Business Lessons from The Grateful Dead

One of my favorite posts I’ve written in the past year is about The Grateful Dead and the Power of Sharing. I seem to have grabbed on to something with this one as I just ran across an article from The Atlantic entitled, “Management Secrets of The Grateful Dead.” A big chunk of the article is about the Grateful Dead Archive being built at UCSC, but there are some good business nuggets in there including:

  • “One was to focus intensely on its most loyal fans. It established a telephone hotline to alert them to its touring schedule ahead of any public announcement, reserved for them some of the best seats in the house, and capped the price of tickets, which the band distributed through its own mail-order house.
  • They incorporated early on, and established a board of directors (with a rotating CEO position) consisting of the band, road crew, and other members of the Dead organization.
  • They founded a profitable merchandising division and, peace and love notwithstanding, did not hesitate to sue those who violated their copyrights. But they weren’t greedy, and they adapted well.
  • They famously permitted fans to tape their shows, ceding a major revenue source in potential record sales. According to Barnes, the decision was not entirely selfless: it reflected a shrewd assessment that tape sharing would widen their audience, a ban would be unenforceable, and anyone inclined to tape a show would probably spend money elsewhere, such as on merchandise or tickets.”

How did that all work out for them? The article says that along their trip, “they became one of the most profitable bands of all time,” and what a long strange trip it was.


One thought on “Business Lessons from The Grateful Dead

  1. Hey, Josh, nice website. Just realized we both blogged on the Dead recently. (I’m going to be featuring them in an upcoming book.) I’ve always liked them as people and have admired their low-key biz savvy.

    Keep up the good work!

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