Grateful Dead Is Still Big Business 25 Years After Jerry Garcia Death


It’s been 25 years for the reason that Grateful Dead performed their final present at Chicago’s Soldier Area on July 9, 1995. A month later, on Aug. 9, founding member and idolized frontman Jerry Garcia was useless of a coronary heart assault. However the music by no means stopped, and within the a long time since, Garcia’s legend has grown — and so has the enterprise of the Dead, which has grow to be a premier model to companions in attire (James Perse) and footwear (in July, a Grateful Dead Nike sneaker sequence bought out immediately, with sneakers now going for 1000’s on eBay), furnishings and decor, equipment and even magnificence merchandise (vegan Grateful Dead deodorant, anybody?).

However maybe the very best gauge of the Dead’s post-Jerry increase is the variety of Dead-inspired bands that proceed to tour (within the non-COVID period). Chief amongst them: Dead & Firm, that includes John Mayer on guitar alongside authentic Dead members Bob Weir (guitar), Invoice Kreutzmann (drums) and Mickey Hart (additionally drums), in addition to Oteil Burbridge (bass) and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards), which was shaped in 2015 and introduced consciousness of the Dead to a youthful era whereas offering their mother and father — or grandparents in some situations — with a return to the music of their very own youth. Different Dead-adjacent bands embrace bassist Phil Lesh’s Phil Lesh & Mates, Joe Russo’s Nearly Dead, identified to Deadheads as J-RAD, and the Darkish Star Orchestra, which began performing in 1997 and is scheduled to play a drive-in present on the Residents Financial institution Park car parking zone in Philadelphia on Sept. 5-6. Even Circles Across the Solar (aka CATS), a band shaped with the late Neal Casal to supply between-set music throughout 2015’s “Fare Thee Nicely” live shows (that includes the Dead with one other guitar god, Phish’s Trey Anastasio), has continued on as a unit.

“The Dead represents a time and place that individuals, particularly younger individuals, want they’d skilled the primary time round,” presents Peter Shapiro, proprietor of the Capitol Theatre in New York and promoter of “Fare Thee Nicely,” when requested why the group nonetheless resonates 50 years later. “It’s in all probability the closest they will get to being in 1967.”

Besides that in 1967, and even 1987 — the yr the band landed a High 10 hit with “Contact of Gray” — the Dead by no means noticed a lot bread. Dead & Firm’s touring revenues, for one, are enviable. The band grossed $250 million prior to now 5 years, averaging field workplace of $2.three million per live performance, in accordance with reside music commerce Pollstar. All of these exhibits had been sell-outs in arenas, amphitheater and stadiums, with complete tickets bought numbering greater than 2.four million. Even J-RAD could make an honest residing taking part in Dead favorites — the band averages a gross of $143,000 per headlining date and final yr performed such storied venues because the Pink Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado and Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre.

The Dead’s enterprise mind belief is a collective of stakeholders together with all of the remaining band members (Lesh, Weir, Kreutzmann and Hart), represented by their particular person managers; members of Garcia’s household (Marc Allan of Pink Gentle Administration oversees Garcia’s musical output); and the band’s administration, Bernie Cahill at Activist Artists Administration and trade veteran Kraig Fox. All are card-carrying Deadheads for whom preserving, not perverting, the legacy is paramount.

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Dead & Firm carry out in Boulder final yr; a Nike collaboration launched in July bought out immediately.
Courtesy of Nike

In accordance with sources aware of the band’s funds, the Dead might simply command $150 million for rights to its title, likeness and IP.

It’s proof constructive that nostalgia components vastly within the enterprise of the Dead, not simply emotionally however with a gradual stream of merchandise. “I discover it tremendous thrilling,” says Mark Pinkus, president of Rhino Data, the Warner Music Group label that homes all the Grateful Dead catalog. “The band could be very distinctive in that it has iconography that’s hanging and timeless.”

Pinkus factors to the label’s restricted urgent “Dave’s Picks” sequence, curated by David Lemieux, the band’s archivist and legacy supervisor, for example of how regular Dead gross sales are for the corporate. The sequence was launched in 2012; subscribers pay an annual charge of $115 for 4 reside present recordings. Initially restricted to 12,000 subs, that determine has since been expanded to 20,000.

Certainly, the band’s reside exhibits are the stuff of legend, and a digital treasure trove of high-quality recordings can be found everywhere in the net and on streaming platforms. As well as, a weekly “Shakedown Stream” has been airing on the Grateful Dead YouTube channel throughout COVID, providing a succession of stellar performances, as has a just lately launched podcast, beneath the steering of Pinkus.

As for the Dead’s repertoire, the band by no means was a giant studio album vendor, however it’s seeing licensing and music income attain an all-time excessive thanks largely to the model alliances it’s shaped.

Rhino can also be a revenue participant in merchandise bought on Dead.internet, the band’s official web site. Final month, the 1970 album “Workingman’s Dead” marked its 50th anniversary, and with [the deluxe edition release? it] got here a wide selection of associated merchandise, together with a particular version Leatherman and a hatchet. Why an ax? “It’s very Marin County, 1970,” says Pinkus matter-of-factly. “Folks had been on the market chopping wooden!”

“We’ve got a small core,” explains Pink Gentle’s Allan of how selections are made relating to new product. “We’ve discovered that the broader we go, the extra noise we hear, so we’ve stored issues to the household and a fairly various staff of followers on our administration staff representing the numerous several types of Deadheads on the market.”

“David Lemieux and I made an settlement on our first official assembly,” Pinkus elaborates. “We’re each enormous Deadheads, before everything, and we needed to make it possible for, one: engaged on this by no means tainted our love for the music. And, two: that we solely launch issues or approve issues that we as  Deadheads felt resonated true to us — that felt proper.”

“That is generational music that’s handed down within the people custom and, years later, is connecting totally different dots — like family tree,” presents Allan. “So it’s going to proceed to get greater over time. So long as individuals hold going to summer season camp, they’re going to maintain discovering this music.”


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