
Deadbase 88-93(each)      $12             $14
Deadbase 88-93(all 6)     $56             $60

Deadbase Orders
P.O. Box 499-P
Hanover, NH 03755
Deadbase is only available through the mail or from Terrapin Tapes.

Terrapin Tapes

Terrapin Tapes 1-800-677-8650 will give you just about as good a price on blank tapes and audio equipment as you are going to get anywhere. They also sell Deadbase. Internet users are offered additional discounts. They are an independent business and deserve our support.

Forward to the Live Taper's Survival Guide
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