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


To Artists: Finding Your Band

I see this happen all the time:

Step 1: Artist writes music.

Step 2: Artist needs band.

Step 3: Artist calls the best and most in-demand players he/she knows, because that will make the music sound best.

Step 4: Artist gets band confirmed… then finds it impossible to schedule rehearsals.

Step 5: Artist feels pressure or uneasiness because he/she isn’t confident their music is worth the time and energy of the band members.

Step 6: Artist spends a few months rehearsing with band. There are only a few rehearsals where all band members can make it.

Step 7: After all the stress, pressure, and hassle of coordinating rehearsals, the band is ready to gig. So they start gigging, and often need to find subs because one of the band members is already-booked.

Step 8: Artist realizes, after six months (or longer), that this isn’t the right lineup of people for this band.

Step 9: Back to Step 2.

This is not a good system.

When choosing band members, the most important factors should be:

1. Shared vision, purpose, and sound for group

2. Chemistry outside of rehearsal room, recording studio, etc. (could you comfortably grab a beer with these people?)

3. Project is the same priority level for everyone (that doesn’t mean it has to be a top priority. If everyone is in this for fun, that’s fine, but don’t be scared to admit it.)

Skill level is obviously important, but, if you’re serious about your music, being a good player is implied. If someone is just plain terrible, they won’t be in this conversation to begin with.

You need to ask yourself: “Who am I creating this music for?”

The answer to that question should determine who you want to be creating something with.