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« February 2008 | Main | April 2008 »

When poets get angry

Poetree By now, has probably been shut down.

While it lasted, it was the best-designed, richest source of p2p poetry sharing available online. Only a typical lunk-headed heavy-handed ploy by the inner circle of poets was able to shut it down.

All the classics were there: Rod McKuen, Roald Dahl, even the Dr. (Seuss) himself. In addition, you could find the complete poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and even Thomas Moore.

So, amidst all of these gems, what happened? Why the controversy?

Alisha Grant, spokesperson for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, had this to say, "We applaud the work of the FBI in shutting down this travesty of copyright. If we want great poetry, America, we're going to have to pay for it."

Many of the world's top poets reported dramatic decreases in royalties and sales as a result of the site. "When poetry is free, no one is willing to pay for it," one poet is quoted by Wired. Even though some poets had reportedly been earning three or four million dollars a year in royalties and advances, it apparently wasn't enough.

Missing in the blizzard of press releases was any compassion for the unemployed poetry lover, or for the student who might need to get a few stanzas of an important elegy or even a limerick.

Consider this haiku, for example. Without the net, you wouldn't be able to discover it without buying an entire book of bad poetry:

Rebels have to have
rules often to feel that there's
a cause for their acts

I for one will miss Poe-tree (so named because of the tree-like structure of the directory). To those who worked so hard to shut it down, a bucket.

Sign a petition to protest this right here. It doesn't have to rhyme.

Where do we begin?

Every time I write a post, I have a dilemma.

Am I writing for you, the one who has read more than 2,000 of my previous posts over the last five years? The one who has bought (and read!) so many of my books and is all caught up on my history?

It matters, of course, because I can take shortcuts, it changes the perception of my tone of voice and I can skip a lot of the preliminaries.

Or am I writing for you, the first-timer, the person who found this post on Digg or Delicious? If it's you, then I should take my time, write a bit more, put some background links in, etc.

Now, of course, you have the same dilemma too.

You have it when someone friends you on Facebook. Maybe they found you cause you're cute, or because you just joined a new company or because you're a friend of Tom's. Or maybe they've known you since summer camp and you just need to reconnect...

I think this dichotomy of experience raises the level of responsibility for the reader. Without knowing who you're reading, it's hard to judge the tone of voice of what you're hearing. More important, it changes the posture of the writer.

Sometimes, the web is more of a cocktail party than a club meeting.

Getting vs. Taking

Most people spend a lot of time to get an education.

They wait for the teacher (hopefully a great one) to give them something of value.

Many employees do the same thing at work. They wait for a boss (hopefully a great one) to give them responsibility or authority or experiences that add up to a career.

A few people, not many, but a few, take. They take the best education they can get, pushing teachers for more, finding things to do, exploring non-defined niches. They take more courses than the minimum, they invent new projects and they show up with questions.

A few people, not many, take opportunities at work. Marketers have the easiest time of this (sort of hard to commandeer the chain saw) but don't do it nearly as often as they should.

What have you taken today?

Where to find great ideas and arresting images (for free)

Xrayspecs If you need photos for a presentation or website or brochure, try Flickr.

Go to advanced search, choose Creative Commons Commercial license and search away. The breadth is extraordinary, but what will amaze you is the quality. And the license is a generous gift from the photographer to you.

Another tip: when you are trying to brainstorm, Flickr is a great place to find connections between ideas that hadn't occurred to you. Even if you don't use the picture, the ideas are priceless. Do a search on lobster or clouds or crowds or quality and see what comes up.

Two last thoughts: be sure to check out the HDR images, and don't forget to sort by "Most Interesting."

[Greg sent along this tool, which is an amazing brainstorming aide. Check it out.]

A dumb branding strategy

Jewelry Central is a really bad brand name. So are Party Land, Computer World, Modem Village, House of Socks and Toupee Town.

It's a bad brand name because Central or Land or World are meaningless. They add absolutely no value to your story, they mean nothing and they are interchangeable. "Here honey, I bought you these cheap earrings at Diamond World!" Not only are they bland, but you can't even remember one over the other. This is the absolute last refuge of a marketer who has absolutely nothing to say and can't even find the guts to stand for what they do. It's just generic.

The second reason this is an exceedingly dangerous strategy is that if you start to succeed a little bit, you suddenly want to protect your lame name. So you hire a lawyer and start to harass people for using the English language. So Computer Land sued Business Land (or maybe it was the other way around) and lost. Or consider the angry lawyer at Jewelry Village (or was it Central, I can't remember) who sent a letter to Squidoo complaining about an editorial (not a retail) page that used the phrase. There are more than 15,000 matches for this phrase in Google, which means he's got a lot of letters to send, and a lot of people to annoy. For what? Even if he manages to make a lot of noise, he's just reminding the world how generic the phrase is in the first place. Can you name one successful brand (except Pizza Hut and I think they succeeded despite the name) that managed to pull this off? [Yes, there's Central Market and IHOP and Radio Shack... thanks for the submissions. I'm going to argue that in each case, the name slowed down something else that was truly powerful...]

You can do better.

[other naming posts I've done: here, here and here.]

The dark side

Snapnames informs me that the most competitive domain name up for auction this week is

Think about that one for a bit.

So much effort is going to be spent building this business. Money and time invested in design and promotion and, possibly, hypnosis. Why? To trick people.

I'm amazed every single day at the lengths some people will go to in order to run scams online. It's so much more work to create a spam site or a deceptive come on, so much more work to deal with the angry customers and be hiding from them...

I can imagine it becomes a habit. Once you start cutting corners and playing a selfish game to see how far you can bend (or break) the rules, it must be hard to stop. It's all relative, and what they're doing must seem relatively benign compared to someone else. Of course, there's always someone more crooked, always someone more selfish...

In my favorite hotel's kitchen, there's a big sign on the way out to the dining room:

"If you're not proud of it, don't serve it."

Managing urgencies

Do you have a plan?

A long or medium term plan for your brand or your blog or your career or your project?

You can have grand visions for remodeling your house or getting in shape, but if there's a fire in the kitchen, you drop everything and put it out. What choice do you have? The problem, of course, is that most organizations are on fire, most of the time.

I gave a talk the other day, all about the unstoppable slow decline of interruption (traditional) media and the opportunities for rethinking how we communicate with people. At the end of the talk, someone came up and had very nice things to say about what he'd learned. The he leaned over and asked me to help him brainstorm about his brand's upcoming ad campaign, because it was due to his boss on Friday.

Add up enough urgencies and you don't get a fire, you get a career. A career putting out fires never leads to the goal you had in mind all along.

I guess the trick is to make the long term items even more urgent than today's emergencies. Break them into steps and give them deadlines. Measure your people on what they did today in support of where you need to be next month.

