Loss Leaders and Flipping the Switch


Definition: “a pricing strategy where a product is sold for free or below its market cost to stimulate other sales.”

Loss leaders are the discount CD’s sold in Best Buy, ultimately leading to the purchase of your new TV, or the inkjet printers sold at a loss, because you can now only buy their proprietary, hyper-expensive ink cartridges for many years.

The most common example of loss leaders in music is when new artists offer music for free to “gain exposure”. The challenge, then, becomes creating a real (like, really, REALLY real) strategy on how to maximize that exposure, and ultimately drive it somewhere more costly. The marketing and sales plan of: A) uploading a track on Soundcloud, B) posting that link on Facebook/Twitter, and C) crossing your fingers, is pretty limited.

But music is different than inkjet printers, and selling creativity is different then selling a microwave, because, just as people like to know what a painter was feeling while creating a masterpiece, music consumers like to know the story behind the artists they love.

With the rise of the internet, and resulting decline of one-size-fits-all mass advertising, an artist’s story now truly unfolds online, gradually. If someone relates to the story behind a song (and not purely the song itself), they are much more likely to share that song with a friend. That is why stage two, after offering your music for free, must be to first identify and then amplify your story online.

Once you have both tons of exposure and a story people are connecting with and sharing, then you flip the switch. Flipping the switch could mean announcing your first tour, line of merch, or making those same songs that had been free now available exclusively for sale… or all of those things back to back over the course of a few months.

If you take the long road of truly developing your project, by first offering something to spark interest, then building a story, and finally flipping the switch, your odds of building a trusted brand and career skyrocket.


1. Fanbases Are Conversations

2. The Power of a Story

3. The True Function of Social Media


How The Mighty Fall

I just finished Jim Collins’ truly enlightening book, “How The Mighty Fall”. It’s a short read covering the five steps to an organization’s decline, and is one of the best books I’ve read in a LONG time. It’s just too good not to share, so below are some quick notes I took while reading:

How the Mighty Fall


1. Hubris Born Of Success

  • Biggest mistake is confusing what and why
  • “We’re successful because of what we do so well” replaces “we’re successful because we understand why we do specific things, and under the conditions in which they would no longer work.

2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More

  • Leaders stray away from the key to success: disciplined creativity
  • The company dives into areas where they cannot be excellent or are outside the scope of work that made them successful to begin with

3. Denial of Risk and Peril

  • The company and its leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data

4. Grasping For Salvation

  • Leaders panic, and begin to take bold leads into unknown/unmastered territory, look for mergers/acquisitions, and pursue untested strategies.
  • Only hope left at this stage is to go back to disciplined creativity

5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death


  • You can be profitable and bankrupt. You pay your bills with cash.
  • The best leaders feel a sense of urgency in both good and bad times.
  • Recovery lies in sound strategic thinking.


“Circumstances alone do not determine outcomes. We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes or our staggering defeats. We are freed by our choices.”

“The point of struggle is not just to survive, but to build an enterprise that makes such a distinctive impact on the world it touches, and does so with such superior performance, that it would leave a gaping hole – a hole that could not be easily filed by any other institution – if it ceased to exist.”


1) Why Ignoring Labels is the Best Way To Get Signed

2) The Golden Circle: Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?

The Golden Circle: Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?

Another great guest post today from digital marketing expert Nick Susi. If you like this, you can read his first guest post on the blog here. Enjoy:

An oldie but a goodie – one of my favorite TED Talks is from back in May 2010, a talk by author Simon Sinek called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” The presentation is based on his book Start With Why, which is about just that – the importance of thinking counterintuitively to best connect with your audience and to clearly define your story. Start with WHY you’re doing something, then HOW you’re doing it, and last, WHAT you’re actually doing. Sinek names this concept The Golden Circle.Golden Circle

He uses Apple as an example to show the difference between starting with WHAT versus starting with WHY when telling their brand’s story and connecting with their core consumers.

