Public Relations Tactics

Playing in the Band: Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead

Publication Date: 11/2010

Source: SO01 Public Relations Tactics
Product Code: 6C-111010
Organization/Author/Firm: Amy Jacques
Member price:
Non-Member price:

View PDF PDF File


The Grateful Dead pioneered social media and inbound marketing strategies long before these terms even existed. As one of the most successful touring bands and a huge influence on popular culture, the Dead always put their fans first and aimed to provide them with the highest-quality service. The band created a business model that focused on touring rather than selling records — and proved that business model innovation is often more important than product innovation.

David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan’s Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History, uses the group as a vehicle to show business owners how to out-market their competition.

The Dead provides lessons like turning customers into evangelists, bypassing the traditional channels by going direct, and building a huge and loyal following. The band encouraged concertgoers to record live shows and established a “taper” section in an effort to get quality recordings to the most people possible. Fans also traded tapes by mailing them across the country in pre-Internet days. This exposed the band to new fans in other parts of the world and helped sell tickets to live shows. The Dead illustrated that by freeing content, more people can hear about a company and do business with it.

The band also created a mailing list in the early 1970s to announce tours to fans first. They established their own ticketing agency to sell directly to them without using a third party agent and gave the most loyal fans the best seats. Halligan and Scott explain that building a community and treating customers with respect will drive passionate loyalty.

The edited book excerpts that follow explain how businesses can apply concepts like building a diverse team and embracing technology to grow their customer base, create excitement, maintain communication and create loyal followers.