Tag Archive for: Bruce Springsteen

Design Explode Feature MEME


Have you ever heard of Bert Hinkler?

Design Bert Hinkler


Probably not.


He did something amazing. He even did that amazing thing faster and more efficiently than the first person who did it.


Bert was better, hands down, but he was second.


Therefore, you remember Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis, don’t you?


Design Charles Lindbergh 2

 This is because he was the first person to successfully fly a single-engine airplane solo non-stop across the Atlantic.





Want to hear something crazy?


You weren’t aware of the #2 person who succeeded in this incredible flight but you probably know the #3 person to ever do it; Amelia Earhart.

Design Amelia Earhart



How come you know the first, never heard of the second, but the third is also famous?



Answer: Because she was the first woman to do it.


The Law of Leadership.


Design The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing



This is the first law in an amazing book that has been out forever called The 22 Immutable Laws of MARKETING. (This link takes you to the Amazon “used book” page where there are tons of copies for freakin’ .98 cents! An IMPORTANT, quick education for less than $1…but I digress)





Here’s the question that I want you to ask yourself, “Am I trying to succeed as an artist by default or am I trying to succeed by design?”


To be clear, my definition of “success” is this: you make a living writing, recording, and performing music. Making a living doing all these or just one, but doing what you love means no day-gig.




Design Wonder What Happened Monkeys

 Too many of you are trying to become successful by default.




Yeah, let me explain.


There are three kinds of people in this world.

  1. People who make things happen
  2. People who watch what happens
  3. People who wonder what happened


33% of People “make things happen” because they approach success by design.


They choose to learn so they KNOW what they’re doing. People who win by design make a choice to follow an educated path spending their precious time and resources in the most effective places.


More education = less naivete.


Design Waiting MEME 66%

 Which means 66% of people, the ones who “watch what happens” and “wonder what happened” live by default; the world happens to them.




Did you catch that? I’m going to repeat it, 66% of people live by default meaning the world happens to them.


Design Meteor MEME Artist For God's Sake


You’re an artist for God’s sake!



By D E F I N I T I O N, you, the artist, are supposed to happen to the world!



If you’re going to be an artist that happens to the world (because I don’t believe there are artists where the world happened to them. If there is, we don’t know about them, so did it happen?), you must build your career by design.


Building and living by design mean you cannot watch what happens and you cannot wonder what happened. You must know what’s going on!


Design Education Is The Key MEME

Education is the key.






You are the CEO of your little company. FYI, the biggest and best started out of garages like yours (Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Ford, Madonna, Metallica, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, etc.)


If you say to yourself that you “suck at marketing” or you “suck at business” then you’re probably right which makes you a sucky CEO.


There’s nothing wrong with being a poor CEO but you won’t succeed, sorry.


Design CEO Suck At Marketing MEME



Whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not, you’re in charge. If you suck at some mission critical part of your dream, you’d better address that now.




In The 22 Immutable Laws of MARKETING, the authors say that any CEO who isn’t in charge of his or her own marketing is living by default.


Design In Charge



To work by design YOU have to be in charge. You have to work with the outside companies you hire to ensure your brand is being conveyed correctly.




Are you waiting for someone to sign you?


You’re living by default, waiting for the world to happen to you.


Are you waiting to meet that one big relationship before you kick it into second gear and get serious?


Again, Living by default.


You have to GET IT GOING people. YOU are your only hope.


Yes, there are a couple artists who seem to have gotten lucky, but if this is your plan you’re living by default because these so-called “lucky” artists are exceptions to the rule (PLUS, I promise you don’t know the whole story so they’re not as lucky as you think.)

Design Lottery Ticket MEME

Winning the lottery is an exception to the rule…but, again, I digress.





This book is weighted completely on business brands with no mention of the music business whatsoever.


Try and see past that. The gems are in there.


I’ll connect a few dots for you.


Substitute “leading” for “First”



Design Harvard Logo


What is the leading institution in this country?



You probably thought Harvard.


Design William and Mary Logo



You would be right and they were also the first institution in this country founded in 1636. William and Mary College is the second oldest and they’re slightly more famous than Bert Hinkler.