If you work in an urgent-only culture, the only solution is to make the right things urgent.

Things you don't understand

Could you make a list? A list of things that you probably could understand if you put your mind to it, but don't.

Things like:

  • How the Federal Reserve works
  • Why things from China are so inexpensive
  • How Google Analytics works
  • Why kids like using FaceBook
  • How the guys in the factory make the widgets you sell
  • Six ways to make your web browser work better
  • How to make a great spaghetti sauce
  • Editing a wikipedia entry
  • Selling stuff on eBay

Has there ever been a better time to learn what you don't know? It's faster, easier and cheaper now than ever before (and, of course, there's way more stuff now that we don't understand). If I don't learn it now, when will I?

Sort of, just and Donald Trump

I noticed a little while ago that I was using the word "just" and the phrase "sort of" in my writing. All the time, in fact. In my last book, a search and replace removed more than 80 unnecessary 'justs'.

Just say it.

Don't hide behind waffling terms that don't mean anything.

On the other hand, as I passed the skating rink in New York with the Donald's name plastered all over it, I'm reminded of a new trend I'm seeing more of, which is the act of declaring whatever you're working on 'the best ever,' 'the best in the world,' etc.

Saying it doesn't make it so. In fact, it probably makes it unso.

Secret shortcut: personal vs. impersonal

Gatessignedxbox3602 Form letters don't work. Autographs do.

Surly cashiers fail. Smiles from real people succeed.

Humans like humans. They hate organizations.

Engadget shares this photo of an xBox 360 signed by the entire xBox team (and Bill Gates). Way better than an impersonal letter apologizing for mishandling a computer that was sent in for repair, no? (They had cleaned off a customer's machine covered with sentimental graffiti).

Do you know what most people want? They want you to care.

The bad table

I saw a marketing dilemma at the hot new restaurant I went to the other night.

We got there on time at 6:30 and the restaurant was about a third full. We were promptly seated at the worst table in the place, in the back, in the corner, cramped by the kitchen.

We were first-time patrons, having secured a reservation via Open Table. That made us doubly second-class citizens, I guess.

We asked for a better table, pointing to one a few feet away. "Oh, I'm sorry, that one is reserved."

The chances, of course, that a particular table is reserved are close to zero. What he meant was, "oh, we have a regular customer who deserves that table more than you."

Hence the marketing dilemma: who should get your best effort? Should it be the new customer who you just might be able to convert into a long-term customer? Or should it be the loyal customer who is already valuable?

Sorry, but the answer is this: you can't have a bad table.

No one wants to settle for the bad table, your worst salesperson, your second-rate items. Not the new customers and not the loyal ones...

Which means you need to figure out how to improve your lesser offerings. Maybe the table in the worst location comes with a special menu or a special wine list or even a visit from the chef. Maybe the worst table, for some people, becomes the best table because of the way you treat people when they sit there...

Treat different people differently. But don't treat anyone worse.

The world's worst toaster

We recently acquired what might be the worst toaster in the history of the world. It's pretty fancy and shiny and microprocessor controlled. And it makes toast.

But here's what I have to do to use it:

  1. Choose the number of slices, and bagel or bread.
  2. Remember whether it counts the slices from the left or the right (the left).
  3. Insert the bread.
  4. Push down the handle.
  5. Choose toast or defrost.
  6. Make sure the darkness level is right. (This doesn't count, because it usually is).
  7. Press on.
  8. Wait till it beeps.
  9. Lift the handle I pressed in #4.
  10. Turn it off.

Most toasters, of course, consist of steps 3 and 4 only.

I thought about this when I got a note from eBay asking me to pay my bill for an item I sold last month. It says:

To view your invoice and make a payment:
1. Go to and click "My eBay" at the top of most eBay pages. You will need to sign in.
2. Click the "Seller Account" link (beneath "My Account" on the left side of the page).
3. Click the "View invoices" link, and then select the invoice you want to view from the pull-down menu.
4. To make a payment, click the "make a one-time payment" link in the "eBay Seller Fees" section.

It took me more than 11 clicks to send them $6.

The opportunity online is to fix your toaster. When you want to make toast, the site should get out of the way and let you make toast.

What you can learn from Arthur C. Clarke

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In 1983, I was lucky enough to lead the team that turned one of his novels into a computer game, the first time science fiction authors had worked in that medium. His computer game ended up grossing more than most of his books ever did.

He really was a genius.

The most important thing you can take away: Naming things is important. He made magic things real by describing them and talking about them in ways that felt real. Once something feels real, making it real is a lot easier.

Still a few seats left

I'm doing an interactive, all-day seminar on April 30th in New York. Your issues, all day.

There are a few seats left. I hope you can come.

Before you buy your next ad...

My suggestion is that you spend thirty seconds watching this video.

Safe for work, audio is okay. Thanks to Ken for pointing it out. [And Bryan points out this original. Hope the client didn't pay too much for the new one!]

You were going to spend how much to distract me from what I was doing?

Why bother having a resume?

In the last few days, I've heard from top students at Cornell and other universities about my internship.

It must have been posted in some office or on a site, because each of the applications is just a resume. No real cover letter, no attempt at self marketing. Sort of, "here are the facts about me, please put me in the pile."

This is controversial, but here goes: I think if you're remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn't have a resume at all.

Not just for my little internship, but in general. Great people shouldn't have a resume.

Here's why: A resume is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, "oh, they're missing this or they're missing that," and boom, you're out.

Having a resume begs for you to go into that big machine that looks for relevant keywords, and begs for you to get a job as a cog in a giant machine. Just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?

If you don't have a resume, what do you have?

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Some say, "well, that's fine, but I don't have those."

Yeah, that's my point. If you don't have those, why do you think you are  remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don't have those, you've been brainwashed into acting like you're sort of ordinary.

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for... those jobs don't get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.

Opportunity of a lifetime

So, there's plenty of bad economic news floating around. From the price of oil to Wall Street to bailouts to the death of traditional advertising.

Which is great news for anyone hoping to grow or to make an impact.

Change (and the fortunes that go with it) is almost always made during the down part of the cycle. It might not be fun, but it's exciting. (Where do you think Google came from?) The opportunity is to find substantial opportunities (in any field) that deliver real value and have a future. Those jobs/investments/companies/ideas are undervalued right now, but not for long.


Persistence isn't using the same tactics over and over. That's just annoying.

Persistence is having the same goal over and over.

