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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 12. Cut Out the Middleman

Deadheads bought tickets to Grateful Dead shows in a very different way than they did for other concerts. They called into a telephone hotline, which was a voice recording that gave instructions on how to buy tickets directly from the band. The instructions typically involved mailing a self-addressed stamped envelope and a money order for up to four tickets to a Post Office box in San Rafael, California.

So why the heck did the Grateful Dead go through all this trouble rather than just outsourcing this function like every other band? Well, it turns out this process was a brilliant innovation on the Grateful Dead's part from a number of perspectives, including allowing them to control the distribution process start to finish.

By selling tickets directly to fans, the Grateful Dead could keep prices at a level that was affordable to their fans. Rather than let the brokers and scalpers dictate and falsely inflate prices, the band went "direct"—and in doing so ensured that the low-value-add middlemen (brokers and scalpers) couldn't pocket outsized profits from Deadheads off the backs of the Grateful Dead's hard work.

Controlling the ticket-ordering process also ensured that the best tickets went to their most loyal fans rather than just to people who had a ...

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