Time Magazine vs. Newsweek, guess who was first?


Design Time Mag Collage




Yep, Time.





Advil vs. Nuprin and you’re right, Advil is the leader in the market with a 51% share and they were also first.


Design Advil Collage


Would it surprise you that twins often complain that the first of the two whom a person meets always remains their favorite even though that person gets to meet the other twin?


It’s better to be first than to be better.


Get it?


That’s the #1 Immutable Law of Marketing.



If you can’t be first like Xerox with copiers (people stand in front of a Ricoh copier and ask for a Xerox copy!), Keen-ex with facial tissue, or Gore-Tex, Jell-O, Fiberglass, Saran Wrap and Scotch Tape, then be first in a sub-category.





Like Amelia Earhart being the 1st woman.


Chrysler has just 10% of the auto market but owns 50% of the minivan market because they were first.


Yeah, yeah, I can hear some of you, “But Johnny, what does this have to do with me as an artist?”


Answer: Everything.


This is called the Law of Category


What is your artistic lane or category?


What are you doing differently that will make you identifiable?


Hello, these are design questions.


Design Taylor Swift Album cover



Taylor Swift was the first young country artist to lyrically speak to her peers.  This is partly why she is so huge. Nobody was communicating to the 9-14-year-olds in the country market at that time.






Kiss was the first rock group to make the make-up famous and provide a bombastic live show.


Motley Crüe was first in the market with the new 80’s glam metal sound, they added to what David Bowie had done with glam and made it harder edged.


Design Awareness Motley MEME

 By the way, when I say, “first in the market” I mean first in the market’s AWARENESS which is to say they were first in the mind.





There may have been other glam metal bands before Motley Crüe, but they were the first to get into your awareness so they win.


Marketing is a mental game, the products, to a degree, don’t matter.


Thus, “It’s better to be first than to be better”.


Organic The Beatles




Brian Epstein fashioned the Beatles into 4 neatly trimmed, clean faced, suit-wearing, bowing-after-every-song, safe boys you could bring home to mom.






Andrew Loog Oldham knew he couldn’t occupy the same lane with the Stones, so he fashioned them in a new category as the “anti-Beatles”. They were dangerous and scruffy looking.


Think about it, if marketing was objectively product based like we want to believe, there would be no sucky music.


No artists would be famous unless they were uber-talented.


But that has never been the case, has it?


Therefore, whoever markets better, wins.




Being first in the market is important only to the extent that it allows you to be first in the mind.


This is so important in the music industry that MANY really talented artists have been signed for the sole purpose of being shelved to keep them off the market so as not to compete with the label’s priority who is similar.


This is good info to know if you’re looking at a deal. Why are they signing you? You’d better know all the artists on the label roster because I promise you the courtship is exactly the same. It’s the outcome that changes.


Design MITS Altair 8800



The MITS Altair 8800 was the first personal computer, it came out in 1974 and the Apple II came out later in 1976.




But Apple had a better name and better marketing so they got into the mind first.


Design Apple II




Marketing is a battle of perception, not products so the MIND takes precedence over the marketplace.






It’s one thing to be an amazing artist but it’s another to be in the mind of the consumer.


Design The Law of the Mind MEME

This is called the Law of the Mind.




Everybody lives within their own perception. Their reality is their perception.


Think about this fact in terms of politics, religion, or your bandmates opinions on the best artists or equipment.


How about emotionally and sexaully abused people? Their perception is they don’t think they’re worth anything so that becomes their reality.




So, reality doesn’t matter as much as perception BUT, in today’s music business, the perception had better be authenticity.


Design Perception is Reality

You’d better be REAL and GENUINE or the market will see right through it.






Hype won’t make perception a reality. Until your audience perceives you to be real, you’re a fantasy.


You’re the Altair 8800.


Design You're not in the mind MEME

You’re that amazingly talented friend of yours who didn’t get the record deal.




Falling into the (often inaccurate) assumption that you have more talent, therefore you deserve success is killing you.


The artist who wins will be the artist who infiltrates the consumer mind first, talented or not.


