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« Barking | Main | Basic Marketing Principles For Artists - Part 3: Increase the Amount of Money That You Charge »

Are fans telling friends? If not, improve, don't promote.

The most powerful philosophy of marketing I’ve heard is from my hero Seth Godin, and I think it can be summed up as this:

You’ll know when you’re on to something special, because people will love it so much they’ll tell everyone.

If people aren’t telling their friends about it yet, don’t waste time marketing it. Instead, keep improving until they are.

How can you apply this to your business, music, product, or service?

Seth wrote: “Sell one. Find one person who trusts you and sell him a copy. Does he love it? Is he excited enough to tell ten friends because it helps them, not because it helps you? If not, you must stop what you’re doing and start over.

This is encouraging, because in the past it felt like the only way to do effective marketing was to spend a ton of money on mass-media advertising.

But now the goal is to create something absolutely remarkable, until customer word-of-mouth generates a buzz.

And that’s only limited by your creativity and persistence, not budget.

Purple Cow

Reader Comments (14)


July 4 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

That completely sums it up, so succintly... I mean, it's obvious, it has to be all about connecting with people, one at a time. If you can't do that, you can't do anything else, ever.

Very, very well put. This just hit me right between the eyes. Hopefully it'll stick :-)

I am not lefthanded

By 2010 you'll be posting haikus and koans. I like the trend towards concise + simple, though, I ain't mocking it.

:-) Thanks Justin. I've found from experience that if it's too long, people procrastinate reading it and often don't. But if I work hard to keep it succinct, it's more likely to get read.

- Derek

Yes of course this is so true and it's excellent advice for indie artists.

However, in this industry, when you major labels release something, and have the budgets and PR to make a big promotion, it becomes accepted by the main st far too easily.

Most of my friends don't know the first thing about music and will listen to anything that is served up on commercial radio.

These aren't the people that are going to be influential to your career, it's the music lovers who as you said will spread the love.

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterDave

True. Think: how many times have we seen major label records with major label dollars behind them flop because the music was crap?

If the music is good, people will find it.

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

So simple, yet so true.

I think it's easy to forget that sometimes; you might spend so much time trying to get people to listen, that you forget to do what you enjoy and make the stuff you wanted them to listen to in the first place. Nice post.

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterCaryl

I can't say I completely agree with this. As a general rule, yes - the music might need improvement, but not always. One of the last comments says "if it's good, people will find it" - I don't think that's really true anymore. With recording becoming cheaper and it being easier to get your music to the masses, the listener has more selection than ever. It's not even remotely realistic to find everything worth listening to. I "discover" great bands more and more recently...only to find out they've been around for years.

Chris Fullam
Conflict In The Sky
CITS on Facebook

I completely disagree with this in the context of music. If you were selling a service sure this is totally applicable. Music is subjective for starters, what you think is an "improvement" might actually be killing it altogether to someone else. To get hooked to a song you need multiple imprints and it is the hear/like/buy principle in action. I mean if "some" music is truly truly great out there then why aren't we seeing worldwide hits that go viral? I can bet that there is someone out there who's written a song that is better than The Beatles' Yesterday. But why has that song not gone viral yet...

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterAtul Rana

If I may add a little to your excellent post.
1. Of course keep running artistic experiments and growing. Sometimes in my development these are evolutionary and sometimes they are revolutionary and a break with the past.

2. At the same time keep running marketing experiments and growing and learning. These experiments can run the gamut from open mics to different band formations, to new social network scenes, to professional feedback on your songwriting, etc. What you learn will feed back into your artistic experiments.

3. Your experiments can be simple and have good results.

I can illustrate how the artistic and marketing experiments work hand in hand to iterate forward. I have been getting back into music as a 53 year old songwriter playing some open mics over the last couple of months. Most of the open mics are to 20-30 year age group and I felt my songs were good but just wasn't connecting with the audience like I wanted to. I played a new song out at the very beginning of my open mic that was written to appeal more to that younger crowd. Not only did that song work but that was the bridge to them seeing the strong appeal of the other songs I played that had previously been talked over. Everyone else got to play 3 songs and I got to do 5.

If I hadn't written that new song and put it first in the set order I would have concluded that the other songs had little value and phased them out.

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterTom Laskey

Are there any two better folks to get us jazzed to try new ideas and give us hope we will succeed than Derek and Seth? I don't think so - we are lucky to have them around to spark our creativity.
Here I think the title is a bit misleading. It is often not so much that people need to get better but rather that they need to find another path to get to where they want to be. They don't need to improve; they need to get different. Any time you are striving for something, it makes sense to periodically take a breath and assess your progress. If you don't seem to be making any, then you may need a new plan - something more exciting, more unconventional, more you than any one else.
I agree that a new (and hopefully more effective) scheme is "improving" but focusing on the need to alter course rather than hone current skills puts the emphasis on another aspect of the change. Either way, whether you are working with a huge advertising budget or designing a small give-away program to start the jungle drums, it is all marketing on one scale or another and it needs to be part of the plan.

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterMcShane

While I will never argue that you don't need to be awesome, this article's argument is misguided. My intuition is that artists need to think about being memorable in all the facets of their brand. The experience of an album is not as visceral for people as it was even 10 years ago. You need to have an interesting sound, an interesting web site, interesting videos, interesting packaging. The whole "That Thing You Do" myth of "write the hit and they will come" is just that, a myth.

Face it: now you're competing with the movies on demand your audience just downloaded, or the social networking site they visit everyday. You can cling to the old worldview and maybe if you're lucky--and I mean really lucky--your song will play in the background while they watch a movie or social network. Or you can create a visceral world of music, video, and web for your audience to step into and walk around in.

Great post. Why is NO ONE talking about this for musicians? Godin's Purple Cow should be considered REQUIRED READING.

July 10 | Unregistered CommenterSuperfly

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