Outside-In, Starting With WHAT

  • We make great computers.
  • They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.
  • Want to buy one?

Inside-Out, Starting with WHY

  • Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo.
  • We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.
  • And we happen to make computers.
  • Want to buy one?

Getting to the core of why you’re doing what you’re doing helps your audience gain a better understanding of you and creates a human connection with your brand.


It’s no surprise that Sinek and his Golden Circle came up again more recently while I was reading a new book by Jackie Huba, Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics.

Huba uses Lady Gaga as an example within The Golden Circle:

Gaga1) WHY

Transform the culture to create a kinder, braver world where everyone is valued.

2) HOW

Live life as performance art, including avant-garde fashion and iconic performances, to gain attention to the cause.


Write and sing catchy pop music.

Gaga not only writes, releases and performs music as her means to make a living, but also uses music as a platform for activism in favor of gay rights and against bullying. Her music, paired with her genuine proactive movement for human rights, allows her to connect with a wider audience.

It’s not necessary that every musician and artist be an activist, but ask yourself – Why are you doing what you’re doing? If you have difficulty answering this question yourself, your followers likely do not understand your complete story.

Define the WHY, clearly communicate your story, make it easy for your following to connect with you.


1) Fanbases Are Conversations

2) Guest Post: 8 Tips For Increasing Tumblr Followers & Engagement

The Power of a Story

Passionate artists perfect, analyze, and pour themselves into each song they write, because each song is an isolated representation of themselves. The greatest artists, though, are those who are able to step back and, in addition to focusing intensely on each piece of music, develop a story that surrounds this music.

So few artists think of their journey as a vehicle to write the story that surrounds them.

People don’t connect with music alone, they connect with a larger sense of purpose or a shared value that they identify with.

If you create a song, share it online with one Facebook post, and then get back to work writing again to do that same thing a few months later, you’re not positioning yourself for success. Not because the music isn’t great – the music might be the best in the world – but because there is no consistency or sense of story being developed.

Similar to any great novel, smooth transitions are critical. Just like a book, your musical project needs to flow steadily and transition gracefully, so that everything you do – from a music video release down to a tweet – moves together, as one cohesive unit, towards a common, consistent goal. Otherwise, you will simply have one-off positive moments, but no larger story to wrap them in.

Without a story, people have trouble identifying with a larger sense of purpose or shared values. And without those, it’s very hard for anyone to care about you.


1) Trust Develops as the Story Develops

2) Only Then Do We Sign Our Work

Guest Post: 8 Tips For Increasing Your Tumblr Followers and Engagement

tumblr-logoWe’re lucky to have a guest post from Nick Susi here. Nick is one of the smartest people I know, co-founder of New Torch Entertainment, and is fantastic with digital strategy and fan engagement. Enjoy:

Tumblr is a highly customizable platform that combines microblogging with social media. Through its diverse content of photos, videos, text posts and more, it is a versatile tool to use as an extension of your art and engage your audience. Here’s some tips:

1) FOLLOWING– Follow other like-minded Tumblrs, who in return, may follow you. But they will only reciprocate if your Tumblr content would be of value to them and their interests.

2) REBLOGGING – Reblogging other Tumblr content onto your own is a great way to engage with others. But don’t just reblog anything. Find content that you value and wish you posted yourself.

3) ENGAGING CONTENT – It’s not worth my time to tell you to post only photos to get the most likes and reblogs. Instead, my advice is to experiment with all content options – post text, photos, video, audio and have fun with it. Then after a few weeks, look back, see what types of posts got the biggest response, and use that information to influence your decisions about future posts. Were your photo posts more popular than audio posts? Did you get more activity on a certain day of the week or a certain time of the day? Try, analyze, adjust, repeat.

4) EXCLUSIVE CONTENT – Post content that lives exclusively on Tumblr, that your audience would not be able to find on your Website, Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere. This special content will help make your Tumblr unique, and it will give your audience a reason to follow your Tumblr when they may already be regularly checking your other platforms. Plus, Tumblr is the only platform that supports GIFs, so use the exclusivity of GIFs to your advantage in driving interest around your Tumblr.