How many record execs does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

From Dan Kennedy's very funny new book:

First of all, before we change anything, is the light bulb really burned out? Maybe we just need to breathe some life into it; repackage it, maybe the light bulb could do a duet with somebody (Sheryl Crow? Tim McGraw?) in hopes of getting some crossover appeal, maybe it could be in a beer commercial, maybe we could get it out on the road with a brighter light bulb. The other thing to think about is that this summer, Honda is rolling out a 100 Million dollar campaign for a new car aimed at thirty-somethings who consider themselves adventurous/spontaneous but can't really afford something like a luxury S.U.V. and it might be a perfect campaign to tie this light bulb into, at least it would be the perfect demographic, in terms of age.

Also, and this is just an idea: what if we found out what video games are being released in the third quarter and maybe pitched the idea of having our light bulb make an appearance in the video game at some certain level of completion; like, you get to a dark cave, let's say, if it's an adventure game, and if you have enough points you can get the light bulb - and it would be our light bulb, obviously - and then it's easier to see in the cave. The other thing is this: worst-case scenario the light bulb is, in fact, burned out. Is that really the end of the world? I mean, maybe that's actually of more value to us in the long run: Picture this for voice over: "The light bulb is dead. . . but the legend lives on. . . re-released, re-mastered, revealed. . . the light bulb. . . IN STORES NOW." It almost makes more sense than taking the time changing it, plus, if it's dead we can sell it without dealing with it, you know what I mean? No demands from it, no hotels, no road expense, no delays in the project from its end, etc. But, like I said, I'm just thinking off the top of my head here, just brainstorming, and none of this is written in stone. But the first thing we should do is figure out how we want to handle this, because the light bulb's manager is a total nightmare and we're going to have to take a meeting and listen to him sooner or later, and we should know what our plan is before we sit down with him. And let me tell you right now that the first thing out of his mouth is going to be, "This light bulb should be the brightest light bulb in the world, and it could be the brightest light bulb in the world, but you need to support the light bulb, you need to give the light bulb TV ads, you need to be more active in giving the light bulb tour support, we need to have some promotion from your end!" and on and on. And in that meeting, if you're in it, the only answer from our side should be that we're obviously very excited to be working with the light bulb, that we don't think it needs to be changed, that the only problem is people haven't seen how bright the light bulb could be, and our plan is to do everything we can to make this light bulb happen.

I'll send out an email to everyone before the meeting to remind people of our position on this, but the bottom line is we don't have the budgets right now, and basically we need to see something happening with the light bulb before we go throwing good money after bad, but obviously we can't have the light bulb's manager hearing that. I can tell you all that I'm personally very excited to be working with the light bulb, I think it will light up very brightly, and we're not going to stop working the light bulb, in whatever ways budgets will permit, until it does, in fact, light up very brightly. . . the light bulb is a very big priority for us from the top of the company to the bottom. Period. We can talk more about this when I am back from Barbados next week, and I'm going to need everybody's help on this. I know we can do it, but we need everybody working hard.

The needle in a haystack problem

I'm having real trouble with the interface between gmail and Apple mail. So is Megan. My plea for insight and help is right here. Basically, once in a while, it skips some mail.

Forum posts have not been successful at troubleshooting this. I have no doubt that this blog post will find the person insightful, smart and kind enough to tell me what to do.

Which leads to the point of the post: what if you don't have a popular blog?

How do you find that one person in the wide wide world that has the answer to your question, whatever your question might be?

Google is amazing partly because it goes so far in helping with the haystack problem. Want a part for your 1957 drill press? You can find it on Google.

But Google doesn't help with finding experts when the problem is hard to define, or when interactivity is required. And just about any solution you can dream up has a friction problem: once the system is in place, it will get used too much, by too many questioners, and suddenly it won't be interesting enough for the masses to listen. For example, Craigslist suffers from a decreasing signal to noise ratio (it's a lot less fun to browse than it used to be).

Let's say, for example, I was an executive recruiter. Surely, I would benefit from interrupting every person on the planet to advertise a great new job. But I couldn't do it every day or every hour...

Part of the success of Facebook is that for your group of friends, you do get that ability (at least until they stop being your friends). But the laws of information make it clear that it doesn't scale.

No, there isn't an obvious answer. But yes, it's a universal problem. Worth a think when you get a chance.

"Do you have" vs. "Do you want"

John Moore talks about Borders Reducing its Borders.

It turns out that cutting inventory by 10% and facing books out (instead of just showing spines) increased their sales by 9%. This is counter to Long Tail thinking, which says that more choices and more inventory tend to increase sales.

The distinction is worth noting, because there are two valid strategies.

You can stock everything, so that the answer to the question, "do you have" is yes.

Or, you can market and sell, not just take orders, so instead of answering that question, you're asking, "do you want?"

Do you want this cool new cookbook about Spain? It's right next to that amazing new novel about food in Spain...

Bookstores that follow this strategy need to be pickier about what they carry, organized differently (alphabetical order again!) and staffed differently as well. Don't put all the cookbooks in a little corner. Instead, put books for me (whether they are cookbooks or computer books) together and make me delighted I found you.

This kind of bookstore needs to sell and merchandise and promote and tickle and promise and tantalize and thrill.

Hey, that might work for your business, too.

The next seminar (a fundraiser)

I hope you can join me for my next seminar in New York. This is the first in eight months or so, a fundraiser for the Acumen Fund. Every penny paid goes directly to them. My goal is for us to raise $100,000.

The date is April 30th and the fee is $2,000 a seat, paid directly to Acumen. All the details are right here. The first 35 enrolled get a free copy of my DVD boxed set.

I can't see another one happening for a while, so if you're interested, I hope you can make it.

Alphabetical order is obsolete

I love the alphabet and the fact that it has an order. There's no reason for the order of the letters, but there you go.

With computers, though, alphabetical order is almost always a bad idea, even chronological order doesn't work perfectly.

Example: When I look through my spam folder, I shouldn't see the notes in chrono order or alphabetical by sender (with AAAA' going first...). No, I should see the notes in order of least likely to be spam to most likely. Right? (book tip: Everything is Miscellaneous).

Example: When I do a search in Google images, I want them sorted by relevance and then, within that, by size. Bigger is better.

Bookstores really don't have much choice. They need to alphabetize the books so you'll know that you'll find me in the Gs, near Malcolm Gladwell. But Amazon has no business using the alphabet, because almost any other ordering technique makes more sense.

Going to alpha by default is lazy and ineffective and expensive.

Why does my Sonos make me start browsing my music collection with Abba? (Phew, I don't have any Abba, but you get the idea). Wouldn't it make more sense to show me, "music you haven't heard lately that's similar to music you've been listening to" first?

Your address book is in alphabetical order, right? Why? If you want to look someone up, type the name in. Alpha is least useful way to browse 4,000 names in an address book. I want them sorted by recency of contact, or in tickler-file order.

If I knew that lists of blogs in blog readers would be in alpha, I would have changed my name.

