Grateful To Be In Business

Stephen prosper in his time
Well he may and he may decline -Robert Hunter

I was talking with an old friend this morning about honoring our experience seeing live Grateful Dead shows. I suggested it might be beneficial to openly state that it was an important part of our development as people and as businessmen. The thought is like-minded souls might resonate with that.
We joked how doing so would certainly fill some holes in our resumes. Anyway, I started thinking about how much of an impact that time in my life had on me and what the particulars were, especially the organizational lessons learned that might be valuable to recall and to share.
Turns out, I’m not the only one with thoughts on the subject. A quick Google search brought me to a post by Adam at Create Business Growth. Here’s a condensed summary of that post:

Here are some lessons learned on the road while touring with the Dead:
-It’s ok to be different
-A strong community is powerful
-Good marketing doesn’t need to be expensive
-Package up products and services and offer discounts in bulk
-Give away something for free
-Be kind to other people
-You can get by even with a sporadic income
-Make it easy to share your content
-It’s ok to have fun

That’s a good list. One I’d like to add to and give some context and meaning to over time. It might make for an interesting essay, or a book. I’ll work up an outline…
In the meantime, here are some obvious things not on the above list:
Learn the Basics, Then Experiment Relentlessly: The Dead’s willingness to experiment was grounded solidly in the basics, in American folk music, specifically. It helps to have that training and core familiarity with your subject, or industry, before you venture too far out. Once you’ve “got it” though, it’s time to head out for uncharted territories.
Be Forever Dedicated To Craft: The Dead practiced and played their asses off. People sometimes wonder how I create the volume of content that I do, and the answer is simple, it’s what I enjoy doing, so I’m always doing it, just like a musician who is dedicated to craft is always running through scales and chord progressions.
Work With People You Trust and Want to Be Around: In order to play in an improvisational group, you have to establish a deep trust and familiarity or it all falls apart mid-expedition. To go where no band, or no company, has dared to go before requires a willingness to experiment and the skill to pull it off, but it’s faith in the people around you that makes the real difference.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. My favorite Jerry Garcia quote says it all:
    “You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”
    Jerry Garcia

  2. i had the good fortune to attend the last ever Dead show. I actually went mainly to check out the legendary parking lot culture. And check it out I did. I even bought a balloon! 😉
    They did not disappoint. The Dead had a real vision. They created a whole culture.

  3. you forgot the tip to hide the goods in your underwear when going to a Toronto show in a ’71 microbus

  4. Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places
    if you look at it right.

  5. As someone who literally got my business start at Dead Shows, I think you find the real world both alike and different.
    What I noticed was that for most kids started to sell something in the parking lot, it was a foreign but very useful experience.
    Alot of the head were dis-enfranchised not by poverty but by wealth. The satisfaction derived from the ability to actually make a grilled cheese sandwich and sell it to somebody is nothing they or their parents had ever done.
    And then if you had something really good to sell . . . well that might change your outlook or your life – or make for one very long strange . . . night.

  6. enjoying your GD articles. what resonated for me is that you like writing so much, which is why you do it. assume the same for the Dead. And some day, I hope to find what I’m passionate about, besides saving the planet…