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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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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
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." (TheBookBag.co.uk, August 2010)
"...fits four decades' worth of guitar solos and weed smoking into the context of recent American marketing." (The Guardian.co.uk, 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?’ (Marketing.ie, April 2011).
"The origins of the book are not in the field of cultural economics. However, it raises some very interesting issues about the area and also of the general relationships between the disciplines of marketing and economics, even perhaps about the nature of American culture." (Journal of cultural economics 2015)
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Top customer reviews
The band marketed itself and built a following by doing pretty much the opposite of what most other bands did. For instance, they encouraged their fans to record their shows and give tapes to their friends. They built a mailing list of fans to keep in touch with them. They sold concert tickets directly to fans instead of through a middleman. And most significantly, they built their business model on live concerts, instead of album sales long before that model became the norm for today's recording artists.
The music industry thought they were crazy, but the approach the Grateful Dead took was ultimately successful. Many of the things they did to build a following are what successful modern marketers are now doing in the Internet age.
The Grateful Dead was doing social media and content marketing long before there was Internet marketing.
And rather than trying to have an enormous fan base that was a mile wide and an inch deep like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead strove to have a deep relationship with a niche audience.
And that is how many businesses are profiting in the long-tail nature of the Internet.
Even if you're not a fan of The Grateful Dead, this is a great marketing book that both entertains and educates.
And, to listen to an interview with David Meerman Scott about "Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead" visit MarketingBookPodcast.com
Like any list of good ideas from a successful marketing pair, it has some great ideas, some good ones, and some that are used to increase the page count. And in all cases the argument in favor of the idea is it worked well for 2 specific cases. That lack of supporting evidence doesn't mean they're bad ideas, but it doesn't make them good either.
This book is simply written and helped me understand the answer to that question. If you know some things about the Grateful dead(ie,you are a deadhead) then you might find this book useless. If you are someone like me who grew up knowing who they were but never really followed them and/or you are an entrepreneur or marketing person you'll find this useful. It's very simply written and tells the story about how this unknown band who looked like anything but rock stars attained success.
At a time when so many people fight over copyright laws, and being a 'rock star' means you have to get up on stage and do all these choreographed dance moves to get noticed, it's refreshing to see how amazingly simple it can be to just be yourself and 'make it'.
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.
At around 200 pages it's a short read, but this actually works in your favour as you're left with the motivation to get back to your business and start implementing these ideas.
Grateful Dead Psychedelic Bear Tapestry 60x90 - Hanging Wall Art - Great for Apartments, Dorms, Homes, and Office.
Read Mark Levy's review. It concisely contains all marketing material in a just a few paragraphs.
Buy this book if you grew up with the Grateful Dead. Avoid it if you are interested in marketing.
Having said all this, I can't recall purposely listening to a Grateful Dead album. I now feel the urge to start buying some of their albums.