Your data files, your product catalog... none of it should be in alphabetical order.

The one exception is the name of ski slopes. Ski slopes should go from A to Z, left to right, as you look at the mountain. If someone says, "I'll meet you at the top of Montego Bay," you know where that is without looking at a map. And, by the way, the difficulty of each slope could be coded into the name. Cities could be easiest, animals could be blues, and the most difficult slopes could be named after disgraced politicians....

Don't get me started.

The thing about 'free'

Freeisweird I posted an internship yesterday. The idea was to combine the "you pay to come" model of summer camp with the "we pay you to do low level work" of an internship to create a learning experience for students that was, split the difference, free. I felt like a free program would represent a combination of our effort and the interns.

Free, though, is not the average of paid and paid for. Free is something entirely different.

My friend Joel dropped me a note and asked why I was asking people to post a deposit (to be returned at the end of the summer). It felt wrong to him. I wrote back,

When I do a non profit seminar (they're always free), the number of people who say, "yes I'm coming" and the number of people who come is not the same.

So, if I have room for ten, do I do a seminar for eight, or do I book 12 seats and play airline seat manager for the day?

I have no doubt, none, that if it were free, at least one person wouldn't show.

That got me thinking about free music, free samples and other free interactions. They're different. Paying a dollar for a song isn't expensive to anyone who pays $3 for a cup of coffee. The dollar isn't about expense, it's about selection and choice and commitment.

There is no commitment, one way or the other, for free. If applying to college were free, the number of schools people would apply to would approach infinity--yet the cost of the application is trivial compared to the cost of tuition.

At the TED conference, which costs plenty of money, they had baskets of cool free snacks. Expensive little bags of nuts and stuff, all free. And what you noticed was lots of half-eaten bags of stuff. If the snacks had cost just a quarter, consumption would have been lower and my guess is that satisfaction would have been higher.

The interaction you seek as a marketer often disappears when something is free. The fascinating thing is that it often doesn't matter if you're paying or being paid... it's the transaction either way that changes the posture of the person you're working with.

So, if I want to be taken seriously, I could charge for the internship or I could pay. We're going to pay.

As you think about your web service or your newsletter or the sales calls you go on, consider this: could you charge for it? What would happen if you paid for it? Time share folks have been paying people to endure a sales call for years. My guess is that this is because it works. And trade shows charge people to attend what is essentially a large loud sales call show floor. (Important note: 'charging' doesn't always mean cash money. Giving you large amounts of attention or privacy or data counts too).

When you bring money into the equation, everything changes (ask the governor of New York). Chris Anderson is right when he writes about the power of free in marketing... it dramatically increases sampling and earns you the right to attention, at least for a while. I think Google is the exception that proves the rule: the most powerful brands are the ones that earn the right to a transaction.

The summer intern program

Announcing a summer camp for marketers in high school and college.

The details are here.

I'm looking for a few brilliant/charismatic/motivated/charming and curious interns/students for the summer. Spread the word if you can. Pass the smores, please.

That noise inside my head

  • Why do [some] people struggling for an income end up using an expensive check cashing service when the bank right next door will let them have a checking account for free?
  • Why do [some] students spend an hour fighting about their homework instead of ten minutes just doing it?
  • Why do customers fall for slick come ons or fancy financing instead of buying what's best for them?
  • Why is it so easy to fool voters with patently false accusations?
  • Why do some people turn a routine traffic stop into a life-endangering argument with the cop?
  • Why can't worthy charities (with dreary stories) raise more money than they do?

I think in every case the answer is the same: Internal noise. [I got a few notes about check cashing services, by the way. In many cities, there are banks that have sensible policies for low income customers, and most jobs that use a payroll service like ADP offer direct deposit. The combination would save a large number of people a lot of time and money, and my point isn't that there are enough financial services available to the less fortunate (there aren't) but that if it weren't for a fear of banks, plenty more people would take advantage of the services that are available. $5 a week for check cashing might account for 30% of someone's disposal income, which is a sin.]

My friend Lisa was on a plane once and her seatmate kept looking at her. She finally said, "Is the noise inside my head bothering you?"

Just about everyone has noise inside their head. It's a noise that keeps them from being rational, that forces them to avoid the simple truths sometimes, that makes them unable to take a shortcut when a long (more emotional one) is available.

Emotional intelligence
(EQ) gives us a way to talk about how people navigate the world. Far more important than IQ in most settings, emotional intelligence can be learned, but it rarely is. My take is that not only is it important for dealing with work and personal situations, it also makes you a better consumer of marketing.

If you as a marketer(/fundraiser/teacher/blogger/salesperson/parent) are assuming that all the citizens in your audience have genius level EQ, you're almost certainly making a mistake and you're paying for it every day.

Sunk costs, quitting and the value of your brand

One of the most important lessons they teach in business school is to 'ignore sunk costs'. It doesn't matter how much time or money or effort you've invested in something, if that project no longer makes economic sense, you should stop.

And in The Dip, I talk about the powerful benefits of quitting.

Which leads to an interesting marketing question that doesn't have a lot to do with your political views and a lot to do with your take on sunk costs and brand quality: Should Hillary Clinton quit?

Certainly, there are a lot of sunk costs. Years of effort, dues paid, heartaches endured. This might be her best window of opportunity, after all. And yet, all of these sunk costs should be completely irrelevant to the decision. For every brand and for every person, yesterday is irretrievably gone and tomorrow is worth a great deal.

Last week, my company switched providers of an expensive commodity. The company we had been with realized we were moving on and moved into high gear to keep the account. At one point, it was clear that they could have gone into war room-mode, denigrating our decision, criticizing the new company and scorching the earth. I watched the gears turn, though, and saw them take a different path.

Here's the math as I see it for brand Hillary: The only chance she has to win is to burn down other brands, violate protocol, push harder than many think appropriate. She has to change her brand to achieve her goal. Not only that, but she has to risk the entire Party at the same time. If she does manage to win the nomination, she will be pilloried by the right (the very same Rush that endorsed her in Texas). They're just waiting for the chance.

The new brand, the one that it would take to succeed at this stage, almost guarantees she doesn't succeed at the next.

And the alternative?

The alternative is to quit. To become a statesman. A respected power broker.

The alternative is to be the trusted advisor, the person who gave up one dream to realize a bigger one, and to build a brand and a lifestyle with long-term leverage.

That company we switched from last week? Instead of ruining our relationship and criticizing our judgment, they kept the door open. They congratulated us on our growth and earned the right to work with us again one day.

For a long time, we've created a myth in our culture that it's worth any price to reach your goal, especially if your ego tells you that you're the best solution. We've created legends of people and organizations that pursued transformative long shots to achieve great results.

