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Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History by Bill Halligan, Brian Halligan, David Meerman Scott

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Chapter 7. Establish a New Category

Go to the iTunes store and you'll find 23 different categories of music: Alternative. Classical. Hip hop/Rap. Rock. Most bands and their music fit into one of these categories: Led Zeppelin is "Rock" while Taylor Swift is "Country." The Grateful Dead, on the other hand, defied existing category boundaries by combining various genres of music and melding it all with extreme improvisation to create their own unique sound—and in the process, their own musical category.

Early in the band's history, the Grateful Dead teamed up with Ken Kesey and provided music for his Acid Tests, elaborate parties where the participants dropped acid. The Acid Tests weren't concerts where people came and watched the band perform; rather, the audience members were expected to be part of the performance and provide entertainment to the other attendees. This tradition of the crowd being part of the performance continued long after the Grateful Dead grew beyond being Kesey's house band. A big part of the Grateful Dead's value proposition was not just what was happening on stage, but the collective experience you had being entertained by the audience, with whom you were having a unique, collective experience.

From those early days, the Grateful Dead became known for their extended riffs and improvisational jams, which often melded jazz, country, bluegrass, psychedelic, and rock. Because the resulting fusion of genres defied set categories, the band's followers came ...

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