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August 2, 2010

News & Opinion: Rock and Roll and Business

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 3:58 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Last week, I was excited to see a copy of David Meerman Scott's and Brian Halligan's Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn From The Most Iconic Band In History. I've never been a fan of the band, but have always marveled at the culture surrounding them - truly a unique following, turning each concert into an event beyond just music. In fact, I've attended the parking lot of their concert, but not the actual concert. It was like a festival in itself - clothing vendors, exotic food, and LOTS of characters everywhere you look. Pretty entertaining for not even getting to the actual band or their music.

The book looks not only at the culture phenomena - the people that create the parking lot festival, the bootleg merchandise, the live recordings, etc. - but also the band's relationship and collaboration with all this. In many ways, the group worked to be conductors for all this activity to happen. You want to tape our concerts? We'll set up an area for you to bring in equipment. You want to sell t-shirts with our logo on it? Sure, just pay this small vendor fee. And that's where you really start thinking about the business side of the Grateful Dead. How much does your company work with customers to accommodate their interests, as opposed to telling them what they can't do?

While it's likely the only business book ever that makes reference to LSD, there really is a lot to learn here - and you don't have to be a hippy to see the value in these fundamental lessons of collaboration, sharing, and sustainability.

Another interesting brand is heavily personally detailed in the book I Am Ozzy, the autobiography of Ozzy Osbourne. Not at all a business book, really, but by the end, you understand that "Ozzy" really is a brand - one that boomed incredibly after the hit TV series "The Osbournes" - and one that would have likely collapsed very early on had it not been for the business insight and tenacity of wife/manager Sharon Osbourne. An interesting read, but NOT for the faint-hearted. After listening to his work since around '74, I was consumed all weekend reading story after story about his truly chaotic lifestyle.

Finally, Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Mark Simmons have written a book called The Business Playground: Where Creativity and Commerce Collide, another interesting book about turning creative interest into profits based on real-life experience. Contrary to Ozzy's book, this shows a great deal of business insight and strategy, with some great case studies and creativity games that can be used in any small team setting to inspire productive business. It's not just about being clever, or designing things, it's about how to approach and effectively solve problems. Well designed and full of information, this book is a strong round up of my week's worth of reading about rock and roll and business.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.