Friday, July 16, 2010

Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead

Brian Halligan and David Meerman Scott have written a new book, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead.

Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead
Image Courtesy Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead

I've gotten a sneak peek at the Foreward by Bill Walton, basketball legend and Deadhead, the Introduction and the Chapter, Bring People on an Odyssey.

This book is going to be a fun ride!

Bill Walton writes in the Foreward:
More than 45 years ago a bunch of young guys in the San Francisco Bay Area, living in their cars and on tomato soup made from tap water and ketchup packages lifted from fast- food restaurants, had a dream and vision of driving the train that would change our world on so many fronts.

That band of merry pranksters ultimately became the Grateful Dead. They have changed the way we live and think—in ways we don’t even know. But of all the lasting impact that they have bestowed upon us, who would have ever thought that it would be their business and marketing models that would today be the envy of the culture that they all fought so hard to change.

And now a couple of young scientists, economists and historians, true new-age Cosmic Charlies—Brian Halligan and David Meerman Scott—have help on the way. They have come up with a fascinating story of how the Grateful Dead’s counter-intuitive ways of doing business are really best business practices that work for everyone.

Brian and David’s newest book, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, is like a powerful, hard-charging anthem that fills in so many blanks while closing the circle of life all around us. Like the Grateful Dead, Brian and David are transformational visionaries with a keen eye for the second set.
We love Bill Walton in Boston. He's such a smart guy!

First Hearing the Music

In the book we get to hear how Brian and David first heard the Dead's music.
David first heard the band’s music just before he started high school. His next-door neighbor, a college student, played Grateful Dead music, loudly, from his bedroom window all summer. The music grew on him and he saw his first live concert on January 17, 1979, in New Haven, Connecticut. He was hooked for life, collecting live concert tapes and seeing the band another 41 times. Brian was in high school when he was indoctrinated into the band by his friend, who blasted the Grateful Dead while they painted houses on Cape Cod during the summer. Brian hitchhiked to his first concert in Saratoga Springs, New York, and that concert sparked a lifelong love— he’s seen over 100 shows since.
For me it was the same thing, in college at UMass Amherst, I had a roommate that listened to the Grateful Dead constantly. I ended up becoming a fan and playing their songs on my college radio show.

Marketing Lessons

In the introduction, we're introducted to one of the Grateful Dead's marketing lessons, the "fremium" business model:
In the 1960s the Grateful Dead pioneered many social media and inbound marketing concepts that businesses across all industries use today. The band made a series of difficult and often unpopular decisions in order to differentiate themselves from their competition by providing the highest quality service to their fans. They were not simply selling a product. The Dead pioneered a “freemium” business model, allowing concert attendees to record and trade concert tapes, building a powerful word-of-mouth fan network powered by free music. Instead of obsessing over recording, the Dead became the most popular touring band of their era, selling hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of tickets, and creating a highly profitable corporation in the process.
Examples of What you'll Learn in Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead:
1. Rethink traditional industry assumptions
Rather than focus on record albums as a primary revenue source (with touring to support album sales), the Dead created a business model focused on touring. Now, entirely new opportunities emerge for those willing to challenge established business models. The Grateful Dead teaches us that business model innovation is fre- quently more important than product innovation.

2. Turn your customers into evangelists
Unlike nearly every other band, the Grateful Dead not only encouraged concertgoers to record their live shows, they actually established “taper sections” where fans’ equipment could be set up for the best sound quality. When nearly every other band said “No,” the Grateful Dead created a huge network of people who traded tapes inpre-Internet days. The broad exposure led to millions of new fans and sold tickets to the live shows. Today, as many companies experiment with offering valuable content on the Web, the Grateful Dead teaches us that when we free our content, more people hear about our company and eventually do business with us.

3. Bypass accepted channels and go direct
In the early 1970’s The Grateful Dead were one of the first bands to create a mailing list where they announced tours to fans first. Later, they established their own ticketing office, providing the most loyal fans with the best seats in the house. The Grateful Dead teaches us that building a community and treating customers with care and respect drives passionate loyalty.

4. Build a huge, loyal following
The Grateful Dead let their audience define the Grateful Dead experience. Concerts were a happening, a destination where all 20,000 or more audience members were actually part of the experience. Making fans an equal partner in a mutual journey, the Grateful Dead teaches us that our community defines who we are. In an era of instant communications on Twitter, blogs, and the like, we learn that companies cannot force a mindset on their customers.
Aren't these examples cool?

The book also includes photos by Jay Blakesberg and original illustrations by Richard Biffle.

Skeleton, Lock and Key by Grateful Dead Artist Richard Biffle
Skeleton, Lock and Key by Grateful Dead Artist Richard Biffle. Image Courtesy Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead.

I really enjoyed getting a sneak peek at Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. The band was so smart. I've used examples from the band when explaining marketing concepts too, and I'm glad that Brian and David have compiled them in what is going to be a great book.

This book is going to be a fun read and I can't wait to get a full copy.

You can order a copy here:

David is editor of my book, Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business.

Grateful Dead | Official Site
Grateful Dead | Free Music

Listen to the Grateful Dead streams:
Grateful Dead Live at Madison Square Garden on 1979-09-04 (September 4, 1979)
Grateful Dead Live at Boston Garden on 1977-05-07 (May 7, 1977)
Grateful Dead Live at Oakland Auditorium Arena on 1980-12-26 (December 26, 1980)


  1. When will the next Marketing Lesson be held? I just hope I can go there the next time around. Beautiful pics. by the way, keep it up.