Watch this BBC Music Moguls documentary.
It’s one hour long and worth every second.
“Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd” – P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus
Let’s face it, the music business IS a circus whether you like it or not or whether you want to admit it or not.
Colonel Tom Parker understood showmanship and how to monetize talent.
Elvis had talent, and without Colonel Parker, we wouldn’t know who Elvis was.
Too many artists think the image, artistic lane, and performances of their most beloved iconic artists happened organically, magically, as if the artists were always polished and ready to go just waiting for the audiences to catch on.
Nope. Every artist was developed artistically and in the marketplace.
What does “organic” mean to you exactly?
Brian Epstein owned a siding company. He was a music lover so he also owned a record store called North End Music Stores as a side business, which is how The Beatles came into his awareness.
First let’s discuss the Image. The Beatles’ image was not organic if your definition of “organic” means “to happen naturally without preconception or outside guidance”.
When Epstein met the Beatles, they were scruffy, when he was through with the makeover, they were clean shaven.
Epstein added the touch of the famous black suits with the ties.
He taught them to bow and thank the audience after completing every song. This gave the Beatles the cutesy, safe, socially acceptable image of 4 boys you could bring home to mom.
Which is exactly what Epstein wanted.
Moreover, The Beatles acquiesced.
Which is rare.
Usually artists piss and moan about doing something different or foreign. You’ve heard the conversations before, “I just want to be as organic as possible.”
Now let’s talk about how Beatlemania started. Did the Band cut a record, put a couple copies in a few records stores and watch the pandemonium ensue?
Did a couple “tastemaker” girls pick up the 45 (this was how they used to sell singles for those of you who are unaware of what a 45 is), freak out and share it with 2 friends who then told 2 friends, who then told 2 friends, and so on, until they became a raging behemoth?
Understanding that people respond to momentum, even if it was perceived momentum (after all, perception is reality), Brian manipulated their market force initially by gaming the British charts. He shrewdly knew that there were 11 record stores around his locality that reported to the chart company. Brian would send out fans/friends with his money to purchase records at these select stores on the day of release. This would get the record immediately charting which got the public and the industry’s ears perked up. This initial momentum behind every single to created a little launching pad, if you will.
Did this artificially create a #1?
It did give them just enough credibility to get industry and radio people talking. This clever move also made it socially acceptable for consumers to like The Beatles because “everybody else was clearly liking them”.
There are the early adopters and then there are the people who think they’re the early adopters because the crowd is small enough to make them look cool and big enough that there was clearly a bandwagon to hop on to.
Was this organic?
My definition of organic is sometimes (usually) vastly different than an artist’s.
You see, I believe that all the gaming of the system, all the hustle, marketing, all the payola, and all the MONEY in the world won’t make a crappy or derivative record good.
On the contrary, a great, fresh, original, amazingly talented artist remains a “nobody”, doomed to reside in the basement of societal awareness without any of these marketing techniques.
How are you feeling about the trajectory of your artist career right now?
Epstein had lightning in a bottle and he knew what to do with it. He knew how to bring it to society in such a manner that it would get its own legs and create momentum.
The Beatles were smart enough to get him and let him do it; having faith and following his instructions IMPLICITLY.
Oldham was the executor of many of the techniques that helped to create The Beatles in the marketplace.
Oldham did EXACTLY the same thing with the Stones.
First he applied market awareness to the image of the band. Oldham couldn’t just recreate The Beatles and he knew that. He needed a new artistic lane. The Stones had to be different. He suggested that the Rolling Stones be the “anti-Beatles”.
He wanted them scruffy instead of clean cut.
He wanted them wearing leather or hipster mod clothing as opposed to suits.
He wanted them to be dangerous as opposed to some “boys you could take home to mother”.
Was this organic?
I suppose it depends on how you look at it.
Talent + Market Awareness + Hustle + Marketing = Your Dream.
My favorite quote from this piece:
So what is your market awareness with regards to your artistic lane?
Scott Borchetta immediately knew there were no country artists that were writing and speaking for 9-14 year old kids when he saw Taylor Swift; they created a whole new lane.
No competition means it’s easy to dominate.
How is your artistic lane different from what is already going on?
What are you missing?
Are you aware of your “known unknowns”?
Are you aware there are “unknown unknowns” which will require you to have faith in someone else?
These are the questions a smart artist should be asking.
Maybe you need to rethink your definition of “organic”?
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