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


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

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.

Daytrotter: How Community and Value Can Trump “Cheap”

DaytrotterThis is the first blog post I’ve written where I came up with the title before the piece itself. That’s because the title describes the exact movement happening over at Daytrotter.com. Daytrotter is one of few companies I can think of who prioritize the creation of something truly valuable, while nurturing a fan community. This mentality goes sharply against what most businesses do (create something average and sell it for as cheaply as possible, knowing that a low price is the only chance they have at making a sale).

Last week, Daytrotter increased their monthly subscription fee from $2 to $4.

My first thought, as it always is when any company raises their price, was “People are going to be pissed.” I expected to see an angry mob on Twitter, and bloggers and music fans alike responding with a “Who do they think they are?” attitude. So I dug through Twitter, and did multiple Google searches for news on this, cringing with anticipation. But, after a while of searching, I found… nothing.

Glenn Peoples, a music business/tech journalist for Billboard did Tweet about the news. But instead of people responding with frustration, the only response was from Daytrotter’s founder, looking to connect about an exciting upcoming announcement. That announcement he was hinting at turned out to be a fantastic one: that Daytrotter was now allowing new members the opportunity to send $5 to a Daytrotter artist of their choice. While this may seem generous to those unfamiliar with Daytrotter, it likely comes as no surprise to their incredibly tight-knit community of supporters, who have come together over the years through a like-minded passionate love of music discovery.

Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie

To top it all off, Daytrotter is smart enough to know that, while personal music discovery is a powerful force, true community is ultimately generated through friends talking about and sharing Daytrotter-related things. With this in mind, they are known for their cartoon drawings of each artist they work with. These drawings are enough to catch your eye, and to cause a fan of the artist to share the drawing with a friend (and therefore discover Daytrotter through the “where did you find this?” question).

There’s a lesson in all of this. If your goal is to make your price as low as possible, in hopes of being accessible to everyone, you are going to have to sacrifice something in the process. That something will most likely be quality. Even further, it’s important to remember that nobody is for everybody.

It is better to be a trusted source of value for a focused community, than to only be relevant until something a bit cheaper comes along.


1) Fanbases Are Conversations

2) Passes Supporters, Active Fans and Super Fans

Prioritizing the Minutia

Red help buttonDetermining what, when and how to release something is often the most difficult internal process for an artist. Between singles, EPs, music videos, cover songs, websites, live videos, photos, albums, remixes and more, the options are limitless, and therefore terrifying. While releasing content consistently is critical for visibility, I would argue that the seemingly insignificant, day-to-day output (tweets, instagram photos, status updates, etc.) is just as important, if not even more so.

The reason your day-to-day actions are so valuable is that those actions are what position you in peoples’ minds. They help shape the perception of your project to the viewer/fan/audience, and that perception will serve as the foundation – and make or break – that new single you’re releasing. If your music is perceived as valuable, because you have taken the unbearably gradual process of developing trust within a focused community, then you can honestly say you’re giving it your best shot. Otherwise, you’re doing a disservice to all the people in the world waiting to delight in your art.

Think about friendship. Friendships don’t happen instantly; they gradually develop. Trust is the key element of friendship. Reputation is the same; a reputation goes hand-in-hand with trust. Your musical project is no different – it is simply a matter of enhancing a reputation and a friendship, but with a community rather than an individual. Your day-to-day actions will drive this fan relationship much more than your new video will.

If you don’t prioritize the minutia, your big release will not go as well as you’d hoped.



1) “The True Function of Social Media

2) “Attention vs Retention