What You Can Learn From 'Brand Like A Rock Star'
January 20, 2012
"It takes a certain frame of mind to accept that having people hate you is a sign of success. Great bands polarize people, and great brands to the same thing ... If you can accept the idea that if you do something really cool, you will naturally have people who think you are an idiot, you are on the right path."
-- Steve Jones
Over the holidays I read one of the best books I've read in quite awhile, "Brand Like A Rock Star" by Steve Jones.
For nearly 30 years, Steve has worked in the music industry in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. He's had a front-row seat to the rise (and sometimes fall) of some of rock & roll's biggest. Combining his two passions, music and business, Steve takes the lessons learned from the greatest acts in rock history (you name it, they are in the book) and applies them directly to business. Download a free chapter and read even more on the "Brand Like A Rock Star" website here: http://tiny.cc/g3vvo
I can't imagine any new and developing artist or manager in the music industry who wouldn't find the book valuable, but anybody in business who seeks success in the marketing and branding areas will find the book a great read. It's a terrific book.
I liked the book so much, I wanted to get in touch with Steve Jones, because I thought a short dialogue with him would be beneficial to the readers of the newsletter. Thanks to Rob Nissen at Nissen PR for his help in allowing me to do so.
Hope you enjoy our little dialogue, and again, I highly recommend the book!
Q. Thanks so much for taking the time out to talk with me about BRAND LIKE A ROCK STAR. To start off, the most obvious question: What gave you the idea for the book...using rock stars to exemplify the best branding disciplines?
SJ: Working in radio for nearly 30 years, I've always been obsessed with what drives customer decisions. Why do people choose one radio station over another, even when they both play essentially the same music? And it almost always comes down to branding ... to expectations. So a few years ago, while listening to Jimmy Buffett and drinking an ice cold beer, I began to contemplate Buffett's incredible brand. One hit song, multi-millions in revenue. Thinking about Buffett led me to consider the Grateful Dead, KISS, and others who built massive brands around their music. It could have been the beer talking, but I was inspired to reserve the URL "brandlikearockstar.com" and started blogging. The blog very organically evolved into the book itself.
Q. You give so many great examples of artists that have branded themselves so well over the years, but how did you arrive at how each was a different example to maximize brand identity?
SJ: In some cases, like KISS and the Grateful Dead, it was obvious. In other cases, I actually worked backwards. For example, there is no question that using PR and stunting is an effective branding tool, so I went from there and searched for bands who had done that. And it wasn't long before the Sex Pistols came to mind, and their brilliant use of media attention to build their brand. Once you start to see the business world through the lens of rock 'n' roll, you start to find examples everywhere of how great bands have used branding tactics to their advantage!
Q. You write "brand (and band) has a timeline. At some point all brands peak and need to reinvent themselves." Give the readers an example of exactly that and how it relates to brand overall?
SJ: The restaurant business is a great example of brands that need to continually reinvent themselves. It seems restaurants have a shelf life of five to 10 years before they need a complete makeover and freshen things up. Nothing is ever successful if it is stagnant. Even brands that are religiously consistent with their logo, like Coke or Ford, continually update how they use their logo and how they tell their story. I like to tell businesses that the story itself never changes, but how you tell your story evolves every single day.
Q. Billy Joel said "Before MTV, music said listen to me, now it says 'look at me'." That sums up so much about how important branding/image posturing is, wouldn't you agree?
SJ: Absolutely. And we're well on our way to that next step which is "interact with me." Branding is about visual image for sure, but it is more about emotional image ...what inner emotion does your business evoke in me? Do you fascinate me or excite me, or delight me or intrigue me? Do you make me feel powerful or content or safe? Smart brands reach for emotions because they realize that buying decisions are made by the heart, not the head. The brain exists to justify the emotional needs that the heart has.
Q. The examples you give in the book are excellent. I think any reader would benefit from reading your book if they want to succeed in the marketing/branding arena. Do you think most successful rock bands/artists miss the boat when it comes to this area?
SJ: I think many bands got lucky in branding. There was probably a lot of accidental magic for those who became successful, as opposed to a conscious effort to build a brand. But if you look at a band like the Grateful Dead, you find a band that very keenly knew what they were doing when it came to sharing their tribe (and music) for free and building a passionate group of followers. Same with the Sex Pistols, a great example of how a brand can consciously be built in rock 'n' roll. Malcolm McLaren knew exactly what he wanted to create in that band, and he found the people to make it happen. All of the destruction and debauchery that the Sex Pistols did in their day was part of an image designed to tap into the anti-establishment sentiment of an entire generation of British youth. Most bands don't bother to think it through that far, but they should!
