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Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History Hardcover – August 2, 2010

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Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History + Everything I Know About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead: The Ten Most Innovative Lessons from a Long, Strange Trip
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470900520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470900529
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #286,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Product Description
The Grateful Dead broke almost every rule in the music industry book. They encouraged their fans to record shows and trade tapes; they built a mailing list and sold concert tickets directly to fans; and they built their business model on live concerts, not album sales. By cultivating a dedicated, active community, collaborating with their audience to co-create the Deadhead lifestyle, and giving away "freemium" content, the Dead pioneered many social media and inbound marketing concepts successfully used by businesses across all industries today.

Written by marketing gurus and lifelong Deadheads David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead gives you key innovations from the Dead's approach you can apply to your business. Find out how to make your fans equal partners in your journey, "lose control" to win, create passionate loyalty, and experience the kind of marketing gains that will not fade away!

Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Authors David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan

What inspired you to write this book?
Brian: We have been thinking about how the Grateful Dead are a great marketing and strategy case study for years. We included content on the Grateful Dead in both of our previous books and often talk about them on stage in our blogs. Recently, we did a webinar that was focused on what marketers could learn from the Grateful Dead that was very well received, so we decided to turn up the volume and write a book. Since we are both longtime deadheads and marketing thinkers, this book was a labor of love for the two of us!\

David: The Grateful Dead is one huge case study in contrarian marketing! We’ve been eager to write about what the band has been doing to market themselves for more than forty years and apply that to businesses today. These lessons are an important tool for helping to understand the new marketing environment in language and examples that are familiar to all.

What are some of the marketing lessons that businesses can learn from The Grateful Dead?
Brian: The fundamental assumption in almost every band’s business model was that they were going to make their money on album sales. The Grateful Dead rejected that assumption. Their fundamental business model was based on making money from the concerts. Because of that change, there was a cascade of decisions that fell from that. For instance, each concert was completely unique night-after-night, so there was a strong incentive to see them for several nights in a row – this ultimately led to fans following them around the country. In addition, they allowed their fans to make tapes of the concerts and freely spread them to their fans – the more concerts they played, the more tapes there were, the more people were exposed to the music, the more people paid for concert tickets. David: 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.

What kind of research went in to writing this book?
Brian: I have been to over 100 Grateful Dead shows, so have been thinking about this for a long time. More recently, I have read pretty much everything I could get my hands on that had been written by band members or colleagues of band members. We also spent some time with Billy Kruetzmann, the Grateful Dead’s long time drummer who helped me with some of the information.

David: We did hundreds of hours of research for the book. While some things are well documented (such as the taper policy) many of the band's marketing practices were not talked about in the published materials

What has the reaction to the book been among your marketing fans, and also Grateful Dead fans?
David: We announced the book in Grateful Dead fashion—with a big announcement on our blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. We told our fans first. Soon, many Grateful Dead fans who did not know us found the book through Google alerts and from discussions that started immediately on Grateful Dead forums. We jumped into the discussions as people had questions about the book.

What was the most fun or most interesting aspect of writing this book?
David: We’ve really enjoyed digging into the band that we love. And the research has allowed us to meet really interesting people associated with the band. Because we want to support more research, we’re donating 25% of royalties to the Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California at Santa Cruz.


"Like all the best teachers, this book inspires you to do your own thinking.... I found it enlightening and liberating." (Financial Times, August 2010)

"...a short but inspiring book which will give every business person pause for thought and some good ideas." (, August 2010)

"...fits four decades' worth of guitar solos and weed smoking into the context of recent American marketing." (The, September 2010)

"...there's certainly much to be taken away from this book." (Business Life, October 2010)

"...a well-written and sprightly little book...they may just be on to something." (Management Today, Octobe 2010)

"...offers advice to marketing executives across a broader range of industries." (Director, October 2010)

Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll and ground-breaking marketing communications, what more could you ask?’  (, April 2011).

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Customer Reviews

Read this book if you want to be a success, just like the Dead were.
Dan Schawbel
The back stories of Grateful Dead concerts attended, combined with photographs, give the book a great atmosphere - even if you're not a fan of the band.
Angela Bocock
I received my copy of the book yesterday, have read it through once, and am psyched for a second reading this weekend.
Mark Levy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Roger C. Parker on July 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This was a weird weekend; by 10:00 AM Friday, I had received a copy of Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead in the mail, and had borrowed a "Fast Read" copy of Jonathan Kellerman's latest Alex Delaware mystery, Deception, at the library.

