Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, was often asked why the band allowed its fans to tape all of its live performances. “When we’re done, you can have it,” said Garcia, first among equals in the band, who died in 1995. Who knew the response would serve as a guidepost for successful b-to-b sales and marketing in a Web 2.0 world.
Throughout their 30-year run the Grateful Dead (1965-1995) fostered a business model that flipped conventional wisdom on its head, relying on “shows,” rather than prerecorded material, for their main source of revenue. By permitting its fans to record its concerts the Dead, in essence, were distributing mini-musical advertisements (bootlegs) that, via sharing, constantly exposed their brand to both existing customers and prospects. It helped that Grateful-Dead music defied category, offering a chunky blend of blues, rock, country and, perhaps most prevalent, improvisation. Because no one Dead show was alike (no set list, for example) the fans kept consuming the content, spawning a wandering confederacy of so-called “Deadheads” who followed the band for three decades. By giving away “freemium” content, and creating scale, Dead pioneered many of the inbound-marketing techniques that are now becoming the norm among businesses of all stripes.
The Grateful Dead also were early adopters of what is now considered lead nurturing. In their 1971 album “Skull & Roses,” the band inserted the following message: “DEAD FREAKS UNITE.” The declarative included a ‘call to action’ to collect names and addresses so the band could keep its fans informed about upcoming shows and other appearances. Database marketing, anyone?
Indeed, the band rarely had a hit tune but became one of the highest-grossing live musical acts of its time, playing to millions of people and racking up millions of dollars. The Dead’s business acumen was the subject of a webinar earlier this week titled, “How to Market Your Business like the Most Iconic Band in History.” The webinar was hosted by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan, authors of “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History.” (Scott and Halligan saw roughly 150 Grateful Dead shows combined.)
“We had the ability to capture the message and the joy of the Grateful Dead and put it in a business context, said Halligan, CEO and founder of inbound marketing firm HubSpot, who added that the Dead’s business practices have plenty of applications in the b-to-b arena.
NBA legend and longtime Deadhead Bill Walton joined the webinar. Walton, who said that he saw 750 Grateful Dead shows, stressed that the members of the band constantly strived to treat their customers well. “The Dead didn’t sit around thinking about marketing concepts, they thought about what was right and what was egalitarian,” he said. “They cared about their customers and that’s what you have to do at your company. They knew that if they worked at it, people would come back.”
To listen to the webinar, click here.
Click here for the article from The Atlantic, titled, “Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead.”