One Man Gathers What Another Man Spills

Yesterday, on the 10th anniversary of Garcia’s passing, Seth asked, “What Would Jerry Do?”

More than Campbell’s Soup or American Airlines or CAA or Cisco or McKinsey, the Grateful Dead is the template for how organizations are going to grow and succeed moving forward.
No, not every element of who they were and what they did, but the idea of conversations and open source, the idea of souvenirs and emotion and live events and of remarkability. The Dead sells through permission marketing, spread their music through an ideavirus and yes, as long as we’re slinging buzzwords, profits from the long tail.
The most important takeaway is this: They repeatedly did things that felt like huge risks, that challenged the status quo and that seemed, on their face, to give too much power to their audience. And in those moments, the Grateful Dead were at their most successful.

Seth also points to a New York Times article about how the JG and GD brands continue to earn millions of dollars each year from merchandise sales.

On Sunday, the city unveiled the newly renamed Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in John McLaren Park, near the blue-collar Excelsior District where Mr. Garcia grew up before moving to the better-known Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.
Backstage at the event, Mr. Garcia’s older brother, Tiff, seemed to share his sibling’s somewhat ambivalent attitude toward the marketing of celebrity.
“They’re trying to do an Elvis on him, with all of the garments and merchandise and different items,” he said. “But I’m not surprised.”

Let’s also consider what Hugh calls the best thing A VC has ever written. It’s on the value of free.

Stewart Brand’s famous qoute “Information wants to be free” has been the rallying cry of the open source software movement for years.
And I basically think Stewart was right.
Free is a great way to make money. You just have to know how you are going to get paid for being free.

Today, with digital distribution being something of a Wild West show, artists, writers, photographers, musicians, film makers and others are concerned about “giving it all away” on the internet. Yet, there’s nothing to be concerned about (other than privacy rights). The idea is to build a fan base. Without that fan base you don’t have Jack. So, do whatever you have to do to be totally solid with that the people who most vigorously support what you’re doing. It’s the old “give it away and see what comes back to you” trick. Bloggers and Deadheads know it well. Deadheads who blog know it even better.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.