Q. I especially liked the chapter, "The Opposite of Love," because you show that it doesn't really matter if the vast majority of the people hate you, as long as your audience responds. In other words, niche marketing can lead to long-term success beyond what one might think. Of course the Internet can assist in that area even more, right? Do you think too many miss the mark in this area when it comes to bringing successful products to market?
SJ: Most businesses miss the mark because they are scared to death of pissing anyone off. It takes a certain frame of mind to accept that having people hate you is a sign of success. Great bands polarize people, and great brands to the same thing. But most businesses water down what they do in order to build a brand that appeals to everyone, and they never stop to think that they'll end up appealing to no one at all if they do that. Great brands have people who hate them, and they have competitors who hate them. All of that dislike is part of the brand identity. Would watching the Red Sox be as much fun for me if the Yankees didn't exist? Of course not. Coke is more fun because of Pepsi. Apple is a better brand because of Microsoft. And so on. If you can accept the idea that if you do something really cool, you will naturally have people who think you are an idiot, you are on the right path.
Q. I loved the cover of the book with the amp knob going to 11! Obviously you've seen 'Spinal Tap' and loved it and that gave you the idea, but explain to the readers what the cover symbolizes in regard to the book?
SJ: Yes, of course there is the recall to "Spinal Tap," which is a lot of fun. But on a more serious platform, I think the cover speaks to the idea that being as good as everyone else is no longer good enough. Being "good" is invisible today. Brands need to do more than be good ... they need to be exceptional. They need to be remarkable. Customers expect that the food at the restaurant will be good, that the car they bought will run, and the plane they got on will land safely in the city it is supposed to land in. So only the brands that go above the expected ever get noticed. Turning it up to "11" means creating a product or brand that rises above everything else.
Q. Thanks for your time Steve, I think the book is a terrific read. Best wishes for a great 2012!
SJ: Thank you for the opportunity!
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 2
AND AS AN ADD-ON TO THE ABOVE INTERVIEW...
Two weeks ago I posted a link to an article in The New York Times about Cee Lo Green with the track title, "How Artists Make Big Money Without A Gold Album These Days." ( http://tiny.cc/w5llr )
Steve Jones uses The Grateful Dead in his book as an example of great branding success, and an article in Rolling Stone this week specifically talks about the band and how they are successfully promoting their legacy with merchandising, a movie in the works, a new video game, and more. The band will reap millions in revenues from all the new projects in the works.
Read the article here: http://tiny.cc/wf7u6
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 3
YOU TUBE AND LABELS TO RENEW DEALS
Universal Music, Sony and EMI are all in license-renewal negotiations with the video-sharing service, sources say. Preventing piracy is a big issue.
Read more on CNET here: http://tiny.cc/9ta39
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 4
NOT EVERYONE IS CRAZY ABOUT BILLBOARD'S NEW CHART RULES
The longtime music-industry bible has now adjusted its top 200 list and it will penalize albums sold at deep discounts, making it more difficult for labels to promote acts, and accurately track total album sales.
Read the article in the Los Angeles Times here: http://tiny.cc/3qorw
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
MILLIONS SIGN GOOGLE'S ANTI-SOPA PETITION
The petition read ""Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S. Sign this petition urging Congress to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late."
Over the course of the day, millions of people signed onto Google's petition. "The last number we released was at 4:30pm ET," said Google spokesperson Christine Chen. "At that point we were at 4.5 million signatories and counting."
Online piracy is one thing, the possibility of online censorship is something else.
Read more here about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) here on CNET: http://tiny.cc/uq97r
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 6
THE BREAKDOWN OF WHO ACCOUNTED FOR THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF ALBUM SALES IN 2011
* In 2011, 76,875 albums were released and sold at least one copy in the U.S., according to stats shared by Nielsen Soundscan. (These releases came from major and indie labels, as well as unsigned artists, as long as they were properly registered and set up with identifiers like UPC barcodes)
* That group of 76,875 albums collectively went on to sell about 113 million copies in the US.
* Of that total, sales of roughly 100 million, or 88.5%, came from just 1,500 releases, or 1.9% of the release total.
That means that, roughly speaking, 2% of releases accounted for 90% of new release sales.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 7
APPLE MAKES ITUNES FOR BETTER ONLINE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
The dirty little secret of iTunes is that it really is not an optimal interface. In a shop with half-million items, there has to be a better way to surface the most relevant and valuable content than walls of icons.
Read the rest here: http://tiny.cc/q0w7j
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 8
SOUNDEXCHANGE PAYS OUT ALMOST $90 MILLION IN Q4
SoundExchange, the DC-based non-profit entity that collects royalties for musicians from satellite radio firms, Internet radio services and cable music channels, said this week it distributed a record $89.5 million during the fourth quarter of 2011.
Read about it here: http://tiny.cc/d4hwx
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 9
NETFLIX HIT BY CLASS-ACTION SUIT
A group of Netflix investors filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging it withheld info about contracts with content providers.
