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February 23, 2012 

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We Are All Weird
Posted: February 23, 2012
Linda Chorney didn't win the Grammy.

You remember Ms. Chorney, she's the woman who used the Grammy365 program to get herself a nomination. That was remarkable.

Unfortunately, Ms. Chorney's music was not. Despite the worldwide press, there was no spike in sales, no embrace by the public, she's still a marginal artist playing to marginal audiences.

Because her music is not remarkable.

You have to be remarkable. Not good, not better than the people on the radio, but remarkable, which Seth Godin defines as being worthy of being talked about.

There was nothing to talk about in Ms. Chorney's music. She was selling average stuff to average people, and today that's a death sentence. That's what the big boys try to do, in an ever less successful fashion. You can't beat them, and you don't want to be them.

I'd hire Ms. Chorney to get the word out, to establish a grass roots marketing campaign any day of the week, that was what was remarkable about her efforts, not the music.

But it's all about the music.

You've got to aim low. Don't try to reach everybody, just somebody. And if this somebody doesn't tell other somebodies, you're doomed. Want to know when to give up? If people aren't spreading the word about you. Used to be you could buy advertising, get in front of people. But that was before the Internet revolution, before we not only became immune to hype, but completely disregarded it.

And once you get the reaction you desire, from this small crop of people, bond with them. Know who they are, give them special offers, something to talk about, the same way Zappos built its business upon free overnight shipping, upon customer service. Wanna know something great about Amazon? Frequently if you don't like something, they refund your money and just tell you to keep it. It's not worth the time and effort to send it back, it's their gift to you. Friends have told me this story again and again, that's how you build a business, that's today's advertising.

Assuming you're great to begin with.

And Amazon is pretty great.

I'm not talking about the company that fights paying sales tax and is trying to take over the universe, but the one with the well-designed website that reliably delivers your product. Shopping at Amazon is much better than going to Best Buy, any physical retailer, which is why I do most of my shopping there, the same way I go to Google. Bing is not remarkable, it's just Microsoft's version of Google, who needs that? Microsoft should have thought small, and grown from there. The same way Apple started out making the iPhone and ended up in search, that was not anticipated, it grew to that point.

My inbox is inundated with people who want to succeed the old way. They want someone else to pay to make them famous. As if fame paid the bills. If you think all those reality TV stars are rich, you're sorely mistaken. Never before have so many been famous for nothing. You might win the lottery, you might get a major label deal, they might lay down a million to advertise you, you might be well known. But can you sell music and tickets and last? Those are completely different questions.

And then there are those who complain the majors just don't get their music. That's no longer their job. It's yours. If it's that good, you can grow your own audience, if you can't, it's probably not that good.

As for signing with an indie... Do you really want a less financially stable operation trying to do it the same way as the major? I'm not saying all indies do this, but if they're major label copycats, avoid them, you're saving yourself from a disheartening experience.

Marketing comes last, music comes first.

And marketing is not oppressing the public, dunning them to pay attention, but giving them tools to spread the word.

We're living in the connection revolution, you need no money to start. If you think you can't afford it, give up today, you don't understand the game.

And you can't get rich fast. If that's your desire, go to Vegas, play the lottery. Now it's about making fans one by one over time. It's the only way to establish a base, which will pay dividends for decades if you're lucky.

Anybody can go on "Idol" or "X Factor" and sing the hits. That's easy. But write a hit? That's almost impossible. And what is a hit? Sure, it's something you hear on Top Forty radio, but today a hit might have the most YouTube views. And on YouTube, there are no restrictions. Your song can feature goose farts. Your voice doesn't have to be good. It's just that the music has to be remarkable.

We're never going back to the old ways. Never ever. Lament the machinations of Doug Morris and his wannabes, the sun is setting on their era. Not because I said so, but because the Internet changed the game, eliminated their monopoly on distribution and allowed everybody to play.

Furthermore, everybody doesn't want to hear the same thing.

Once upon a time, there were only three TV networks, we all watched the same programs. Today we're all weird, watching a zillion cable channels, if not turning off cable and surfing Internet video. We're only going to have more choices, there will only be more fragmentation.

Will there be superstars in the future?

Of course!

But those who last will have paid years of dues. Will gain their audiences slowly. Beware of anybody who makes it overnight, their time in the spotlight will probably be gone soon.

P.S. All of the above was inspired by Seth Godin's remarkable interview:

Listen to it. Seth lays it all out. Most people don't have the time, they can't click through and spend twenty five minutes. But those who do are those who will win. Because those who do know an ounce of preparation exceeds a million spam messages, which might make the sender feel good but will be deleted by all the tastemakers whose image is burnished by promoting something great.

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