How an iconic disruptive Rock band can inspire the modern rules of marketing ?

An iconic Rock band disrupted the music band marketing approach by cultivating an active community, collaborating with their audience to co-create : discover how the Grateful Dead pioneered some new marketing concepts successfully used by companies today.


The Grateful Dead – one of the leading lights of the Psychedelic movement in the 60’s – broke almost every rules in the music industry book. By cultivating a dedicated, active community, collaborating with their audience to co-create the Deadhead lifestyle, the Grateful Dead pioneered many social media and inbound marketing concepts successfully used by companies today.



A business model based on live concerts, not album sales


The Grateful Dead Sound System just by itself is a revolution.Used for the first time in 1974, the Wall of Sound was the largest concert sound system built at that time. Taking into account the technology available at this period, the result is very impressive because of its excellent quality. It is because their live music revealed their true musical dimension that their records were so well received among the general public. Ahead of a huge assembly of impressive speakers until of ten meters heigh, the group ablaze the scene.  The « DeadHeads » (name of the fans) were conducting audio recordings of many concerts of the group. A large amount of them were published officially, while others circulates within this very active and loyal community. Their particularly effective marketing strategy for those artists who primarily intended to fuel and broadcast their passion. They built their business model on live concerts, not album sales. Among the numerous interactions they created on their way with their fans, you can notice some that are very close to some interactions used to leverage community nowadays, through Social Media for instance :


  • They encouraged their fans to record shows and trade tapesthrough that practice, they offered a great gift to “the tapers”, they gave value to these members and make them becoming a very important part of the “seeding process” of their music. Nowadays, this practice would sound controversial with the issue of illegal downloading. But the practice to share the music « live » through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,… looks the same that what once did the tapers. Moreover, the idea to access to free music first to let you discover a new artist, can be a good way to make you want more and so be ready to pay to go to the concert and listen to them live. And that is what the best economical way for musicians today : make people come to their shows.



  • They sold concert tickets directly to fans and built a mailing list : to be always more closer to their fans and offer them a way to never miss a thing about the life of the band, they proposed to stay in touch by mail ; a good idea – isn’t it ? – when you think about « modern » CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and furthermore nowadays when you think to the need and use of datas







This way to be into a disintermediation process is really close to what one can observe about what actual musicians do and a lot of brands too. The user centric approach stays one of the best if you want to drive your brand to success.



Florian Beulé  – Promo UX


 planche réalisée par  – Promo UX