SXSW Panel: Stronger Than a Séance – Resurrecting Jerry Garcia

Grateful Dead guitarist returns as a website

SXSW Panel: Stronger Than a Séance – Resurrecting Jerry Garcia
by Sandy Carson

While the Grateful Dead’s musical legacy remains reviled by hippie-hating hipsters and embraced by the legions of faithful cultists, there’s no denying that the Bay Area jam band was decades ahead of the curve in terms of fan outreach, pioneering social media, and viral marketing well before those terms – or the Internet – even existed.

Fitting, then, that a website named for the group’s guitarist, Jerry Garcia, has emerged as the ultimate fan site. It’s crammed with a dizzying amount of content that illuminates the life and music of its subject in such a user-friendly manner that even non fans can appreciate it.

Tuesday’s lunchtime panel Stronger Than a Séance offered an enlightening primer on how to do a fan site right through an account of digital branding agency Critical Mass’ development of the URL from neglected, bare-bones placeholder to a state-of-the-art multimedia experience. Based around a PowerPoint-style presentation by Critical Mass exec and longstanding Deadhead Mark Silverman, the panel struck an amiable balance between heartfelt fandom and capitalist savvy – just as the Dead did in their day.

It also offered some useful insights on the value of legacy artists in the digital age, although the crucial issue of how the site is monetized didn’t come up until an audience member asked about it during the Q&A segment.

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Jerry Garcia, SXSW Music 2014, Grateful Dead, Critical Mass, Mark Silverman

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