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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 11. Build a Following

Word-of-mouth was a very important factor in increasing the Grateful Dead fan base. Friends told friends who told friends, which spread the word and swelled the fan base, but in those pre-Internet days, how did the band keep fans apprised of concert dates, news, and other Grateful Dead happenings? It's a great question, given that fans today can easily learn the latest Dead news with just a few clicks to the band's official web site and chat forums, Facebook fan page, and Twitter feed.

From the outside, the Grateful Dead looked like they didn't have a clue about business, but in reality, they were forward-looking, especially when it came to building their database and connecting with their fans—a lesson companies today can readily apply.

In 1968 the band hired the Grateful Dead fan Scott Brown as an album production coordinator. In addition to his day job, Brown also manned a booth at all the Grateful Dead shows where he signed up thousands of fans who wanted to receive updates about the band and their tours. As we mention earlier in the book, the Grateful Dead also placed its "Dead Freaks Unite!" notice on the inside sleeve of the "Skull and Roses" album in 1971, marking the beginning of the Grateful Dead Fan Club and growing the mailing list.

At the time, it was a radical idea for a band to add a "call to action" to an album as an overt way to build their mailing list—and by extension, their following. Six months after running the notice, ...

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