Grateful Dead CX Principles

By Ms. Sarah Andrews, CCXP posted 18 days ago


As a kid, music unceasingly filled our home. My brothers & I were blessed with parents who understood the impact of music – we listened to every genre & they taught us “Behind the Music” well before VH1 existed. One band that got more airtime than any other was The Grateful Dead.
The Grateful Dead mastered the key principles of an exceptional customer experience (CX) which resulted in their enormous fan base: the Deadheads. They built the CX playbook from which other artists continue to replicate (e.g. The Bey Hive, Swifties, Little Monsters, etc). How many of the following Grateful Dead CX principles is your organization implementing?  

  • Building connection:
    • The hallmark of the Grateful Dead community is inclusion, where everyone belongs. The Dead were one of the first bands to create special sections in front of speakers for fans who are hard of hearing. These fans held large balloons which allowed them to physically feel the music & be fully engaged in the concert.
  • Delivering Value:
    • The Dead kept ticket prices low & would include top artists as the opening act (e.g. Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Tom Petty, etc.) to ensure fans got a remarkable experience. On top of that, The Dead wanted fans in the last row to hear just as clearly as in the front row. The Wall of Sound was born, an amazing visual & auditory feat comprised of over 600 speakers & 55 amps, delivering top notch sound to everyone equally.  
  • Personalization:
    • In 1971 The Dead were the first band to build a free mailing list comprised of 90k people. They would send fan only newsletters with exclusive tour updates. Fans would mail the Dead their specific ticket requests for each concert, allowing the Dead to avoid using Ticketmaster & connect directly to their fans. This also enabled The Dead to provide their fans with the best tickets, leaving scalpers in the dark.  
  • Activating the Voice of the Customer:
    • The Dead’s mailing list was not just a one-way communication tool. It also allowed Deadheads to write to the band & provide feedback. Grateful Dead employee, Ellen Law, read all the mail & categorized it. They reviewed Ellen’s findings in the monthly staff meetings & took action – changing setlists, upcoming tour locations, etc.
  • Freemium Content:
    • The Dead empowered fans who taped their concerts (aka tapers) by setting up a designated space for them & encouraged trading tapes with other fans. Trading tapes created more fans & grew ticket/album sales faster than the band could on their own. At a Dead show Shakedown Street is where independent vendors sell their wares. The Dead licensed their logos to these independent vendors, allowing the artists to create freely.
  • Authenticity:
    • The Dead resonated with fans for 30+ years because they were unwavering in their identity. They have 500+ songs, played 2,000+ shows, & no two setlists are the same. Night after night, they created a unique & collective experience for their fans - which kept them coming back tour after tour.

Next time you're looking for music to fill the air, ask Alexa to play the Grateful Dead & listen for some CX lessons & incorporate them into your organization's CX strategy.