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Permission marketing and the new music business

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Permission Marketing is not new. It’s the way commerce was done 150 years ago, and it’s the model for the new music business.

Stop what you’re doing right now and go read Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. The first 50 pages of this book absolutely confirm the messaging and concepts of every music marketing article I have ever written over the last three years. It is the business model for the new music business, which means that whether you like it or not, this is your business model.

permission marketing and the new music businessI’ll admit it, I’ve only just now read this book, and that makes me an idiot.

There, I said it.

This book was originally published in 1999! This is not a new concept, but it is brand new to the music business.

Think about these two questions:
1. How will your song become my jam in 2016?
2. How will all artists find an audience, expose their music to that audience, and create lifelong superfans?

Answer: Permission Marketing

Permission Marketing is not new. In fact, it’s the way commerce was done 150 years ago.


Before mass media, nationwide affordable telecommunication, and motorized transportation, every consumer had a relationship with their seller of goods and services. People knew the owner of the local general store and the blacksmith, doctor, and pharmacist and would frequent these establishments consistently. Think about that for a second, these consumers were super loyal. There was trust. There was understanding. There was constant commerce.

Because the makers of goods and services couldn’t effectively reach anyone outside of a radius of a few miles, their businesses didn’t need to expand. What would be the point?

The opposite of permission marketing is mass media, or mass marketing. Godin refers to this as interruptive marketing. “We interrupt this television show, radio program, web browsing experience to show you a word from our sponsors.”

You get it.

Marketing changed drastically with the industrial revolution and the invention of the automobile and is now morphing again because of the Internet.

Godin accurately states that mass media was created as a result of the emerging giant brands and multinational companies. What good was building a huge factory to make a product cheaper (this is called the economy of scale) if you couldn’t sell it to anyone beyond a radius of a few miles?

At that moment we witnessed the birth of national magazines and newspapers. Then radio. Then television.

It was easy back then. Few channels meant fewer messages, which means the ads were actually seen by the masses. Bigger reach and effective frequency of ads meant quicker, more lethal advertising ROIs (returns on investment). The resulting sales were astounding! The more money you spent on advertising the more sales you created.

By building national brands like Dove soap (which was the first product to replace homemade soap) and Crisco (which was the first product to replace lard), Proctor & Gamble began the start of a multi-billion dollar home product empire.

But now, consumers are pounded with advertising messages and have become comfortably numb. In the music business, we call this “overexposure.” Seeing Adele live is an event so rare and huge she sold out her whole concert tour in something like three minutes. If she played your local bar every Friday and Saturday, nobody would care.

Boring but relevant statistic: You are exposed to 3,000 ads per day. Consequently, nobody cares about your song, man. Even if you do manage to get a little crumb of someone’s valuable attention, they won’t take a chance spending 3:30 to discover they’re just not that into you.

We are now seeing advertisers, which includes indie artists and record labels, making the same fatal marketing mistake. Their advertising has become less effective because it’s reaching far fewer people and the people it does reach are not responding as much. The increasing lack of response is because of all the clutter, all the noise, all the ads we are constantly deluged with.

The mistake they make is that they respond to the dwindling return of sales from advertising by paying for more ads in an attempt to reach more people, which creates more clutter and further deteriorates the effectiveness of their marketing.

Catch-22: The more they spend the less it works. The less it works, the more they spend. interruptive marketing fails because it is unable to get enough attention from consumers.

This creates the opportunity for Permission Marketing, especially in the music business. This is what I am constantly trying to share with you in an effort to help you succeed. There is so much competition for artists on the Internet. With mass marketing breaking (broken) down, your music isn’t going to begin your career, a relationship with a potential fan is.

Through decades of interruptive marketing, the big brands (all the major labels) have become bigger and supremely dominant. The top 100 advertisers account for 87 percent of all advertising expenditures in the USA. More than 80 of these companies have been advertising for more than 20 years. There are two takeaways from that statement that overtly affect your advantage as an indie artist/master marketer and any decisions you might be entertaining to obtain a major label record deal.

First, big companies don’t hire people to reinvent decades-old super successful marketing techniques. They train their newbies to do exactly what the last marketing person did.

Second, the newbies don’t want to rock the boat even though they have great ideas and understand the old marketing methodologies are not working as well. Simply put, they weren’t hired to demolish the distribution channel or to question the very foundation of their marketing heritage.

This means the biggies will stick to their guns and the old school way of doing things until the ship sinks. The fact that there are only three major labels left, Warner Brothers, Sony, and Universal, is proof of that statement. Your proof also lies in the fact that all the majors are STILL sending consumers to iTunes to purchase music. For what? How hard is it to set up a web store with a major label brand name that would allow the label to get 100% of that precious sale?

Therein lies YOUR opportunity. Here is your chance to stick out and create name for yourself as an artist. I work with an artist, Bailey James, who tells us her fans say that she is among only one or two artists who actually respond to them.

Here is your chance to intelligently assemble an effective business plan to realize your dream of making a (dare I say good?) living creating music.

Learn about Permission Marketing. Learn how to create relationships and monetize them online. Permission Marketing is real. Permission Marketing works.

If you music is good and your recordings are competitive, you are just lacking one mission critical piece of the puzzle; Permission Marketing.

Johnny Dwinell is a veteran Los Angeles artist/producer/businessman who created Daredevil Production in 2011 to provide innovative artist development in the new music business. In mid 2013 Daredevil Production started a weekly blog as a free resource for artists and songwriters to use for inspiration, advice, support, and knowledge. In late 2013 Johnny Dwinell wrote the bestselling Music Marketing On Twitter book. Thousands of artists and songwriters have improved their understanding and execution of social media with the help of this free book!

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4 thoughts on “Permission marketing and the new music business

  1. Hi I did look at the article I’m very interested in this I am a upcoming musician and looking forward of looking at some more information Thanks.

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