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


My Favorite Thing I’ve Read This Month


Just read a great interview with cartoonist Hugh MacLeod. This one is just too good not to share:

“Artists don’t have to suffer. Clueless no-talent dumb-fucks who call themselves artists have to suffer. ‘Artist’s cannot market’ is complete crap. Warhol was great at marketing. As was Picasso. The way artists market themselves is by having a great story. By having a “myth”. The art feeds the myth. The myth feeds the art. The worst thing an artist can do is see marketing as “the other”, i.e. something outside of themselves. It’s not.”

– Hugh MacLeod

Screaming At Your Fans

If you are an artist or band, go to your Facebook page, Twitter feed, and mailing list, right now.

Look at your posting history.

Are you only writing to your fans when you want something from them?

“Come to our show!”

“Buy our album!”

“Watch this video!”

“Sign up for this!”

“Listen here!”

“Read this article about us!”

“Click here!”

“Send this link to your friends!”

“Vote for us!”

Stop doing that. Please. The best way to “market” yourself is to build human connections with like-minded people (your fans). Once built, use these connections as a platform to grow together WITH them. Bring them into your world. Make them feel a sense of ownership.

They are in this with you.

People are much more likely to buy, watch, vote for, and share the music of something they are a part of than they will for someone who is just constantly screaming at them.