The plaintiffs say that "Netflix concealed the fact that content providers were demanding much higher license fees, that pricing would need to increase, and that Netflix wasn't on track to meet earnings forecasts," writes Eriq Gardner.
Read the article on The Hollywood Reporter here: http://tiny.cc/7r6vf
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 10
THE INTERNET BEATS NEWSPAPERS FOR BUSINESS INFO AND DINING OUT INFO
More bad news for those in the print newspaper biz: According to The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project in partnership with the Knight Foundation, people looking for information about local restaurants and other businesses say they rely on the Internet, especially search engines, ahead of any other source.
Newspapers, both printed copies and the websites of newspaper companies, run second behind the Internet as the source that people rely on for news and information about local businesses, including restaurants and bars. Word of mouth, particularly among non-internet users, is also an important source of information about local businesses.
Download the whole report here: http://tiny.cc/tzsyw
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 11
It could be just a few weeks before we see Apple's next iPad. New murmurs say Apple's holding an event to show it off next month, with a release to follow in March.
In the meantime, the first quad-core tablets have already hit -- and CNET got their hands all over them at CES -- but they aren't the only thing to be excited about in the coming year.
Watch the video here: http://tiny.cc/l6je4
THE 'A-SIDE' - BONUS TRACKS
* Unsigned Only is a unique international music competition designed for solo artists, bands and singers who are not signed to a major label record company or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or imprints. The goal of Unsigned Only is to find an outstanding, talented performer: a band, singer, or solo artist ... a newcomer or veteran ... raw or polished ... the "gem" that needs to be discovered. Unsigned Only is looking for the total package. The grand prize is $5,000 and the grand prize winner will receive one-on-one mentoring from a group of record label executives. Check it out here: http://tiny.cc/vodv8
* BANDWDTH Publishing, in conjunction with the George Harrison Estate, announces the release of a special iPad app celebrating the guitarist and his historical guitar collection. The Guitar Collection: George Harrison iPad app will be released through iTunes on February 23rd, two days before George's birth date. The app brings George Harrison's private guitar collection to life through photographs, detailed descriptions, audio and video footage. For the first time, with the help of unique 360° imaging by photographer Steven Sebring, fans can see the scratches, dings, and worn threads on the guitars as if they were themselves holding the instruments. The video section of the app contains footage of Ben Harper, Josh Homme, Mike Campbell and Dhani Harrison each playing and showcasing the guitars and exploring their feel and tone. You can see a video preview of the app here: http://tiny.cc/r2bqq
* If you're a Springsteen fan and want to hear Bruce's terrific new single "We Take Care Of Our Own" from his upcoming album 'Wrecking Ball' go here: http://tiny.cc/2iiv3
Short News Items ...
AND IT WAS A BORING YEAR FOR MOVIES AS WELL:
Initial ratings for the Golden Globes, TV's precursor to the usually bigger deal Academy Awards, slipped a bit from the 2011 event. (With a mediocre crop of films this year, is anyone surprised?)
Bruce Springsteen jammed with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers until the wee hours at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park this week for the Light of Day Parkinson's benefit.
A WASTE OF SPACE:
Rolling Stone actually asked readers to vote this week for the best Weird Al Yankovic song. Really.
ADELE TIES TITANIC AND STILL SAILS ON:
Adele's "21" spends its 16th week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart (104,000 sold according to Nielsen SoundScan). Its reign is the longest since the "Titanic" soundtrack also earned 16 weeks at No. 1 in 1998. With 104,000 sold last week, "21" notches its 33rd week of 100,000-plus sales. The last album to do so was Usher's "Confessions," which also racked 33 stanzas of 100,000 sales in 2004-2005. ( http://tiny.cc/9iofb )
PLAY WITH KATY:
Want to play with Katy Perry? An agreement between Electronic Arts Inc. and the pop superstar is creating multiple games within "The Sims" franchise featuring themed in-game content and virtual goods, in addition to showcasing Perry in advertising and marketing.
AND THIS IS NEWS?:
Despite widespread reports, Jay-Z has apparently made no claim that he'll stop using the word "bitch" in his lyrics following the birth of his daughter. The story "is B.S.," TMZ founder Harvey Levin tweeted earlier this week, citing one of the rapper's representatives as his source.
MORE GRAMMY LINEUP NEWS:
This week it was announced that Rihanna and Coldplay will team up for a joint performance at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. Paul McCartney was also announced as a performer.
HALL OF FAME OPENS ARCHIVES:
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio has opened its library and archives to the public, granting scholars and fans alike access to items including personal letters penned by Madonna and Aretha Franklin, rare concert footage of the Rolling Stones on tour in the early Eighties, and more.
