Learning from the Grateful Dead

Recorded sound can easily be digitized and delivered over the Internet. It will eventually be free because the cost to deliver is nothing, and the inventory of choice is wildly abundant.

On the surface this stinks. Especially if you are a song writer, a band or the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).

This doesn’t mean that you stop selling the music. It just means that you cannot bank on it. If all that someone wants is something to listen to, they don’t need to pay for anything. But people like to “connect” with the music that they listen to.

The Grateful Dead had it right: “Please bootleg our concerts. In fact, here is an output from our mixing board. We are never going to play it the same way twice.”

That created loyalty and love for the group. Enough loyalty that people (Deadheads) would buy albums, t-shirts, concert tickets, etc. for any price. The purchase of anything “Grateful Dead” was an expression of love for the group, not just a purchase of a t-shirt or CD. In fact, the Deadheads would follow the band around from show to show.

So imagine for a moment a local band. They have a few hundred followers on their Facebook or MySpace page. So they call the owner of a restaurant and say the following:

“We’d like to do a show at your place. Don’t pay us to play the gig, rather give us 20% of the bar revenue and donate 20% to a local charity. And we will give you 20% of the merchandise and CD sales and we will donate 20% to charity as well. We’ll bring our fans.”

What the band should realize is that its real assets are loyalty and love from its fans. The bar or restaurant is a place to monetize it and a place for the fans to express their love. The band can bring hundreds of people to a usually barren place without any financial risk to the bar or restaurant.

Everybody wins.

And just for a moment, think about how The Grateful Dead would have used Facebook and Twitter. A lot can be learned from the way they connected with their followers.

So if you are the band in the above scenario, ask people that come to the show for their email address and send them an MP3 file of the show. Or even better, find one of your fans that wants to be your ambassador and can organize this for you.

Update: Here is an article from The Atlantic MagazineManagement Secrets of the Grateful Dead