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Permission Marketing Vs. Self-Entitled Marketing for Musicians

This is an adapted piece from something that I wrote on my marketing blog.

Permission Marketing Vs. Self-Entitled Marketing

The concept of “Permission Marketing” has been around for some time. Popularized by marketing guru and author Seth Godin, it essentially boils down to marketers asking for “permission” before advancing to higher levels of engagement or a purchasing process with customers. It’s often contrasted with what Godin likes to call “interruption marketing,” the practice where advertisers try and “interrupt” a person’s normal pattern through an advertising blitz (such as a billboard, tv commercial, magazine ad, etc.).

I believe that a better descriptor for interruption marketing and stronger contrast to permission marketing is the idea of “self-entitled” marketing. Self-Entitlement generally refers to the idea that one feels they deserve access, privileges, or rights without regard to others and (whether it is deserved or not). It’s narcissistic. And it’s also the approach that many brands take to spread their message.

Godin’s describes permission marketing by writing, ”Permission is like dating. You don’t start by asking for the sale at first impression. You earn the right, over time, bit by bit.” Self-entitled marketing is like asking for a long-term commitment with the first impression.

Let’s apply these concepts to the world of musicians…

Do you remember when Myspace was at its height and everyone was scrambling for more “friends” on the website? People used to be impressed with those numbers (ironically, more so than actual music plays) until it was learned that anyone with enough patience could send friend requests all day long. The more resourceful ones used an automated bot service to do the same thing. However, of the thousands of “fans” generated by this method, how many led to record sales? How many eagerly signed up for the mailing list or bought tickets for a show? The money and time spent on this probably would have been better invested into developing a level of engagement with fans, the slow and steady way of growing the fan base.

These days, ads are becoming a little more refined. A Facebook ad or Google AdWords campaign would probably be more effective than spending the same amount on a radio commercial simply because of the ability to target the audience more finely. However, the most effective ads are going to be the ones that create interest more so than the ones that demand a commitment immediately. Think of it as dating: you want to leave an air of mystery, leave them wanting more.

If you think of social media as a telephone rather than a microphone, you’ll see greater results. Even Facebook’s algorithims are designed to give priority over interactions; the more your fans interact with you (through comments and likes), the more likely your posts will actually appear in their Feed and spread to others. The Twitter community and YouTube is also built around interactions.

The lesson here is to sound less like a door-to-door salesman and more like a best friend. People are more likely to support their friends than strangers. People are more likely to open emails from someone they interact with than someone who is always asking them to buy something.



Simon Tam is owner of Last Stop Booking, a full service agency that offers tour booking and music consulting services. Simon has appeared on stage at over 1,200 live events and has traveled North America presenting ideas about the music industry. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at

Reader Comments (6)

I like this article, especially the part about a Facebook or Google AdWords ad being more effective than a similarly priced radio campaign. That is encouraging.

December 21 | Unregistered Commentercheekbrown

Very good article! I have gone over and over these kinds of thoughts while planning the release of my first solo album, and within the last two years have learned that these things are quite true. With the current glut of music in the marketplace, people are overburdened with requests to just "check out my music". You can't ask people who are unfamiliar with your art to purchase it.

December 21 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Gibson

Good points! Wish more people would pay attention !

December 21 | Unregistered Commenterdelgado


December 30 | Unregistered CommenterLeena

oh so true. i once was the proud ":owner" of 55,000 friends on
until i realized that i had as little of a connection with my "fans" as they did me. instead of keeping track of them all, one day i just deleted the account (haven't been back since)
now...some of the 55,000 maybe 1% ;) have found me again through facebook or twitter and are thrilled that they bumped into me again. leaves 'em wanting more...right? now its been a case of me not making enough music for THEM... gotta get busy, ya'll. i wish everyone LOADS of success this 2012 xoxox

December 31 | Unregistered Commenterstasha

I particularly like your reference to thinking of marketing as a telephone as opposed to a microphone. Sales and Marketing is going through radical changes with technology, everything will be on-demand eventually and as it should be. Thanks for the post, I found it useful and interesting.

April 26 | Unregistered CommenterMark

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