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


Fear of…?

I strongly think that the only reason people don’t put their music, ideas, or themselves out there fully is because of some sort of fear. This fear seems to always be in the back of some peoples’ minds, subtly telling them they aren’t ready yet.

What if:

– you don’t get as many downloads as you wanted?

– your Facebook or Twitter numbers don’t go up?

– your email subscribers don’t increase?

– the guitarist you’ve been hoping to play with doesn’t like your music?

– the audition goes badly?

– people don’t think the production quality is good enough?

– people don’t think your voice is as good as someone else’s?

– nobody likes it at all?

You need to start changing “What if” to “What happens if”. Once you make that change, you’ll begin to realize that the answer is always simply that you learn more about your fans, target audience, yourself, and your own work. Once you start gathering this information, you then have the amazing opportunity to consistently grow, write, and adjust until you’re satisfied.

If you don’t put yourself out there and get this feedback, you will keep waiting for that perfect song or perfect time to truly push yourself out there into the public, and by then it will definitely be too late.