I need to be really clear: pushing through the Dip and becoming the best in the world at what you do is in fact the key to success. But (and it's a big but), if you're required to become someone you're not, or required to mutate your brand into one that's ultimately a failure in order to do so, you're way better off quitting instead.

Change your clocks

Happy spring.

Weird dreams

Years ago, when I saw the first Will It Blend video, I thought it was a hoot. And I dreamed of one day, perhaps, just maybe, appearing in one.

Well, that day has come. Thanks, George. Nice work, Kels.

The dreaded asterisk

From a recent ad from DWR:

"It's our Semiannual Sale, which means big savings on our entire assortment, even classics like the Swan Chair (1959) by Arne Jacobsen.*"

Entire. Even.

And then the asterisk.

Which says, "*Exclusions apply."

Whoa. Now what else don't I trust about you?

The long slide to gone

Longslide I drove past a hobby shop yesterday. It's hard to make out the awning, but it says, "Hobbies, Trains, R/C Models, Coffee, Lottery."

Bit by bit, on each declining day, it became easier to become more average, to add one more item, to sell a few more lottery tickets or another cup of coffee.

And then, the next thing you know, there's some dusty trains in the back and you're running a convenience store.

This place, just about every place, has a shot at greatness, at becoming a destination, a place with profits and happiness and growth. Along the way, it's easy to start compromising your marketing, because it seems like in that moment, it's expedient.

When this starts happening, the answer is not to do it more. Instead, it's worth a full stop. Is this what you set out to do? Is compromising everything going to get you to a place that was worth the journey? Wouldn't it be smarter to just stop selling trains and do something else (lottery tickets, even) but do it really really well.

We spend a lot of time talking about the ends and the means, but it's also worth considering whether the journey is worth the reward. If you have to compromise what you do just to keep doing it, what's the point?

Chaos Theory

Shortly after I posted about what you do vs. what you say, Scott sent me this collection of videos shot in high school classrooms.

I'm amazed and saddened by this. These teachers have a serious marketing problem and mostly, these kids are actively sabotaging their education... something many in the world would give up almost anything for. The teachers are busy saying, not doing, and the kids are caught in a terrible loop of disrespect.

The blog asks if cell phone cameras are somehow at fault here. I think there's a significantly bigger question: what are great teachers and great parents doing to market education that's clearly not happening in these classrooms? (Skipping over the more important question about what is happening at home that led to this in the first place).

Education is largely handmade, not mass produced. That makes it difficult to share best practices and to figure out how to turn mediocre classrooms into great ones. Maybe, just maybe, video of the best teaching will do as much to encourage some teachers as the cell phone video does to discourage the rest of us.

Watching and listening

More than anything else, I think prospects, customers and citizens watch what you do more than they listen to what you say.

Pat has a few more thoughts on what customers want.

The forces of mediocrity

Maybe it should be, "the forces for mediocrity"...

There's a myth that all you need to do is outline your vision and prove it's right—then, quite suddenly, people will line up and support you.

In fact, the opposite is true. Remarkable visions and genuine insight are always met with resistance. And when you start to make progress, your efforts are met with even more resistance. Products, services, career paths... whatever it is, the forces for mediocrity will align to stop you, forgiving no errors and never backing down until it's over.

If it were any other way, it would be easy. And if it were any other way, everyone would do it and your work would ultimately be devalued. The yin and yang are clear: without people pushing against your quest to do something worth talking about, it's unlikely it would be worth the journey. Persist.

1000 true fans

This is Kevin Kelly's best riff of the year, and that's saying an enormous amount. Go read it!

Some people will read this and immediately understand. Others will read it and start waffling over the meaning of "true." My expansion: you need to alter what you do and how you do it so that 1,000 true fans is sufficient to make you very happy.

Apparently, I invented the Everything Bagel

Go figure.

Today's New Yorker reports that Dave Gussin invented the everything bagel in 1980.

Unfortunately for Dave, I worked in a bagel factory in 1977. I broke my finger and was almost killed (really) by a giant bagel mixer. Long, sad, noisy story.

When I wasn't injured, I was busy baking bagels. Including the everything bagel. (We also made blueberry bagels, which are as bad as you imagine that they are, and green ones for St. Patrick's Day). Since it's being reported on the Internet, it must be true. Thank me the next time you've got seeds stuck in your teeth.

How do I persuade you?

Do I show you a powerpoint filled with bullets?
Or give you a spirited sales pitch while looking you in the eye...

Perhaps I should send a very attractive salesperson.

Do I amplify my word of mouth and be sure you hear about my idea from three people you trust?
Do I minimize fear or maximize gain?

Are you best persuaded in a group, surrounded by your boss or your employees or your family or people you trust? Will it matter if those around you give me a standing ovation?

Can I persuade you over time, drip, drip, drip, or do you respond better if you feel an avalanche is coming?

Will you change your mind if I'm funny? Or if I scare you to pieces?

Perhaps there's no way you'll be persuaded. Perhaps nothing I can say will make a difference. However, you've told yourself that before and been wrong...

Will you buy if you get a discount? What if the price is high and going up tomorrow?

Do you want to be the first person to embrace an idea (or the last)?

Here's the thing: unlike every other species, human beings make decisions differently from one another. And the thing that persuades you is unlikely to be the thing that persuades the next guy. Our personal outlook is a lousy indicator of what works for anyone else.

The Boss

This will probably be my last music post for a while, but this note from Randy really makes the point:

"I saw it in action last night at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

Labels have trouble getting someone to pay 9.99 for a CD - yet someone - who travelled from NYC to Montreal to see his 100th + Bruce show - offered my friend $200 on the spot for a set list - a piece of paper made in MS Word that listed what songs Bruce intended on playing. Since it was from the "inside" - he just HAD to have it - and when my friend refused to sell - he was given a hug and a kiss on a cheek from this complete stranger for not giving it up - an unspoken understanding that possession of that set list - at that moment - in the afterglow of the show - was priceless.

On top of that, every second license plate leaving the parking lot was from somewhere else - Vermont, Pennsylvania - even I drove in from Ottawa to see the show.

At some point in the last 35 years, Bruce won over each one of those fans - one at a time - and began a relationship. One he respects highly. And every so often he throws a party and we're all invited to come over for a few drinks to celebrate that relationship - and for that, we'll gladly chip in about 2 or 3 hundred to help cover the cost.

I am a member of the Bruce tribe - and proud to be.

No one "likes" Bruce - they either love him or hate him. He's committed to what he does - and in turn - fans commit to him.


So I guess it comes down to commitment for me.

His first two albums we're commercial failures - he didn't walk away- and people stood by him - and for that he gave us Born to Run.

Almost every legacy artist we've ever loved has taken multiple albums to find their niche and grow. The Beatles were a 7 year over night success by the time they hit the US.

