The commonalities between jam bands like the Grateful Dead and EDM artists are what result in cult like followings of fans that line up at the gates to melt their faces off and download anything they can find.
The Grateful Dead are notorious for their religiously dedicated group of fans dubbed "Dead Heads" that have surrounded the iconic, original jam band since the 1960s and followed the band across the country to see their extended jams performed live. Although there is a lot of chatter that compares and contrasts The Grateful Dead to Phish, it is undeniable that Phish has cultivated the same type of following to be the successor as a modern day Grateful Dead in regards to their devoted fanbase.
Over the past decade, we have all witnessed the explosion of EDM into the mainstream with fans that travel to and from all corners of the world to dance all night long at some of the most extravagant music festivals in history.
The fans of both jam bands and EDM artists exhibit the same type of devotion and just can't seem to get enough. But why is this? What do these artists do differently?
It's all rooted in the way they market themselves and promote their music. The conventional model in the music industry was to record a new album and then tour the country promoting this album by playing the same general setlist each night in hopes that fans would go out and buy your music. This was all well and good until The Grateful Dead came and flipped that model inside out to start a style that modern jam bands and EDM artists would emulate.
It's a classic cliché, but these artists follow the motto that it's all about the music. The Grateful Dead and EDM make it all about their live performances, delivering a different experience at each show, and focus on spreading their music to as many ears as possible. Not only is each show different, but each time they play the same song it is different. Fans will come see every single night of these shows because they get a new experience each time!
As long as you make great music, it is more important to spread that music to as many ears as possible to truly build a real fan base organically that is as passionate about your music as you are. They didn't focus on restricting the access to their music to protect their potential revenues. The Grateful Dead allowed anyone to record their live shows with professoinal equipment which resulted in an explosion of music sharing decades before the internet or Facebook existed. You see many EDM artists uploading their live sets for the world to enjoy as well. Pretty Lights puts in months if not years to create his music and he gives it all way for free on his website!
They've mastered how to truly nurture a growing fanbase, paying attention to their most loyal fans first over begging new fans to hear them, and letting their music spread naturally by providing it to the masses. They keep track of their closest fans and reward them with presale tickets, music, news, and other VIP treatment before the general public.
John Perry Barlow, former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, made a strong connection between the internet and the band's business model in Wired magazine all the way back in 1994 when he wrote, "The best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away."
Note: There is a great book called, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead by David Meerman Scott that has deeper insight into the business practices of the Grateful Dead. This is not a sponsored note. I personally read it and highly recommend it.