Jul 31, 2012

Fall 1971: Promoting the Live Album

Warner Brothers went to great lengths to promote the new Dead album that came out in September 1971, one reason it became the Dead's best seller & first gold album.
One can only imagine how they would have promoted an album called "Skullfuck," but nonetheless, they had a distinctive-looking album cover offering some Dead iconography to draw from. A few examples follow.

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From the 10/2/71 Billboard:

The Grateful Dead will have their month at Warner Bros. in October, when the label keys the San Francisco group's new album, "Grateful Dead," to a major merchandising, advertising, promotion and publicity campaign on all seven LPs in the group's Warner Bros. catalog...
[The album] will ignite promotions of Grateful Dead baseball shirts, wall posters, cover slicks, AM & FM radio spots, ads and personal appearances by the Dead throughout October.

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From the 10/4/71 Warner Brothers Circular (with a skull cover):


Though most Grateful Dead fans would insist there is a Grateful Dead month 12 times a year, Warner Bros. records has nevertheless issued an edict declaring October, 1971, as The Month for those Dead Folk. October because it's a nice time of year after the summer doldrums and before the Christmas rush, and because there happens to be a new Grateful Dead album to celebrate.

Most months (a cryptic record company merchandising term, bearing little relation to an actual calendar) are celebrated in order to ballyhoo an artist's new album and glorify all the old ones (old albums being termed The Catalog). Thus it is not possible for Neil Young to have a Month this October because he doesn't have a new album; nor is it likely that the Beach Boys would have a Month this October because they have only two Brother/Reprise albums in their catalog. The Dead qualify all round, and besides, as Joe Smith, Executive Vice President and original signer of the Dead once said, "The Dead are one of the most influential, exciting and important bands in the country." Amen....

Grateful Dead's advance orders exceeded the total sales of some previous albums...
To set all 50 of the United States ablaze with enthusiasm for the Dead's seven WB albums, the merch/ad/promo people in Burbank have been working overtime for the last month, in consort with the Dead's management, to come up with a campaign known loosely as "Fill Your Days with the Dead." Here's what's happening:
* Currently arriving at the WB warehouse in Burbank are 10,000 Grateful Dead T-shirts, the rose-crowned skull of their new album cover blazing chest-height in four-color splendor...to hang wall to wall in record stores across greater America...
* ...Also for instore display are giant black-and-white blow-ups of the Dead and slicks of their seven album covers.
* Grateful Dead patches, also using the rose-topped skull, are in the process of being stitched by gnomes at an undisclosed location. Delivery is imminent, and these, too, will be made available to record stores - for their own use and customer giveaway. If they turn out as smashing as anticipated, radio and press will also be on the receiving end.
* To lure Dead fans off the streets and into the stores, a variety of advertising aids have been devised and manufactured for use by the WB branches... Dealer ads suggesting that Dear Consumer be aware that there is now a Dead album for every day of the week; radio scripts; miniatures of album covers for use in local newspaper advertising...
* Lending strength to the above is radio play...dealer ads, prepared radio spots and scripts...

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From a 9/28/71 internal WB letter by Ed Rosenblatt:

The Grateful Dead album is shipping today. Listed below are the advertising and merchandising aids which will be shipped to each branch when available, as well as some advertising purchases already made from this office.
As I have previously mentioned before, there are "mucho" advertising dollars available, and additional help if necessary.

Grateful Dead Month Aids:
1. Decal...
2. "Now In Stock" posters
3. Dealer Ad
4. Radio Spots
5. Order form...
6. Patches - Sewn circles, using skull art.
7. Baseball shirt display...
8. Baseball shirts - extras to ship with display kit for record store employees to wear.
9. Black and white Grateful Dead blow-up poster
10. Slicks - of all catalog albums.
11. Advertising/Merchandising envelope - skull design in black and white to hold...advertising materials.
12. Dealer Ads - to include all catalog albums.
13. Radio spot scripts...
14. Radio Advertising buys from home office:
October 6-10
New York WPLJ-FM
Boston WBCN-FM
Los Angeles KPPC-FM
San Francisco KSAN-FM
Chicago WDAI-FM
Phoenix KIKB
Atlanta WPLO-FM
October 14-17
New York WABC
Boston WMEX
Los Angeles KPLA
San Francisco XYA
Chicago WCFL
Phoenix KXIZ
Atlanta WQXI
15. Print Advertising buys from home office:
Rolling Stone full-page ad, on sale October 12
Dealer ads furnished to branches
Dealer ads placed in the October 10 Sunday Entertainment section of the following papers:
Phoenix Republic Gazette
Los Angeles Times
San Francisco Chronicle
New York Times
Boston Globe
Atlanta Journal Constitution

Hopefully, all of the above will insure a most successful promotion.

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From a 9/17/71 internal WB letter by Dick Hughes, for Tower Records in San Francisco & Sacramento:

I will have the entire side wall of Tower Records (S.F.) painted with a reproduction "Dead Is Here". This will remain on the wall for one month. Several thousand people a day pass the corner the store is on, so it will give us a tremendous viewing audience.
I am having 15"x15" billboards painted to go on the roof of both Tower stores in Sacramento. Again, these stores are located on well traveled intersections and will reap us great benefit and sales.
Tower is taking a full page ad in the Rolling Stone's insert on the "Dead Month" and will reproduce the ad in poster form and give them away in their stores. This has worked very well in the past.
All the clerks will wear their Grateful Dead T-shirts all month. (They should smell great by the end of the campaign.)
We will also have a large quantity of decals and iron-on patches to pass out to the customers.
...On the day the LP is delivered, myself, Gary Davis, Bill Perasso and Pete Marino will meet the truck before it hits the store and will load a quantity of the LPs in a casket and, dressed as pallbearers, will deliver it to the store in a hearse where the LP will be sold during the month, out of the casket, which will remain in the store. All the other LPs will be displayed around it. (We will have TV coverage of the event.) We are buying a full month of spots on KNDE (Sacto.) and KSAN (S.F.) where they will run a constant low key sales campaign on the "Dead".
The initial orders from Tower were 2300 Pcs. in SF and 1000 in Sacramento.

