Stones and Deadheads

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

Wouldn’t
it be nice if, every time you needed a few million extra dollars,
you could call your agent, tell him to book you for 27 performances,
and then go out and perform?

That’s
what Mick Jagger can do. This college drop-out (London School of
Economics) has the ultimate job security. It pays and pays and pays.

Actually,
it’s 27 concerts in North America. The European performances have
not yet been announced. It’s a multicurrency annuity: dollars and
euros.

They
are calling this the Forty Licks World Tour. If they were honest
about it, they would call it the Antiques Road Tour (my son’s designation).

I
suppose Jagger will still be doing this when he uses a walker. They
will have to design a special moving ramp for him, with adjustable
speeds for his more sprightly numbers. They will wheel Keith Richards
out on stage, guitar in his lap. Charlie Watts has an advantage:
he already gets to sit down.

It’s
amazing, really. The
Stones
have outlasted all of their rivals, if through nothing
more than actuarial success. Half of the Beatles are dead. Two-fifths
of the Beach Boys are dead, and the leader has been non compos mentis
for years. The other two don’t speak to each other. I suppose the
Everly
Brothers
could do a tour of a few cities, but not at stadiums.
It would not be a world event. Or, should I say, it wasn’t. The
tour took place a year ago. If you live in Chester, West Virginia
or Oroville, California, maybe you saw them. The two couldn’t finish
it — as usual. They don’t talk to each other, either. Only the Grateful
Dead
still give the Stones a run for their money — literally,
in terms of cash flow — even though Jerry Garcia has joined Pig
Pen in the land beyond road tours. (It was Pig Pen — Ron McKernan
— who persuaded Garcia to switch from their Bluegrass/Old Timey
music, as Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, to the blues as
the Warlocks and then the Grateful Dead. Garcia didn’t live long
enough to join the Down from the Mountain road tour.)

The
Stones have always billed themselves as the greatest rock and roll
band in the world, and they have now lived long enough to prove
it.

The
Stones phenomenon is difficult to explain. It was one thing for
Jagger to have been the baddest of the bad rockers in 1966, scaring
mothers to death, but how does he retain the same persona at age
59? Have you seen a photo of his face lately? He looks like he could
have been the head waiter at the Last Supper. Thirteen years ago,
on their Steel Wheels tour, a winded Jagger admitted from the stage,
catching his breath, "This is a bunch of 50-year-old men up
here." Now they’re 60-year-old men. But Jack Flash keeps jumping,
or at least hopping around.

When
you’re talking job security, hardly anything beats being a Rolling
Stone.

KEEPING
YOUR AUDIENCE

While
nobody understands how the Stones have done it, everyone understands
what they have done. They have kept their audience. Their fans aged
along with them, but the music the fans loved in 1967 is what they
will still pay to hear, live and on stage, today. There is one other
entertainment organization that does the same thing, and in fact
pioneered the strategy: Disney. Disney recycles the old movies like
clockwork. Disneyland never changes. It’s a deliberate time-warp.
Disney sells parents and grandparents entertainment to share with
children: animated, digitized folk tales and kiddie rides out of
old people’s youth. But nobody calls his children and invites them
to send over the grandkids to go with them to a Rolling Stones concert.
In any case, the
tickets are too expensive
. But the grandkids would probably
go. The following is not far-fetched.

"My
grandmother just got three tickets to the Rolling Stones concert.
She and my grandfather are taking me."

"Oh,
man, cool."

"But
my grandfather has bladder-control problems. He may not go. If
he doesn’t, I’ll see if grandma will let me bring you."

"Oh,
man, cool."

Every
business wants to keep its old customers buying, while recruiting
new ones. The cycle of cash flow requires this. Older customers
have more money to spend. Also, they have greater loyalty to a brand.
Once they buy, they are easier to sell to. Younger customers don’t
spend as much, but if you don’t recruit them, attrition will erode
your cash flow. This is equally true of churches, voluntary associations,
clubs, and political parties. You have to keep bringing in new buyers,
but without alienating your existing client base. This is not easy
to do. It takes constant improvement. Nothing is automatic.

I
mentioned the Grateful Dead. The Dead still sell a lot of paraphernalia:
tens of millions of dollars worth every year. The corporation that
owns their CD’s and their name keeps selling to the Dead Heads,
who remain intensely loyal fans. Garcia had a unique plan. He allowed
the fans to tape record the concerts. In the days of analog tapes,
this was a low-risk deal. An analog tape loses clarity with every
copy of a copy. A fourth-generation tape is a poor quality tape.
Also, most fans didn’t have great recording equipment to begin with.
So, the fans passed second-generation tapes around, preserving a
record of a one-time event, but also extending a market for the
CD’s of the music.

In
a great book on innovative marketing, Radical
Marketing
(1999), the authors devote a chapter to the Dead.
In an interview for Business 2.0, a Web-oriented magazine,
there is a revealing interview. What the authors say about the Dead’s
strategy also applies to an individual’s career strategy. The Web
is one way to apply this strategy.

How
did the Grateful Dead define the principles of radical marketing?

Glenn
Rifkin: They created this incredible community of Dead Heads who
were almost surrealistically linked to each other. They sort of
knew each other because they would show up together at a 100 concerts
a summer… After [guitarist Jerry Garcia] died in [the summer
of] 1995, there was a void to fill. The Grateful Dead fan community
has re-emerged on the Internet, and the Dead have hundreds of
sites put up by individuals who want to find ways to share. There
are great lessons for big, traditional marketers to take from
that, because if they look at that model, they could see tremendous
power. Not only in linking the community, but in sustaining it.

Sam
Hill: Back when the Dead said that you could give away the rights
to record and make money, everyone thought they were crazy. The
same thing happened when the software guys started doing open
code; everyone thought they were crazy.

What
makes this brand of marketing so radical?

Hill:
In the book, there are three or four big ideas. One is that most
marketers have been very successful by finding a community of
consumers and selling everything to that community, instead of
having a product and trying to sell the product to everyone in
the world. People have never been able to build communities of
consumers before, because demographically or geographically, it’s
too clumsy.

How
does the Net change that?

Hill:
For the first time, the economics work. You can actually have
the 75,000 women in the world who care about Pampers and you can
have a conversation about it. You could never do that before.

http://www.business2.com/articles/mag/0,1640,12962,00.html

The
Dead’s fans have become self-conscious "keepers of the flame"
in the way the Beatles’ fans don’t. The Beatles survive as a cultural
force because of the sheer power of their music and the icon status
they enjoyed. But the Dead found a way that is open to organizations
with more limited skills: keep the fans actively committed. Keep
them coming back for more because they have good memories about
big events in the past. Keep them recruiting new believers.

October
1, 2002

Gary
North is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit http://www.freebooks.com.
For a free subscription to Gary North’s twice-weekly economics newsletter,
click
here
.

Gary
North Archives

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare