social businesses of today can learn from the gigging bands of the 90’s

I just came across an interesting post by Jeremiah Owyang, in which he charts the evolution of social business and makes the prediction that it’s future will be centred around the collaborative economy:

“…the next phase of Social Business goes beyond marketing and customer support, it changes the fundamental business models and relationships that we will have with our customers. The big change that brands will struggle with, as is it means that brands will have to care about the relationship between customers as they trade and rent your products between themselves.”

Whilst I agree with Owyang on this being the next stage of social business adoption, it’s not an unfamiliar or new model (update: which, to be clear, isn’t Owyang’s arguement).

As a university student, in the America of the mid-90’s, I observed a number of bands – Dave Matthews Band and Phish being examples that spring to mind – that followed exactly this approach. They were “gigging bands” who traveled from town to town, usually university campus to campus, playing at sold out venues every night. Fans were encouraged to record and share their recordings of shows, to set up stalls selling home produced merchandise in venue car parks, and to follow the band from show to show so as to create a traveling community of like-minded people.

These bands not only survived but thrived, not on the basis of radio plays and album sales (although both those did eventually come to Dave Matthews), but on the enthusiasm of the community of fans they built around their music and the lifestyle it spoke to. They realised, early on, that by engaging with fans in this way, they could create legions of advocates, spreading their music and encouraging those they influence to buy tickets to gigs and branded merchandise.

For the gigging bands of the 90’s, the community and the experience it offered, rather than pre-packaged albums, was the product. Brands of today can learn from this and apply those lessons to social business.