What was it you said? "the products and services that succeed wildly are the ones that everyone expected would fail..."

The industry needs to remember that."

The live music talk

As promised, I've put together a PDF transcript of the talk I did about the music industry. (click to get the PDF). I know it's not a video, but I'm afraid this is the best I can offer right now. I find that if you read it out loud and wave your arms a lot, you get the entire effect.

Have fun.

[Cory asked for it in plain text. Here you go]:

On the future of the music business

...I keep writing books, and writing books about this industry and the industry has never invited me over, so thank you.

So, I’m going to start by pointing out that for the period I’m talking about, which is my entire youth, not ill-spent enough, but my entire youth, the record business was perfect. It was a perfect industry. And I want to tell you why. Each one of these factors is important.

Number one: An entire medium and entire section of the spectrum devoted to promoting the stuff you make...thats great right...for free! An entire thing built around helping you sell more stuff.

Number two: An oligopoly. For those who didn’t grab an MBA [an oligopoly] is where there is a small number of people competing against each other. If you are a band hoping to break out in 1974, 1984, 1993, you didn’t have a lot of choices, and since you didn’t have a lot of choices guess who had a lot of power, a few companies.  And, those companies could demand certain things that they needed from the world.

The third thing that made it perfect is it was a key part of out lives. Look up senior prom on the internet and all you’ll see are stupid pictures, ugly dresses, and people remembering the songs they were listening to. It was the soundtrack for generation after generation. The people in the shoe business don’t have this advantage. The people at almost every business aren’t featured on the prom pages, you guys are.

The next thing, entire chains of retailers devoted to selling your product. In malls they’re paying the rent, not you, Sure they’re extracting shelf space allowances from you, but isn’t that really cool? Whole stores you don’t even have to own, devoted to promoting what you sell.

Next thing, you have God on your side. (slide of “Clapton is god”) Where was the last time you saw a piece of graffiti that said Starbucks is God. This is really good times.

The next thing, one of my favorites, this piece of technology is so cool, it is really cheap to make. You can sell it for a fair amount of money. You can’t copy it, you wear it out and then you need another one. Its pretty, other people can see you own it, and they want one too. And once I don’t have it anymore and give it to you, I don’t have it anymore. This was a really cool thing, bad idea to get rid of this. (audience clapping)

Alright, I’m on a roll here. The next thing, a magazine, not one magazine, several magazine devoted to promoting the product you sell. Again, no magazines about coffee, plenty of magazines about music. And, a whole cable TV channel about it. Lets see if I understand this. Everyone else has to buy TV commercials, you guys get your own channel...and you’re allowed to put scantily clad women on it. (laughter) This is amazing. I’m almost done-almost done with all the good news.

It used to cost a wicked lot of money to make a record. (laughter) Thats good for you because that means the artists need you. Because you’re the ones who pay all the money it costs to make a record.

And the last amazing piece of news is this guy. The voice of Scooby Doo (slide of Casey Kasem). Because, if you made it to the top 40, you made it! There is really something special about best seller lists. Something magic happens when you make the best seller list. What happens is people buy your stuff because other people are buying it. Think about that. You’re popular because you’re popular. And it’s an ever going cycle. And that is underlying a lot of what is going on. So! We can look at this and say, “this was good”, and I’ll grant you, it was good. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to last forever. Just because all of those things lined up to make this the greatest business in history, thats legal, doesn’t mean that you should assume it’s all gonna stay. So, rather than me going through each one of those and bumming you out I’m just going to pick a couple of them and remind you of how the dynamic changed.

Obviously, it’s really hard to make money doing that. Also, remember those guys who bought Beach Boys records? This is what they look like now. (slide of aging couple) (laughter) Now this is really important to understand because when the typical person is a teenager, they’re spending a lot of time looking for more. “What’s the new thing, what’s the next thing, what’s the new thing?” But these guys don’t want that. They want to remember THEN, they don’t go looking for the new thing. And, it’s not your fault they were baby boomers, it’s not your fault the baby boomers are getting old. It’s just true.

The next thing we talked about, this technology wasn’t as good as we hoped when we started. And it’s had a lot of side effects, the biggest one of course being it’s digital. And once you make it digital, all of a sudden the math changes. Because, it used to be if I gave you my record, I didn’t have my record anymore. And now, it’s if I give you my record, I still have my record. And that’s different. I’m not saying it’s better, I’m not saying it’s worse. I’m not saying it’s moral, or immoral, I’m just saying it’s different and we got to accept that. And, one of the side effects of that is that something has fundamentally shifted here. Now, I’m going to give you a little bit of a preview which is, I think the internet is the new radio. And I think we’re needing, in the record business, people in the record business are going to have to think about the fact that, that might be a really good thing, not a really bad thing. And, we’ll come back to that in a minute.

The next idea is this idea that American Top 40, Casey, I don’t even know if he is still alive but its doesn’t matter so much anymore. And the reason it doesn’t matter is because of something called the long tail. I don’t know if you’ve read this book, you should go out and read it right now, you can read it in 45 minutes. And what Chris Anderson [author of The Long Tail] pointed out is this, if I look at Netflix, what I see is that Netflix rentals, half of them are products Blockbuster doesn’t even carry. If I look at Amazon sales, half of Amazon sales are products that are unavailable in any Barnes & Noble store. If I look at the iTunes music store, half of iTunes sales are titles that you could not buy if you went into any record store. What happens when you give people an infinite number of choices in any genre, polka, doesn’t matter, they spread out. And two things occur. One, they go down the tail and start finding what’s just right for them, and two, sales go up. And so what this means is that the very structure of “how do we force as much attention as we can to the top 40” is actually the opposite of what leads to more consumption.

And then the last one, you’ve seen it before, is this idea of suing the very people you’re trying to talk to is unfortunate.