I read a little of each on the way home. Both books engaged me on the first page, as books by David Meerman Scott and Jonathan Kellerman tend to be. Both quickly "hooked" my interest.

However, faced with the choice of what to read, I finished Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead first. I became engrossed in the back story, or explanation, of the reasons a rock group I had long observed took the steps it did, and how it benefited their career and solidified their position.

It helped that I also resonated with the author's first-hand stories of attending numerous Grateful Dead concerts and visiting the Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The photographs provided atmosphere, the anecdotes provided story, and the book's tight writing and strong organization contributed to a "high momentum" and fascinating reading experience...a "high-momentum page-turner" that teaches fundamental marketing lessons and values.

Because the ideas come through so clearly, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead begs the question: "Why doesn't every business act like the Grateful Dead?" Why don't all businesses "Put Fans in the Front Row?" Why don't all businesses "Embrace Technology" and "Cut Out the Middleman?" Why don't all businesses "Bring People on an Odyssey?"

The lessons are obvious, and--most important--they are reinforced with concrete examples of how other other businesses far removed from rock and roll have profited from the same marketing ideas.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark Levy on July 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Through their albums, tours, and memorabilia, The Grateful Dead have generated a massive following and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.

Two people who have studied the group's unusual business-and-culture-building methods are social media gurus and Deadheads, David Meerman Scott (author of "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" and, full disclosure, my friend and client) and Brian Halligan (CEO of Hubspot).

In the Introduction to "Marketing Lessons From The Grateful Dead," David and Brian call The Dead "one huge case study in contrarian marketing. Most of the band's many marketing innovations are based on doing the exact opposite of what other bands (and record labels) are doing at the time." A few contrarian examples:

* While other bands protected their songs from illegal taping by fans, The Dead set up "taper sections" at their concerts, where fans could openly record music. Later, the fans would share copies with other Deadheads, as well as with people who had never experienced the music before. The pool of Dead fans grew exponentially.

* While other bands saw touring as a money-draining evil that only served to get word out about their albums, The Dead turned the model on its head and built up their live shows into their primary revenue-generating vehicle. Suddenly, the 45s and albums served to promote the shows.

* While other band treated their fans as an undifferentiated mass, The Dead would accommodates the niches in their fan base. For instance, one niche, referred to as "The Spinners," enjoyed whirling to the music during a concert. Rather than ignoring or having them ejected, The Dead erected speakers in the concourse, so that the Spinners could congregate there and gyrate without restriction.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bradley Smith on July 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Whoda thunked that what was once perceived as anti-business-Haight-Ashbury culture has became what is now truly coveted by corporate communicators... direct relationships with our fans, which my shareholder communications niche calls "investors." The book's lesson on "Free your Content" resonates deeply in an industry regulated to promote transparency yet ironically struggles with the perceived liability of content control.

From my personal POV, the book reinforces what has always guided my successes: the irrefutable winning strategy of content and creativity.

Go buy the book. I received an advanced copy: it's a terrific summer Marcom read. Fun, real and actionable.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN. What I find to be most amazing is their discovery that what many consultants are ceaselessly blogging and Tweeting about today - labeled as "social media", transparency and access - The Dead, over four decades ago, instinctively called chillin' and sharin'.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Keith Jennings on July 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
No matter what you do in life (small business owner, marketing executive, creative writer, church leader, nonprofiteer, consultant, musician, etc.), you want to share your passions and connect with others like you. That's what this book is about at it's most fundamental level.

At some point, we all ask, "How can we get the word out about this?" Which leads many marketers and non-marketers alike to do some very stupid and disrespectful things. It also causes some to "sell out." Yet, no one can ever accuse the Grateful Dead of selling out. That's what originally caught my interest with this book. I've always wrestled with the question of how to grow a cause/product/service without compromising the values and excitement that gave it life to begin with.

Scott and Halligan's book, "Marketing Lesssons from the Grateful Dead," goes after this question with real life examples. The beauty is that, by using the Grateful Dead as their lead model and metaphor, they inspire a spirit of community, innovation and respect that may connect more with values-oriented readers, than profit-driven ones. After all, most of us are not going to be Apple, U2 or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We have to succeed in the second or third pocket of the long tail. And that's what the Dead did: dominate their section of that "tail."

The Grateful Dead approach to "marketing" is not a profit-centered one. Yet they were profitable. Likewise, the Dead bucked conventional wisdom and success measures. Yet were successful.

This book will cost you less than taking your family to Chick-Fil-A. And the potential return, if you absorb and pursue what you'll learn, can sustain you, your family and your cause or business
for years to come.

After you read it, come back here and share what you learned with future readers.
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