Beyonce's Tumblr

Beyonce’s Tumblr

5) GIVEAWAYS – Whether your art is a product or a service, use Tumblr as a platform to give something away for free. Launch a promotion that requires your followers to reblog a particular post to be entered to win. But make sure the prize is worth the action of reblogging. Ask yourself, would you be excited to enter your own giveaway?

6) TAGGING – Use focused tags to make it easy for others to discover your posts through Tumblr’s search tool.

7) FACEBOOK & TWITTER – Don’t forget about your already established audiences on your other social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Post links to your Tumblr on your other social networks to kickstart driving more traffic and followers to Tumblr.

Odd Future's Tumblr

Odd Future’s Tumblr

8) GENUINE CONTENT – Above all, you should not be posting to Tumblr for the sake of posting to Tumblr. You should be building an engaged community around the core of what you do, which is your art. Tumblr, like all social media, is an extension of your craft and brand. Take a deep look at your voice, your image, the feelings you want to convey with your art. Then embody that in your posts.

Keep at it. Like anything, it takes time.


1) The True Function of Social Media

2) Prioritizing the Minutia

Learning From: The Airline Industry

At this point, people basically expect a bad experience when flying. The entire process – from your first steps out of the car to getting in your seat on the plane – is a truly frustrating, annoying, and often frantic process.

If you think hard about it, though, it really is not the long lines, expensive amenities, or high chance of a flight delay that makes the process so painful. Ultimately, it’s the customer service experience that does it, and there are two key factors we can learn from here.


Everyone knows how important first impressions are. In business, in music, in relationships, in anything. But for some reason most companies seem to ignore this when determining who their customer service reps will be. To put the most unintelligent, incompetent, or drained/defeated personalities at your front desks, answering your phones, and helping your customers (specifically in an industry full of customer complaints like this one), makes no sense to me. A first impression is so, so, so critical – and it’s worth investing in the people or materials necessary to make your brand’s first impression a great one.


If the entire frustrating travel process were identical, except you felt like the customer service representatives genuinely cared about you, it would not be nearly as bad. There is an overwhelming feeling of being a statistic when traveling. When a flight is canceled or delayed several hours, there is absolutely zero sense of apology or hospitality exchanged. The customer service rep understandably can’t care about each flight cancelation, and I’m not suggesting they put up an “RIP Flight 4950” sign when a flight is canceled. But I am saying that if there was even the slightest form of either systematic or personal apology from a brand when they cause an extreme inconvenience for a customer that is already paying tons of money to be there, it would make a massive difference.

If any airline were to truly step up and make changes in these directions, their customer loyalty would skyrocket, and they would immediately become everyone’s favorite airline.


1) “Your Customer Service Experience”

2) “Daytrotter: How Community and Value Can Trump Cheap”

A Few Reminders For Artists

  • Being a musician is not an excuse to be irresponsible or disorganized.
  • Music spreads through conversation and sharing.
  • The internet connects like-minded people, no matter how small the niche.
  • Managers can only work as hard as their artist.
  • The “average person” spends 40+ hours per week working.
  • You must give people a reason to listen to your music.
  • Social media is not a “necessary evil”. It is the best way to communicate with your fans.
  • Success = Preparation + Opportunity. Can you honestly say you’re preparing?
  • Do you have a story worth telling?
  • Focus on the key platforms that amplify your strengths – don’t try to do everything at once.
  • Press helps develop your story.
  • You are not entitled to paying gigs based on talent; you earn them as you build an audience.
  • Stop blaming record labels, other gatekeepers, or people who “just don’t get it”.
  • Don’t get lost somewhere in the middle; focus on the edges.
  • Fans love being acknowledged.
  • Managers are not assistants.
  • Transparent, authentic one-on-one interaction always win.
  • Real success comes from brave, painful, concentrated effort.