Business Practices from the Dead


Are you tired of relying on old habits? Are you searching for new solutions when it comes to marketing your band? Be like the Grateful Dead and create your own path! Yep, you heard me right. The band that used to host all the acid parties! The crew that experimented with and consumed every drug possible! “Driving that Train, High on Cocaine“.  You know “Dead Freaks Unite”. The Dead are probably one of the most innovative bands to date. How did a known party band hit so many business notes right? Their advanced occupation was so respected, that two authors wrote about the band’s practices. One book was based on general business and the other was geared towards marketing lessons. I’ll include the links to these books at the end of the article. 

What exactly did the band do that was so profound that it propelled them into a class of their own? Let’s start off with one of the most important factors of any band… the fans. Just like a small business, your fans or customer base is the key to survival. They provide inspiration and help monetize future projects. The Dead focused on their fans first and foremost. They encouraged show taping and even set up a private sections at each show. This guaranteed the tapers a safe zone to record each performance. This one little gesture was a part of the customer first attitude that The Dead took. They also encouraged the fans to connect with each other by trading shows. Whether you are playing music for a living or providing a service, if you are able to connect your customers together, then you have ultimately created a community around your product or service. 


Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Connecting comes in many forms, and The Dead did this by creating a data base in which they offered both the band’s news and ticket sales through the mailer. The band was able to control a certain percentage of each show’s tickets through Ticketron, which is now Ticketmaster, skipping the middle man and keeping the prices at a reasonable rate. Service charge free !Could you imagine hand stamping over 60,000 mailers to fans just to keep them in the loop on show updates and band news? The fan data base was crucial in the growth of the band. The mailing list was called “Dead Freaks Unite”. After the first five years, the mailing list reached 63,147. Being early adapters of the data base really separated The Dead from the rest. 

How do you engage with your fans? Could you create a relationship that encourages creativity and promotes a community atmosphere?   Being innovative is what drives a cult following. If orchestrated correctly, your  following will stay by your side, even if you decide to implement a new playing style into your sound. 

One of the things that The Dead did really well was creating on the fly. Are you able to adjust your business plan as you move forward? Sometimes the original plan just doesn’t work and you need to advance  with a new plan. Whether it was the acid that altered the minds of The Dead or just a drive to be different from every other band, continuously innovating and  putting the fans first definitely separated the band from the pack. 

For more information on the business practices of The Dead, check out these two books:

Everything I Know About Business I Learned From The Grateful Dead 

Marketing Lessons From The Grateful Dead 


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