SPIDERMAN LAWSUITS CONTINUE:
The producers of the Broadway show 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' have filed a countersuit against the show's co-creator and original director, Julie Taymor, accusing her of jeopardizing the $70 million musical by being indifferent to ticket sales.
IDOL DROPS IN SEASON DEBUT:
'American Idol' saw a 17% drop in total viewers over the Season 10 debut a year ago. It averaged 21.6 million viewers over its two-hour premiere, in contrast to Season 10's 26.1 million. Season 11 was down 28% over its Season 9 debut. It was the biggest drop the show has ever had between season premieres. ( http://tiny.cc/y4gol )
KINDLE USERS MOSTLY READERS:
For all of the multimedia variety and connectivity the Amazon Kindle Fire has to offer, it remains predominantly, overwhelmingly, a book reader. According to a proprietary study by RBC Capital Markets of over 216 owners, 70.7% cited book reading as one of the top two activities on their new device.( http://tiny.cc/2wmsm ) Over 80% of Fire owners have purchased an e-book, according to the research, while 58% had purchased more than three e-books within 15-60 days of buying the Fire.
According to stats by Nielsen Soundscan, more than two-thirds (or 67%) of all vinyl albums in the U.S. were sold by indie record stores last year. Last year, vinyl sales reached 3.9 million units, the biggest mark in two decades and a 39% gain over 2010. In 2010, indie retailers accounted for an even more impressive 71% of all vinyl sales in the US. ( http://tiny.cc/runrg )
Johnny Otis, the bandleader, talent scout and songwriter who was often called the "Godfather of R&B," and whose best-known song is "Willie and the Hand Jive," died on Tuesday at his suburban Los Angeles home. He was 90. Among his discoveries were Etta James, Hank Ballard, Jackie Wilson and Big Mama Thornton.
The Music Industry Past, Present & Future, And The Internet I answer questions on EconTalk
I did an interview about the industry and the Internet at EconTalk with host Russ Roberts. Russ is also a professor of economics at George Mason University, blogs at Cafe Hayek, and has written three novels that teach economics. He's also the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap video. (And if your understanding of the economic meltdown that occurred needs to be enlightened, this video will do it)
In the interview we talk about the evolution of the music industry, the impact of the digital revolution, and I give my reasons for believing in the virtues and potential of the Internet in enhancing the music industry. I point out, as I have many times here in the newsletter, that the internet allows numerous artists to make money from their music and it can enhance revenues from live performances by expanding an artist's base. We also discuss the challenges facing record companies and I suggest that the full potential of the Internet as a distribution channel has yet to be fully exploited. There's a lot of ground covered, but based on the comments already posted of those who have tuned in, they've enjoyed it.
Read more about it by clicking here.
Quotes of the week
"Mary J [Blige] might win it for 'The Help'. Madonna doesn't have a f**king chance."
-- Elton John talking to a reporter on the red carpet before the Golden Globes, in response to the question who did he think would win for Best Song from a film
"Was he wearing a dress? Damn him, those are fighting words. Okay, well may the best man win."
-- Madonna to Carson Daly on the red carpet, commenting on Elton John's comment
"Madonna. Best song???? F**k off!!Madonna winning Best Original Song truly shows how these awards have nothing to do with merit. Her acceptance speech was embarrassing in its narcissism."
-- Elton John's partner David Furnish on Facebook after Madonna won the award.
"I say to my daughter, 'That outfit is a little bit too risqué or revealing' and she looks at me and says, 'That's rich coming from you.'"
-- Madonna, on the Material Mom challenges of parenting 15-year-old Lourdes, on The Graham Norton Show
"Let's get ONE thing straight ... I do NOT have to say congrats to someone when they're NOT on twitter ... ESPECIALLY when I talk or e-mail them all the time."
-- Destiny's Child's Michelle Williams, responding to a Twitter follower who suggested she congratulate new mama Beyonce
The B-Side - 'Blips'
THE ONION (www.theonion.com) STORY OF THE WEEK:
Nation's Sound Engineers Gather To Talk About Their Ponytails
AUSTIN, TX-Sound engineers from around the country converged on the Hilton Garden Inn Saturday for their annual convention in which they discuss their ponytails.
Read the rest here and laugh: Click Here.
The BlogsCheck out Jerry Del Colliano's (the founder of INSIDE RADIO) daily blog, by clicking here: http://www.insidemusicmedia.blogspot.com
Check out attorney Ray Beckerman's website at: http://recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot.com where he prints news about the RIAA's ongoing activities
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Smart Marketing Consulting Services has been in business sixteen years, and consults clients in the music, entertainment, attraction, media, and technology industry on branding, marketing, online exploitation, maximizing new media, and more.
"And the beat goes on, the beat goes on ... drums keep poundin' rhythm to the brain."
"Work is life, you know, and without it, there's nothing but fear and insecurity." -- John Lennon