Ramble On Ron

Diamonds, Music and other Facets of Life

The Grateful Dead Created Social Networking

Posted on | March 24, 2010 | 8 Comments

Now doesn’t this look like FACEBOOK BEFORE THERE WAS FACEBOOK?

Way before the internet, facebook, twitter, blogs, and the idea of “sharing content” across your network , The Grateful Dead were sharing their music with fans across the world through tapes, not computers. They were one of the first bands to allow and actually encourage taping of their live shows. How often did you go to a concert and see “No Cameras” on the ticket? Or even asked to stop recording or taping? Never at a Dead Show, where there was always a “Tapers Section” with tapers even receiving special tickets and passes to do their thing. I recently read an article titled “Management Secrets of The Grateful Dead” which discussed,

the Dead were visionary geniuses in the way they created “customer value,” promoted social networking, and did strategic business planning…Much of the talk about “Internet business models” presupposes that they are blindingly new and different. But the connection between the Internet and the Dead’s business model was made 15 years ago by the band’s lyricist, John Perry Barlow, who became an Internet guru. Writing in Wired in 1994, Barlow posited that in the information economy, “the best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away.” As Barlow explained to me: “What people today are beginning to realize is what became obvious to us back thenthe 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. In the physical world, that works beautifully. But we couldn’t regulate [taping at] our shows, and you can’t online. The Internet doesn’t behave that way. But here’s the thing: 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. That was the value proposition with the Dead.” The Dead thrived for decades, in good times and bad. In a recession, Barnes says, strategic improvisation is more important then ever. “If you’re going to survive this economic downturn, you better be able to turn on a dime,” he says. “The Dead were exemplars.”

John Perry Barlow, lyricist for the Dead has a quote that really nails it and I’ll say it again, “the best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away.”

Now you can take a look on YouTube and see pretty much any band’s live show, and of course live concerts are taped on a regular basis. So next time you’re “Sharing With Your Network” you can thank the Grateful Dead for pioneering this idea!


  • “the best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away.”

    I’ve found that of all the things I’ve done to generate sales, nothing beats giving out free samples.

    I know a guy who sold his surf clothing company for $20 million several years ago who said that in the early years of his business they would in certain zip codes give away more product than they sold.

    Keep up the great work on your blog. I really enjoy reading it.

  • Thanks so much Jared. In your business, free samples probably work great. It’s tougher to give away diamonds but we are doing it on our fan page and people love it – http://www.facebook.com/diamondfans – Again, I really appreciate the comment and I miss those days in Atlanta of doing nothing but playing Sega hockey all day…

  • Love the show notes from the epic Ithaca show. Were those yours?

    Brian Halligan & I have been studying Grateful Dead marketing for a year now for our book project “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead” – man they were social networking before Mark Zuckerberg was even born.

  • Hey I’m not that old! 🙂 I think they were from Dick Latvala (of Dick’s picks). Thanks so much for the comment and look forward to your book! “The storyteller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice, his job is to shed light and not to master..”

  • Hey, you never know.

    My friend Michelle saw her first Grateful Dead show when she was 2 (in tie-dyed diapers). My friend Jim saw Jimmy Hendrix when he was 9.

  • True, my parents were a little too late for that scene. I may have been on The Kingston Trio tour though. Thanks again for reading and let me know when you’re ready for book #2 – I can provide a lot of info and good vibes 🙂