The artist who stands out will be the artist who is the most unique in the new music business.


Design Mind The Gap




Therefore, the artists who lack on a body of work simply won’t have authentic art.




The more work an artist does to “close the gap” between their taste and authenticity, the more authentic their art becomes.


Therefore, covers are so important.


Cut the crap, you won’t be misconstrued a cover artist, I promise.


Let’s be honest here, the reality is that, right now, you’re not seen by the market as any kind of artist, isn’t it?


Or at least you’re seen by too few people to make a living.


Until you put in this work, the artist is unique and the art is not.


It’s not about your music.


Rather, it’s about what people think about your music.



Design Car Logo Collage

If objectivity on the product were the determining factor in marketing, all products would perform equally throughout the globe.




In America, the top 3 Japanese auto imports are Honda, Toyota, and Nissan IN THAT ORDER.


If people purchased based on the objectivity of the product, like designs, functionality, styling, etc., this same ranking would exist in Japan, but it doesn’t because the Japanese think about these brands differently.


Japan’s top 3 selling auto brands are Toyota, Nissan, then Honda coming in third because the Japanese think of Honda as a motorcycle company, not a car company.


Design Harley Davidson LogoGet it?


Imagine how well Harley-Davidson cars would sell in America.


They wouldn’t.


In America, Campbell’s soup is #1 but in England, Heinz soup is #1.


The question is, exactly what are you doing to get yourself in the mind of the consumer?


I want you to win.


You’re only going to win by penetrating the mind of the consumer.


Get someone to do it for you if you don’t know how to do it.


If you can’t afford that, get an education and continue to learn. Understand how to permeate the consumer’s mind by design so you happen to the world.


If you’re not happening to the world, you’re not an artist.


I mean, maybe you are, but I haven’t heard of you.








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Mistake Feature image

I keep hearing artists say they can’t afford and they don’t know how to market their music. If you’re not marketing, make no mistake, you have recorded a vanity project.

Mistake Vanity 2 License Phillip Pessar

Photo Credit:: Phillip Passar


It’s for nobody else but you.


Yes, you’re going to sell a few CD’s at live shows, but these are more of an impulse souvenir purchase as opposed to creating a real fan base. They were drunk and you moved them. If you’re doing over 200 gigs per year, you might make your recording budget back. Otherwise you’re business model is losing money.


The consumers that purchased your CD at a live show need to see you again somewhere and hear about you somewhere else for that awesome live show experience to become a mental anchor in their psyche.

In short, for your music to actually mean something to them, you’re going to need more than just a live show.

Mistake Rock Star


Isn’t that what you want, for your music to mean something to somebody?


You have to give them another reason to talk about you so they can proudly relate the fact that they have already seen you live to their friends.




They also have to interact with you on social media in a way that makes them feel special, a part of something bigger than themselves.

Mistake Sheep Crowd



This is how you get into the head of a music loving consumer.


This is how you slowly build critical mass.


Make no mistake, your live shows, songwriting, and recorded music won’t be enough.

Mistake 2 Brains


For some reason, in the music world (notice I DIDN’T say music business) wannabe artists think they can write, record, perform, and make records (which is a vastly different endeavor than simply pressing the record button on your home pro tools rig…but I digress) and “make it” on their own capitalizing on sheer raw talent.


They think, “I’ll just get these ideas recorded and put them up on iTunes and then wait for the world to notice.


Make no mistake, raw talent is just that; RAW TALENT.

Mistake Oil Collage


Gasoline, rubber tires, and asphalt are examples of oil based products that consumers spend money on in the marketplace, therefore these items are valuable.



Crude oil is worthless to a consumer.


Crude oil is worthless until it is refined. Once there is a refinement process, and a pipeline to the marketplace, crude oil becomes extremely valuable.


Get it?


This is how I view y’all. You are all valuable crude oil but with no refinement process and no real pipeline to the marketplace.


Mistake Crude Oil

Too many of you don’t understand why consumers aren’t buying your crude oil and you’re frustrated.




