Tuesday, March 9, 2010

DeadHeads and Retweeters: Crowdsourcing Influence

Last week the New York Historical Society opened the first large-scale exhibit of material from the Grateful Dead Archive. The archive will be managed by the University of Santa Cruz with special access to four decades worth of videotapes, recordings, fan letters and even a note from President Obama. What is surprising about the archives and the band itself, is that this classic group of rock icons is being touted as one of the first businesses to take an active role in viral marketing and brand influence building.

Beyond the iconic imagery of the Uncle Sam skull, the dancing bears and the jester, the Grateful Dead are so well known for their viral influence on fans that entire academic careers have been spent studying the band as a sociological phenomenon. In a recent article entitled, Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead, writer Joshua Green outlines how the band's willingness to allow its music to spread via taped concert recordings is similar to that of many of today's startups.

Said band lyricist John Perry Barlow, "What people today are beginning to realize is what became obvious to us back then--the important correlation is the one between familiarity and value, not scarcity and value. Adam Smith taught that the scarcer you make something, the more valuable it becomes...The Internet doesn't behave that way...If I give my song away to 20 people, and they give it to 20 people, pretty soon everybody knows me, and my value as a creator is dramatically enhanced."
The freemium model was implemented with the assumption that merchandise and concert sales would follow
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