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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 10. Put Fans in the Front Row

If you're like us, you've been to concerts by many rock bands besides the Grateful Dead. Back in the day (prior to the Web), getting tickets for popular shows meant standing in line hours before the 10:00 a.m. on-sale time at the Ticketron outlet in your hometown. Or you could try your luck by calling the telephone number at 10:00, hoping you could get through and that tickets were available by the time you got off hold to speak to a representative. For popular bands, electronic ticketing meant that ticket scalpers would end up with the best seats, while fans often couldn't get tickets at all. This made it nearly impossible for the true fans to get up front at shows.

Unlike nearly every other band, the Grateful Dead controlled the ticket sales for their concerts. While other bands moved toward selling tickets through electronic systems of the day, like Ticketron and, later, Ticketmaster, the Grateful Dead established their own in-house ticketing agency in the early 1980s.

The unique ticketing system of the Grateful Dead led to word-of-mouth marketing like this: "Want some great seats to the Grateful Dead concert? You can buy tickets directly from the band. I know their phone number!"

Fans would call a special telephone number to hear a recording about the upcoming tour and then mail in ticket requests, along with money orders, directly to the Grateful Dead ticketing office in San Rafael, California. The best seats were then mailed to ...

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