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From a Billboard article (unknown date):


CHICAGO - Some record-tape marketing campaigns go too far. The State Street Council of stores here balked when a Grateful Dead campaign included the placement of wooden coffins in a store window. However, the massive...local promotion ended up a smash success, according to branch chief Vic Faraci...
Actual coffins were designed to be used as browser bins in the Ward's stores. Ward's...checked out the coffin in the window idea and got a polite veto. Instead, the downtown store utilized a rear Dearborn street window for tombstone-style posters, ghosts and other horror props.
The wooden coffins were utilized as browser bins for all seven Grateful Dead packages throughout Ward's stores. Mini-cardboard coffins were used as props in at least 22 store windows by other firms...
Product in advertisements was pegged at anywhere from $5.78 to $6.88 for the Dead's two double pocket LP's and from $2.97 to $3.79 for the other single pocket units. (Tape was advertised as also available...)
Other props included such items as clothes lines strung with Grateful Dead teeshirts, stickers and posters. Faraci used WCFL, WLS, WDAI-FM, and WGLD-FM for radio spots. In addition, WGLD-FM aired a three-hour concert by the Grateful Dead live from Auditorium Theater [October 21]. Faraci did not disclose the total cost of the campaign... "But no one else had coffins," he added.

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From an 11/3/71 SF Progress article by Mike Miller, KMPX:


...The Dead has a new album out on Warner Brothers. It's a double album and is selling well enough that it has already been certified 'gold' by the record company. October has been Grateful Dead Month and it has been on a national tour.
It's difficult to think of the Dead in the context of gold records and tours and Grateful Dead Month. They have always been a local band, concerned with the people of the Bay Area. They have probably played more benefits than any other group around. And I'm sure they will continue to do so. They deserve the recognition that they have been getting this month. It has been a long time coming.

The new album doesn't need a lot of praise; it's yet another fine album by the Dead. If you have been lucky enough to see the Dead perform lately, you'll be happy with a couple songs that they have been doing live that appear on the album: Kris Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee" and the good old Chuck Berry tune "Johnny B. Goode."
...The new Dead album...has some country influence. Besides "Me & Bobby McGee," there is a fine arrangement of a Merle Haggard song, "Mama Tried," which is down-home, funky country at its electric best.
One of the most interesting cuts on the double album is "Big Railroad Blues." Partly because it's just a fine arrangement, but also because it was written by Noah Lewis of the old Cannon Jug Band. This marks the first time since the first Dead album when they played "Viola Lee" that they have come back to a Noah Lewis composition. Back to the roots.

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From the 11/20/71 NY Cash Box:


Warner Brothers' "Grateful Dead Month" culminated with a sales increase of 50% on the Dead's entire Warner catalog of seven albums. The pioneer San Francisco rock band also attained its first gold record for its current double LP set, "Grateful Dead."
The Dead who are currently winding up a sell-out tour of the Midwest and California, were spotlighted with a merchandising, advertising, and promo campaign that focused on the complete LP catalog. Director of merchandising Hal Halverstadt designed a clothesline display for in-store promo as well as Grateful Dead T-shirts, patches, stickers, and the logo that appears on the new album.
The month-long drive featured a "Why I want to grow up and be like the Grateful Dead" contest that culminated with a mock funeral procession with horse-drawn hearse for the winners. San Francisco's Warner office placed a hearse-and-coffin display at Tower Records, and the New Orleans staff hosted a party at the Louis XIV room of the Marie Antoinette Hotel.


  1. Strangely not mentioned in most of these pieces are the live broadcasts from many of the shows in the fall tour (one per city). These were paid for by Warner Bros - McNally writes that there was "a hefty promotional budget for the album, including about $100,000 for radio broadcasts of fourteen shows that fall."

    McNally also describes a promo effort that fell flat, when the Dead refused to participate - the "personal appearances" referred to in the first piece above:
    "The members of the band were supposed to go out on radio promotion visits... According to Joe Smith, not one person made his flight."

  2. Warner Bros commissioned, but may not have used, a 60 second TV ad showing all the Dead's albums. It is on youtube without sound.


    Here's the posters desciption
    "This was on a 1 3/4" reel of video salvaged from a yard sale of a local record guy, it came in a box that was mailed from Houston TX from the production house to the record exec in Dallas in October 1971, i cant imagine it ever was used or it wouldn't have been in this guys junk for 30+ years. There is no audio. it was an exhaustive effort to find someone who could transfer the video. ANOTHER ANTICLIMACTIC PRODUCTION OF
    Lone Star Dead Radio, Dallas TX"

    The date on the clapboard is 10-29-71, I'm surprised it was produced so late and that it was sent to the local guy in Dallas not to Burbank. It must have been a local promotion to tie in with the mid November Texas shows.

  3. i wonder what happened to all that advertising ephemera?