Marketing and the Business of the Dead

For a band whose Haight-Ashbury origins celebrated an aversion to capitalism, the Grateful Dead have emerged as a powerful example to a variety of business theorists, scholars, and academics. David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan are the latest to delve into the band’s remarkable commercial success, condensing the thirty-year history of the Grateful Dead into a series of pithy lessons to guide managers through the rapidly shifting terrain of marketing today. Their book, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, provided them with a unique opportunity to truly combine their passions: as marketing professionals, business writers—and Deadheads.

Published by Wiley and just released, the book is getting good press, helped by the authors’ promotional tour—one that also allows them to catch a few summer shows by Furthur and the Rhythm Devils.

Scott and Halligan join a distinguished roster of scholars who have studied the band’s business model. Dr. Barry Barnes, a professor at Nova Southeastern University, is the most prolific and well known academic business scholar who has focused on the band, but a number of business scholars and analysts have long recognized the significance of how the band’s freewheeling marketing acumen and fanatically loyal customer base helped make the Dead one of the most unlikely economic powerhouses in an industry known for its fickle nature.

The lessons of that approach have not been lost on other Dead scholars, most of whom have had to address the stigma of the band’s countercultural origins and trappings. Unique among the welter of scholarly approaches to the Dead phenomenon, business theorists tend to ignore that stigma—the band’s success, and their maverick approach to courting that success, are sufficient to warrant the attention. To historians, that approach is refreshing because it foregrounds the band’s commercial success, making the point that the Dead’s artistic and commercial success are inextricably entwined; a professional band is, after all, an enterprise that is predicated—and depends—on both.

Their success also allowed the Dead to be generous, and their altruism was another lesson Scott and Halligan took to heart, donating a portion of their advance and earnings to support the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz. It is a wonderful acknowledgment of the old-fashioned ideals that informed the Dead phenomenon, and that now have taken root in its study. Scholars from a wide variety of disciplines will find Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead a thought-provoking and informative read.

Musicological Musings on the Grateful Dead: A New Blog

Grateful Dead scholars know David Malvinni for his thoughtful, erudite analyses of “the Eleven,” “Terrapin Station,” and other songs; those who attended the landmark conference Unbroken Chain: The Grateful Dead in American Music, Culture and Memory heard him deliver one of his best analyses of a number of the broader themes that make Grateful Dead music so powerful, dense, alluring, and compelling.

Now Dr. Malvinni has launched a blog, “The Grateful Dead World,” that provides him with a forum for pursuing some of his ideas and sharing them with his colleagues. As he notes there, “The purpose of The Grateful Dead World is to help me get my thoughts out for a book I’m writing called A Touch of the Blues: A Musicological guide to the Grateful Dead.”

The idea for the blog emerged as he was preparing his paper for Unbroken Chain. Called “The Psychedelic Appropriation of the Blues,” his paper was well received and sparked a number of spirited discussions. Dead scholars will be delighted that Malvinni is sharing his work: as he explains, “My idea is that Deadheads, musicologists and anyone interested in the topic can interact with the material before publication.” Thanks to David for this contribution to the literature.

Voices of the Dead: Kearny Street Books’ The Storyteller Speaks Reviewed

David Carter just published a fine review of a new Dead-related book, Rob Weiner and Gary McKinney’s edited anthology The Storyteller Speaks: Rare & Different Fictions of the Grateful Dead (Kearney Street Press, 2010), on the FilmFanaddict webzine: http://www.shockingimages.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=1325.

Carter praises the volume for its range and inclusiveness, grounding his assessment in his own appreciation for the band and scene (he caught a couple of shows in April of their last year.) Weiner’s long-time interest in the ways that the scene and phenomenon can be depicted in fiction is amply reflected here, and the two editors have assembled a thought-provoking range of efforts. Especially notable contributions from band lyricist Robert Hunter and Philip Baruth, author of The Millennium Shows (Albion, 1994), make the volume mandatory reading for Dead fans, and Dead scholars will be interested to see how many of their colleagues have been drawn to write fictional treatments of the phenomenon they study. McKinney, author of the well-received mystery (featuring a Deadhead sheriff) Slipknot (Kearney Street Books, 2007), and Weiner, editor of Perspectives on the Grateful Dead (Greenwood, 1999), have achieved a commendable first with this volume—and made a fine contribution to the ever-burgeoning literature on the Dead phenomenon in the process.

Voices of the Dead: Kearny Street Books’ The Storyteller Speaks Reviewed


David Carter just published a fine review of a new Dead-related book, Rob Weiner and Gary McKinney’s edited anthology The Storyteller Speaks: Rare & Different Fictions of the Grateful Dead (Kearney Street Press, 2010), on the FilmFanaddict webzine (click here).

Carter praises the volume for its range and inclusiveness, grounding his assessment in his own appreciation for the band and scene (he caught a couple of shows in April of their last year.)

He joins a number of critics in praising the volume (for a sample, click here). Co-editor Weiner’s long-time interest in the ways that the scene and phenomenon can be depicted in fiction is amply reflected here, and the two editors have assembled a thought-provoking range of efforts.

Especially notable contributions from band lyricist Robert Hunter and Philip Baruth, author of The Millennium Shows (Albion, 1994), make the volume mandatory reading for Dead fans, and Dead scholars will be interested to see how many of their colleagues have been drawn to write fictional treatments of the phenomenon they study.

McKinney, author of the well-received mystery (featuring a Deadhead sheriff) Slipknot (Kearney Street Books, 2007), and Weiner, editor of Perspectives on the Grateful Dead (Greenwood, 1999), have achieved a commendable first with this volume—and made a fine contribution to the ever-burgeoning literature on the Dead phenomenon in the process.