17 February 2010

Today's Reading Assignment

This month in The Atlantic, Joshua Green discusses the opening of the Grateful Dead archive at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the band's influence on the business world, which "may turn out to be a significant part of its legacy." In short, the Grateful Dead (including the band and its stakeholders) were shrewd businesspeople who knew how to create value for their band and brand, predating “Internet business models,” under which free content is used to stimulate brand loyalty and awareness, by a few decades.

As Green notes, researchers and academics have only scratched the surface of Dead scholarship so far, especially with regards to the economics of the band, so there is still much more to know about the band's business model. Jazz musicians would be wise to keep up with this scholarship, as they can certainly learn a thing or two from the band. True, the Grateful Dead was a rock band, so it drew from a wider audience base, but the band eventually developed a subculture that allowed the organization to thrive with very little publicity outside its own newsletters.

Today I can think of a few jazz musicians whose own promotional efforts recall those of the Dead (Jason Parker is the first that comes to mind). What is often lost in the uproar of the constant "Is Jazz Dead?" debates is the fact that there is a huge population of listeners who would be open to the music if they only were able to hear it. Perhaps by picking up a few pointers from the Grateful Dead, the jazz world can reinvigorate its listener base and make it a little easier for musicians to make a living.

UPDATE: Turns out I'm not the only person thinking about the business of jazz these days. I'll be reviewing The Jazz Process at some point, I'm sure.

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