So, what’s next? And where do we go from here? I want to start by saying this really clearly. Music is not in trouble. I believe more people are listening to more music now than any time in the history of the world. Probably five times more than twenty years ago...that much! But, the music business is in trouble. And the reason the music business is in trouble is because remember all those pieces of good news?...every single one of them is not true anymore. Every. One. Now, if you want to, you can curse the fact the Solomon’s couldn’t figure out how to keep the tower going. You can curse the fact that it’s really easy to copy a CD. You can curse the fact that we don’t care about the American top 40. You can curse the fact that there isn’t top 40 radio that matters. What good is that going to do? Or, we could think about the fact that you have more momentum and more assets and more talented people than any body else. [And], at the very same time that people are listening to more music than ever before. Thats really cool. And, so when we think about transitions what we know is that timid trapeze artists are dead trapeze artists. And, that the only way you get from here to there is to just do it. Now, you might be wrong but the alternative is you WILL be wrong. There is no way to go from the perfect music business to the new music business with guaranteed ROI and written assurances-it doesn’t exist. So what will happen, I will guarantee this to you, is that 90% of the people in this industry will timidly start walking their way over and they will all fail. Thats why when you go to look up something online, you don’t go to, you go to Thats why when you go to buy something on auction online you don’t do to, you go to Go down the list, what happened was AOL lost their nerve and didn’t start AOL Book where you could meet friends. They forgot. They were too busy trying to get people to buy a CD and start joining a membership internet service because they weren’t willing to do this. So it’s a little quixotic on my part but I’ve devoted my career to try and get people to do this. So, I think there is a new business here that might even be more perfect than the last one. It’s not the same business, the waves are shaped differently, and you need different skills but someone is going to win big in this business. So, what I want to do, and I’m excited-I’m talking too fast, we don’t have a lot of time here and thats fine with me, is tell you some of the tactics that I would use if I were in your shoes. But I don’t think I’m necessarily right. And if Berry Gordy had called me on the phone in 1964, I would have given him bad advice too. But, I hope what you’ll see in this is the thinking process about some of the realities of what really “is” in the world because you guys are much better than I am at turning those realities into an actual business. So let me try.
The first one is that people don’t listen to companies, they listen to people. And what is unique, almost entirely, compared to the movie business, the book business, whatever, is that you sell people. And, there is something magical about the connection between one person and another person. There is something magical about the way we treat celebrities.  And so part of the thing that is out there is that there is a large number of people who want to be led. There is a large number of people who want to connect. There is a large number of people who want to join a tribe. And you have the ability, from where you stand, to make some of those connections happen. What’s really neat friend gets all excited because he needs to score some Bruce Springsteen tickets. Isn’t that interesting, right, because he’s using Greg to get to this tribe of people. That’s really valuable. He doesn’t need to have somebody get a copy of an album, he can just get that, you know, from Amazon for ten bucks, or for free. But the tickets, the connection, the insider, the handshake to one handshake-thats worth a lot! And so far you guys have been treating it like an interesting side effect. But it might be something right at the core of what you do every day.

The next one is my biggest one, and what started me down this whole path which is, if I asked you for the name and address of your 50,000 best customers, could you give it to me? Do you have any clue? Then what happens every day is you guys go to a singles bar and you walk up to the first person you meet and propose marriage and if that person won’t marry you, you walk down the singles bar to every single person until someone says I do. Thats a stupid way to get married. A better way to get married is to go on a date. If it goes well, go on another date. Wait to tell them on the third before you tell them you’re out on parole. (laughter) Then you meet their parents, they me your parents, you get engage, you get married. Permission is the act of delivery. Anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who want to get them. I have every record Ricky Lee Jones has ever made including the boot legs that she sells. Rick Lee Jones should know who I am! (laughter) I have bought many of them (pause) well her agents, her people [should know who I am]. I’ve bought many of them directly from her site. I desperately want Ricky Lee to drop me a note telling me when she is going to be in town. I want her to ask me, “should I do a duets album with Willie Nelson, or should I do one with Bruce Springsteen?”. I want to have these interactions. And I want her to say, “I’m making another bootleg, but not until I get 10,000 people to buy it as patrons before I make it”. Because I’d sign up. I’d buy five if it would help, but she doesn’t know who I am. She doesn’t know who I am, she never talks to me. And then every once in a while her record label tries to yell at me, but I’m not listening because they’re yelling at me in a place where I’m not paying attention. And so we look at these phrases, “paying attention”. That’s what you’ve wanted people to do all along. “Pay attention to this artist”. Paying is a weird word isn’t it? You want me to pay you something-my attention. And if you’re wrong, I get nothing back. I had to listen to the Backstreet Boys...AHH! I want those three minutes back. So, it’s a weird relationship.

The next thing is this idea that people care very much about who is sitting next to them at the concert. They care very much about the secret handshake. They care very much about the tribal identification. “Oh you like them, I like them”. The Grateful Dead is an amazingly successful paradigm for many of the things I’m talking about. They didn’t make any money selling records compared to the way they made money doing everything else. Part of it was, you knew if you met someone at a dead concert, they had some things in common with you. The secret handshake, the clothes, whatever it was. And that was important and you were willing to pay money to be with those people. And after Jerry died it was very interesting. Because obviously there was thousands of hours to listen to but that’s not what the people missed. The people missed the place they could go to meet the people like them. At Facebook, it’s all about that. 64 million people who go there every day so they can meet people like them because [Facebook] is very good at dividing people up.

The next thing is what I call the Seinfeld curve. The Seinfeld curve shows us Jerry’s life. If you like Jerry Seinfeld you can watch him on television, for free, in any city in the world two or three times a day. Or, you could pay $200 to go see him in Vegas. But there is no $4 option for Jerry Seinfeld. This is death. You can’t make any money in here. Because if you’re not scarce I’m not going to pay for it because I can get if for free. And one of the realities that the music industry is going to have to accept is this curve now exists for you. That for everybody under eighteen years old, it’s either free or it’s something I really want and I’m willing to pay for it. There is nothing in the center-it’s going away really fast.

The next one is back to this long tail model. The magazine business imploded a long time ago. Saturday Evening Post, Time Magazine, they’re all irrelevant. But you can make a fortune with Playstation magazines, PC gaming [magazines], Game Informer, because there are silos of people who care a great deal. And if you know who those people are, if you have permission to talk to them, ready for this, if you stop looking for listeners for your music, and start looking for music for your listeners instead, the economics of your business totally changes. Magazines make 10x return on equity of books, you know why? Because magazines have subscribers and books don’t. So every time a book comes out they gotta run around looking for someone to buy it. Where as the magazine people just look for the next author to write the next article in the next magazine.

The next idea is this idea of liking. There is a lot of music I like. There is not so much music I love. They didn’t call the show, “I Like Lucy”, they called it “I Love Lucy”. And the reason is you only talk about stuff you love, you only spread stuff you love. You find a band you really love, you’re forcing the CD on other people, “you gotta hear this!”. We gotta stop making music people like. There is an infinite amount of music people like. No one will ever go out of the way to hear, to pay for, music they like.

And the last one is back to this tribal thing. It’s really important to people to feel like they are part of that tribe, to feel that adrenaline. We are willing to pay money, we’re willing to go through huge hoops, trampled to death in Cincinnati if necessary, in order to be in the environment where we feel that’s going on.

