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5 Psychological Principles To Help You Sell More Music

In the past decades, dozens of books have been published about human behavior and the science of persuasion. These books reveal psychological foundations of many marketing-techniques and scrutinize how people make choices and how they are influenced. 

One of the classic books in this genre is Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion. It’s written by the social psychologist Robert B. Cialdini and although it dates from more than 25 years ago, the book is still relevant today. It provides insights in psychological principles that can be applied to a broad range of fields, including music. 

As a musician or label-owner though, you might not have the time to immerse yourself in the psychology of persuasion. Therefore, to save you some time and to help you get acquainted with these essential principles, here are five proven psychological principles from Cialdini. Being aware of these techniques will help you with selling your music, your merchandising or tickets. Let’s get started right away with the first psychological principle!

1: The Principle Of Scarcity

A powerful principle that is often used in marketing is the principle of scarcity. This principle states that people are more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. In decision making, this idea of potential loss plays an important role. Therefore, as a rule, if something is rare or is becoming rare, people will consider it more valuable. 

Examples of the use of scarcity in the music business are limited edition CDs, vinyls or special deals. Several labels already make smart use of this principle. Instead of releasing their music in unlimited quantities, they limit every release to 500 or even 100 editions. This makes these products more special for their fans to buy.

The same principle can be applied to tickets as well. Choose a slightly smaller location than you would normally do and let everybody know how little tickets there are still left: “Only 85 left, 50, 25, the last 15 tickets, sold out!”.

2: The Principle Of Social Proof

Another psychological principle that is explained by Cialdini is that of social proof. In general this principle states that when we are unsure, we are most likely to look to the actions of others and accept them as correct. Because we don’t have time to weigh every decision in our lives, we often rely on the choices of others. We rely on what our friends do or on the judgement of the masses.

If you want to incorporate this principle in your band’s marketing, make it visible for example who is coming to your show, who has bought your record or who likes your music. If you can convince those who rely on the actions of others that your shows are really popular, or that your new release is selling really well, you might be able to sell more tickets and music. 

3: The Principle Of Reciprocation

The principle of reciprocation states that we try to compensate what another person has provided us. When we receive a gift, a favor or an invitation, we feel obligated to repay these in the future. 

Can you do something for your fans or give them something? This doesn’t necessarily have to be a valuable object. Giving something small like a sticker or a wallpaper to those who like your music increases the chances that people are willing to return the favor to you. Using the principle of reciprocation might help you with convincing some to actually buy one of your band’s great t-shirts.

4: The Principle Of Authority

The principle of authority states that we are quite sensible to authority. If someone possesses authority, we will consider his or her opinion of higher value than that of someone without this authority. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even have to be real authority. Research shows that when someone is presented as a person of authority, this view will be accepted too. It’s the reason why the flip sides of books often have several testimonials on it and startups love to boast with praising quotes from famous blogs.

Translating this principle to today’s music business, we see that every genre and every scene has its influencers, whether these are celebrities, artists or bloggers. If you can show that the influencer of your scene likes or even recommends your music, many will rely on the judgement of this person. Can you get into the charts of your scene’s influencer?

5: The Principle Of Consistency

The final principle that I’ll discuss here is the principle of consistency. This principle states that once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal pressure to behave consistently with that commitment. This pressure will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decisions.

When translating this principle to your act or your label, you could consider to introduce subscription plans. Several labels already did this. For a fixed price (paid once a year or once a month) their fans get every release sent to their homes, sometimes even a week earlier than the official release date. Once your fans are used to receiving your releases every once in a while, chances are great that they will continue to do so in the future because they want to stay consistent to themselves.

Good luck with incorporating these principles into your act’s marketing routine! If you have more examples of these principles applied to today’s music business, please share them in the comments!

This post was written by Robbert van Ooijen. He regularly writes about innovative music technologies at HaveYouHeard.It

Reader Comments (5)

These are great principles and ones we have all experienced the success of I'm sure. Whether that be to ourselves or from our interaction with other artists. I think the authority point is really poignant and a role that literally anyone can take on. I don't know about you but I judge a lot of people on Twitter by the amount of authority they impress onto the world - they might be someone with no 'real-world' authority but when it comes to the social networks and opinion spreading they have serious sway. It is also good for artists to speak with authority about other artists to engage their fans with them - this always has the potentially positive outcome of reciprocation from the other artist too.

April 8 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Way to re-write a wikipedia summary.

April 8 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Cialdini's book is a total classic and the lessons in there can be transferred to any industry where you want to sell stuff without sounding like a total twat.

My favorite is consistency...

Because it's like a road map for music success, just keep pumping out great stuff over a period of time and people will start to take notice.

- chris

Hey, here's a 6th and 7th tip:
6) The Principle of not writing and recording shitty music - this applies to 95% of all bands. of the remaining 5%, 2% is currently on the radio, 2% are "indie" and don't feel the need to understand their instruments or music history and .5% are retarded by medical definition. .5% is the margin of error.

7) The Principle of not being a douche bag - when playing shows and meeting people be nice and give them your attention. you aren't cooler than them because you are in a band and your band isn't really that great and you aren't entitled to anything. those people paid money and spent time to see you, at least act like you appreciate them.

April 13 | Unregistered Commenterpaulo

Many of the articles on this site are top notch, just like this one.

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Turner

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