Make no mistake, nobody does it on their own, you will need a team around you. Yes that team will consist of managers and booking agents in the future, but not until you have something to manage and you can put some asses in seats.



Until then your team will consist of people who help you improve (refine) your music (i.e. songwriters, engineers, Producers) and people who help you market your music (i.e. marketing companies), or people who teach you how to market your music, (marketing classes, paid coaching, etc.)

Mistake Marketing


Make no mistake, your favorite iconic artists, LEARNED

  • How to refine their art
  • How to refine their approach
  • How to refine their attitude
  • How to refine their image
  • How to refine their songwriting
  • The importance of marketing
  • How to refine their live performances
  • The importance of networking
  • Solid team-building strategies from the professionals around them who made a living in the music business and TAUGHT them how to succeed.



Your favorite artists were not born famous, they were not born successful, and they were not born knowing what they know now.

These artists were crude oil, worthless until refined.


Mistake Springsteen Collage


FYI, it took most of these artists 30 solid songs, in 3 solid records, with 3 solid marketing campaigns to “break” and become the household names they are today (even if they’re indie, btw). It was a long journey that took time, energy, perspective, and a team of people to execute.



Think of your favorite 3 artists. At what point did these artists come into your awareness?

Mistake Bon Jovi Collage


Was it the first, second, or third record that you were turned on to them?



Here’s a real world example.


Mistake Greetings from Asbury Park


Regardless of your genre, LISTEN to the first Bruce Springsteen release, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ. You’ll be interested to know that “Blinded by the Light” and “Spirit in the Night” were NOT initially handed in to Columbia by Springsteen with that record. Clive Davis heard the music and told Springsteen he wasn’t going to release the album because radio wouldn’t play any of those songs. He needed to record something that could be promoted on the radio or “The Boss” was going to get fired.

Under tremendous pressure, he wrote 2 more songs, with a little more melody, and clever, intoxicating song structures to stay in the game; “Blinded by the Light” and “Spirits in the Night”.

It’s no surprise that “Blinded by the Light” was first on the tracking list.



Still that record didn’t blow up, but Springsteen was onto something. He was really good and he was learning.


Mistake CoffeeHe was critically acclaimed but that didn’t pay the bills. All the critical praise and .10 cents was going to get him a cup of coffee in 1973.






Mistake Born To Run


Now listen to Springsteen’s 3rd release, Born to Run. Can you hear the artistic difference? Can you hear the refinement?


Make no mistake, he didn’t get there alone.


He was leaning how to write a better song.


He was learning how to make real records.



It’s not surprising that while the first 2 records were hugely important and critical in the journey, they were not popular, they were not commercially successful (meaning they didn’t sell).

Mistake Class Room



It was Born to Run that blew up the sales charts.


It was Born to Run that broke Springsteen.





Now I can hear you lamenting.


Yes, I can hear what’s going on in that head of yours.


You’re either thinking, “Well if I get my deal, then I’ll be surrounded by the people I can learn from, so I’ll just have to wait to get my deal.” OR your thinking, “Well, I can’t do any of that so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and something will change.”

Mistake Tactics


Believe me none of these tactics will get you anywhere.


The good news is it doesn’t cost $250k to make a record anymore.


You have it easier than Bruce Springsteen.


More good news! It’s SUPER EASY to target YOUR audience, connect with them, and begin creating real artist/fan relationships.


If you don’t know how to do it, you’d better learn or you’re wasting your time.


Mistake Kid LearningThe bad news is you’re going to have to change your thought process. You need MOST OF YOUR BUDGET FOR MARKETING, not recording.


If you keep spending all your budget on the recording process, you’ll keep getting the results you have always got.




You won’t expand your fan base.


Make no mistake, you have to learn to market your music.


If it’s good and you’re wondering why the world hasn’t caught on yet, it’s because they haven’t heard it.

Mistake Rock Concert


Cut your next recording budget by 80% by recording 80% less songs. Market the very best gems you record.


The world will catch on once they hear it, man.


Your audience is out there.


Make no mistake, your audience WILL NOT FIND YOU.


You will have to find them.


How exactly are you going to do that from you home town with no marketing?







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