So if I put all this together I’m going to come up with what I call the Merchant Solution. It has nothing to do with stores, it has to do with Natalie Merchant. (laughter) So, Natalie Merchant shows up in the New York Times last week saying not only do I not have a record label, I’m not going to make records anymore because I just figure out how to do it. And that is the biggest opportunity times 10,000 because Natalie doesn’t want to be in business, Natalie wants to make records. Thirty years ago Natalie couldn’t put together the scratch to record an album because she couldn’t afford a recording studio. Thats what you guys did for her. She couldn’t come up with the time and energy to go out to California to sell and pay for shelf space at Tower, thats what you guys did for her. The point is, now she needs somebody to say “let us take care of your tribe”. Let us figure out the business model that says you get to do what you’re great at, write songs, perform them, find people who love you, not like you, and they are A LOT in the case of Natalie Merchant, and we will figure out not how to exploit that, not how to write a contract that you’re going to regret for the rest of your life, but to sit next to you and say guess what, there are all these people in the tribe [and] we need to figure out how to make stuff for them. And, because we have three other artists that are just like you, Cowboy Junkies, we can start mixing tribes together in appropriate ways that makes everybody happy. Because you [record label] could go to the Cowboy Junkies tribe and say Natalie Merchant is coming to town and they’ll all go. Because they love her and they love each other and they want to see each other again because they can’t wait a whole year till the [Cowboy] Junkies come back.

So if the model that we loved about the record business in 1968 was A&R, taking care of artists, finding artists who people will love, and the model that we hated was brand management, I want to argue that the next model is tribal management. That the next model is to say, what you do for a living is manage a tribe...many tribes...silos of tribes. That your job is to make the people in that tribe delighted to know each other and trust you to go find music for them. And, in exchange, it could be way out on the long tail, no one wants to be on the long tail by themselves, the polka lovers like the polka lovers, they want to be together. But that you, maybe it is only one person, technology makes this really easy, your job is to curate for that tribe, like the curators upstairs [at the museum]. There is a museum of modern art tribe, you can see them here every Thursday. And if you can curate for them guess what the [musical] artists! Guess what the tribe! You add an enormous amount of value by becoming a new kind of middleman.

Picture_2 So let me go through, real quick, a bunch of tactics and we can come back to these after I’m done if you want. So, old world, new world. Old world: it mattered who you knew. You know Jan Wenner...thats a good thing. Now it doesn’t matter because there’s an infinite number of outlets-you can have your own channel.

Number two: limited number of physical outlets, now there’s an infinite number of online outlets. An infinite number of places where I can find music.

Number three: an emphasis on hits because you didn’t have a lot of channels, you had to own the ones you had. Now, it’s about niches. I write the number one marketing blog in the world. Who cares. Well not many people here care, but lucky for me that niche has a bunch of people in it who care. And so I enjoy my day writing that blog, I could never write a blog that appealed to everybody. I couldn’t write a Boing Boing blog or a blog about popular culture, but because I get to be the king of this little silo I get benefits out of it.

Number [four]: you yelled at the consumer. You talked directly to the user. Now it’s about two things. One, consumers talking to each other and two, consumers talking to you. How easy is it for a fan to talk to you? Almost impossible because you’re not organized for that and because you didn’t see that there was a benefit. But if you’re in tribal management thats the number one best thing that could happen to you all day is that you get an email or a phone call. Alright? Back to the barrier between the consumer and the permeability.

The next one: your whole life was about interrupting people with messages they didn’t want to get. Fortunately radio made that socially acceptable. Unfortunately the government made it against the law for you to pay for that to occur but you still managed to pull it off. I could get in the car, turn on the radio and hear a song I wasn’t expecting and maybe I would like it. If I didn’t like it, it didn’t cost you anything anyway. Now it’s about permission. Now I get on the radio and in my car I have either my mp3s in there or I have satellite in there, I don’t hear anything i don’t want to hear. So, the model has totally changed.

Next one: you used to have a factory. The factory is the recording studio, you know, the ability to get the number of things on the shelf space at Tower. You built everything around that factory. There’s no factory anymore! If you guys put up one ad on Craigslist you’d have records here tomorrow, done, finished, by email. Because everyone has the ability to make a record now. It used to take a long time. Someone would go to the studio, Boston, and we’d hear from them three or four years later. Now you can put a State of the Union speech out as a hip-hop record one day after he gives his speech and you could sell a bunch on iTunes. It used to be “how big a share of the market can we have?” Now it’s about “how do we touch a tribe, just for a minute?” As long as the tribe is happy, we’re happy. It used to be about what features, checklist stuff, now it’s “is there a story behind this artist, is there a story behind the person?”. Advertising, promotion, shelf space, that used to be what you paid cash money for. Now you’re going to have to figure out how to innovate in the way you interact with people.

And I think this is my last one: stability used to be “we’re big, you can trust us.”. Now small overhead, we own the polka silo, we only need one person to take care of it, gives you the ability to have low risk when taking care of the long tail.

Customer support isn’t as important as consumer support. How do you get people to help each other?

So, if I had to show you one slide again, it would be this one. It would be, “I really want to hear from you”.  Ricky Lee. Please! write to me, I want to be part of the tribe, I want you to talk. It’s not about, anymore, how many people can you reach. Super Bowl, doesn’t matter. it’s irrelevant. The internet is the new radio. What that means is this you’ve been arguing and hassling and yelling and pushing for 40 years to get more air time. Now you have infinite air time. That’s what the internet is for you. The internet is the ability to get any song you want in front of the people who want to hear it with huge reach and no barriers. What matters isn’t how many, it’s who. Who are you reaching, who are the thought leaders, who are the people who are going to tell other people? Who are the people who are out there trying to find the next big thing because those people are going to influence what the next trend is, and if you’re in the middle of that trend, because you’ve used this new medium to spread the ideas, you’re going to start paying for internet airtime soon because it’s worth it. It’s not that you need to say “no, no, no, I can’t let you hear this” it’s “I want you to hear this”. Because if you hear it you might join the tribe, and if you join the tribe then over time I’ll take care of you so well you’ll want to pay me. And then people will be passionate when they hear what you do for a living, they’re going to die to have you help them meet other people in the tribe.


Herb writes to me with a marketing pitch and describes the strategy for the product as "...a sure-fire recipe for success".

News flash: almost every time, the sure-fire recipe for success is actually a sure-fire recipe for disappointment. Almost every time, the products and services that succeed wildly are the ones that everyone expected would fail.

Not a trick question

Should you make stuff aimed at people who usually buy your product?


Should you make stuff aimed at people who rarely do?

The DaVinci Code became the bestselling book of the decade because it got bought by people who don't buy books. On the other hand, plenty of successful authors (like Dave Eggers) only write books for people who buy lots of books.

The advantage of mass is that it's big. The advantage of the devoted is that they are paying attention and have a desire to spend.

Most times, it's not obvious which one to pick. But you need to pick.

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