Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Management Secrets Of The Grateful Dead

It's quite popular to believe that the hippie movement of the 60's was only about sex, drugs and rock and roll, but you'd be surprised that many of the core principles of social networking and Music 3.0 were promoted back then by the pied pipers of that movement - the Grateful Dead.

Indeed, it's now believed that the Dead were visionaries in providing what we today call "customer value," social networking (but real human social networking), and strategic planning that might rival that of today's MBA's, this according to a recent article in The Atlantic.

The band has just donated their 40 years of archives to University of California Santa Cruz, primarily because one of its professors, Frederic Lieberman, is a Dead scholar and teaches a course about them at the school. But if you think that's a curious musing at a notedly eccentric college campus, think again. Even an organization as esteemed as The New York Historical Society will open an exhibit of the Dead's archive's this week, and more and more universities around the country are instituting Dead courses of their own.

So what of the band's business vision? They were smart enough to incorporate early on, then established a board of directors with a rotating CEO position, something that many corporations could learn from today. And it wasn't just the band members who were on the board. All the members of their organization, including the road crew, were made an integral part of the company.

They were one of the first bands to understand the value of merchandising and founded a sales and licensing division that was not afraid to sue anyone who violated their copyrights. And they were one of the first acts to permit fans to tape their shows, understanding that fans sharing tapes would widen their audience, just as digitally pirated music does today. As a result, the Grateful Dead eventually became one of the most profitable musical acts of all time, despite having relatively meager album sales compared to those of their contemporaries.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that the business techniques of the Dead would be considered hip, but yet, here we are.

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