The jokes pretty much write themselves with this one. You can almost envision chapters like “How I Made My First Million Selling Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in Dirty Parking Lots”. But once you get past the jokes about endless jams and white-bearded, tie-dyed hippies, you soon realize that the author is much more than a Grateful Dead obsessed fan and that the band knew how to make money – lots of it.
As far as business books go, Barry Barnes’ Everything I Know About Business I Learned From the Grateful Dead is anything but boring the standard Who Moved My Cheese suit and tie journalism. A professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida and an admittedly late in life Deadhead, Barnes is a natural at story-telling, offering solid examples of The Dead’s business philosophy told through entertaining and telling anecdotes from band members and their crew.
The band learned early on that it was ok to let their fans tape their shows, creating a loyal audience that was willing to follow the band from show to show (paying admission at each stop) and stock up on group memorabilia. The Dead also felt strongly that every member of the group, from Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir down to the folks who worked on the crew and handled things back at the office (yes there was a Grateful Dead back office) had an equal stake in the band and were consulted and polled on every big business decision.
Anyone who still thinks of the Grateful Dead as little more than drug-addled hippies too obsessed with peace and flowers to worry about anything as petty as finances should probably pick up Barnes’ book. Who knows, maybe even the tax-the-poor, spare-the-rich crowd that seems to make up the bulk of the Republican Party right now might discover their new favorite band. Doubtful, but stranger things have happened, like a bunch of hippies from San Francisco becoming millionaires several times over with 10-minute plus songs and little airplay.
Everything I Know About Business I Learned From the Grateful Dead By Barry Barnes/Grand Central Publishing/256 pages/Hardcover/2011