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Are You Trying to Please Everyone?

Last night I had the rare treat of going out to a gig. I don’t go out much so that might have been treat enough but it was an especially enjoyable night because this was one of my favourite bands, Marillion. You might not have heard of them, especially if you are under a certain age, but I think their story is quite instructive.

You know how the music industry works. Bands fight to get noticed by record companies. They may or may not get a deal. If they do the money they are paid is really a loan against sales, with a whole heap of expenses taken into account including video production, etc. Bands are basically in hock to the record company for years unless they make it very big very quickly.

This band has been around since 1982 and did the record label thing. The interesting part for you though is what happened in the late 90′s.

Unlike the rest of the music industry herd they chose to forego bending their knees to the gods of the major labels and instead turned to their online fan base. All the costs for producing and marketing their albums are paid in full, 12 months in advance, by fans pre-ordering the new albums on announcement. Bands normally go on tour to promote a new album, Marillion fans on the other hand have already bought the album before the band arrive so their gigs are more like a celebration.

What is the lesson for the rest of us?

It underlines to me the wisdom of rather than trying to reach a mass market, attempting to please everyone, aiming for a smaller, more targeted audience is the way forward.

it was the revolutionary concept of asking their fans to pre-order and pay for the recording costs an album some 12 months in advance of its release that hit the headlines in 2001. Astonishingly, over 12,000 of their fans pre-ordered [...] In terms of fan loyalty, it can be said that Marillion have an international underground following to rival the mainstream

[...]

When singles —˜Don’t Hurt Yourself’ and —˜You’re Gone—˜ breached the UK top 20 —“ the latter making it all the way to number 7 —“ jaws dropped right across the music world.

Not bad going for a band without major label backing.

But it was merely the latest twist in a 23-year-long history of a group who have held on to the conviction that what they’re doing MEANS something real.

Added: This from Sound on Sound is a good summary

The way Marillion go about the business of making their music and the way they service their audience is totally unique. With virtually no radio play or media exposure of any kind, they have managed to sustain a huge fan base, sell hundreds of thousands of copies of every album they release and continue to attract fans who weren’t born when they started out. As they approach their silver jubilee, they have more relevance in today’s music industry than all the boy/girl bands laying end to end across the Atlantic Ocean (although that doesn’t seem a bad idea). In these days where major labels have an increasing stranglehold on retail, whilst at the same time investing in short-term celebrity with no thought to musical integrity and longevity, Marillion are market leaders in Internet marketing and forward thinking.

Instead of spreading yourself thin trying to please a huge gamut of prospects, focus on delighting a specific niche. Really care for and nurture this smaller audience. Prove your value and never betray the trust they place in you. Now we are talking true lifetime value rather than grasping after a 15mins of fame. That’s success to me.

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Comments

  1. Definetely a lifetime worth of modest success is much better than 15 minutes of astonishing sucess.

    Of course, oppinions may vary here, but after all, we are all humans, superstars or modest 9 to 5 employees and we all have a need of a stable future.

    As another famous guy said, a John Lennon fellow: “Life is something that happens while you are busy doing something else”, or something similar.

    Planning things in advance and amortizing efforts for lifetime results not only seems sound, but also fullfills a superstar lifestyle statement.

    On the end, most former boy/girl bands seem to spend further life running after other 15 minutes of fame.

  2. Definetely a lifetime worth of modest success is much better than 15 minutes of astonishing sucess.

    Of course, oppinions may vary here, but after all, we are all humans, superstars or modest 9 to 5 employees and we all have a need of a stable future.

    As another famous guy said, a John Lennon fellow: “Life is something that happens while you are busy doing something else”, or something similar.

    Planning things in advance and amortizing efforts for lifetime results not only seems sound, but also fullfills a superstar lifestyle statement.

    On the end, most former boy/girl bands seem to spend further life running after other 15 minutes of fame.

  3. I once heard this saying about controlled business growth.
    You have to choose your path: More customers for your music or more music for your customers.

    The difficult thing to do is to figure out which is the best course to take. Most people think that doing both at the same time is the right idea. Inmost cases they are wrong. The resources needed to build on one or the other usually require focus and money. If the company tries to go both ways, neither usually works.

    It looks like Marillion decided that more music for their customers is the right way to go. If you please your customers they will bring others in. It may take awhile but the new customers will be solid.
    If you change the music to go after more customers you run the risk of losing the ones you have. Granted, you could hit a chord and win big but the exceptions are rare. To properly go after “more customers” requires market research, product development, testing, and promotion to just get started. Educating a new audience is expensive and takes time.

    Great post Chris – I’m always impressed.

  4. I once heard this saying about controlled business growth.
    You have to choose your path: More customers for your music or more music for your customers.

    The difficult thing to do is to figure out which is the best course to take. Most people think that doing both at the same time is the right idea. Inmost cases they are wrong. The resources needed to build on one or the other usually require focus and money. If the company tries to go both ways, neither usually works.

    It looks like Marillion decided that more music for their customers is the right way to go. If you please your customers they will bring others in. It may take awhile but the new customers will be solid.
    If you change the music to go after more customers you run the risk of losing the ones you have. Granted, you could hit a chord and win big but the exceptions are rare. To properly go after “more customers” requires market research, product development, testing, and promotion to just get started. Educating a new audience is expensive and takes time.

    Great post Chris – I’m always impressed.

  5. That may be the biggest mistake I have made when I come up with business ideas.

    Fortunately, the two projects I just started working on both cater to a very specific group of people. I might have finally learned this lesson. Time will tell…

    Great advice as always.

  6. That may be the biggest mistake I have made when I come up with business ideas.

    Fortunately, the two projects I just started working on both cater to a very specific group of people. I might have finally learned this lesson. Time will tell…

    Great advice as always.

  7. Thanks for this story, Chris- I love it. Ani DiFranco is another artist that has chosen a similar route.

    Plus, of course, the pre-selling idea is a genius one. I think there are lots of reasons for it, but not the least of which is when you pre-sell something, you establish a relationship with the people who have bought it.

    I think that keeps our hearts and minds focused on the people who are going to use it/listen to it- and we’re more likely to be loyal to that relationship, and create something that they love and we love. Otherwise, it’s too easy to float off into one’s own dreamworld and try and ‘create something’ that people will hopefully like- but the creation process is disconnected.

    I had written this article:
    Why you should sell something before it exists
    http://heartofbusiness.com/articles/2006/May17.htm

    Which I had originally learned from Sean D’Souza at psychotactics.com. It’s made a world of difference in my cash flow, and in the quality of what I’ve produced, and in the ongoing connection to my clients and customers.

    Another good’un. :)

  8. Thanks for this story, Chris- I love it. Ani DiFranco is another artist that has chosen a similar route.

    Plus, of course, the pre-selling idea is a genius one. I think there are lots of reasons for it, but not the least of which is when you pre-sell something, you establish a relationship with the people who have bought it.

    I think that keeps our hearts and minds focused on the people who are going to use it/listen to it- and we’re more likely to be loyal to that relationship, and create something that they love and we love. Otherwise, it’s too easy to float off into one’s own dreamworld and try and ‘create something’ that people will hopefully like- but the creation process is disconnected.

    I had written this article:
    Why you should sell something before it exists
    http://heartofbusiness.com/articles/2006/May17.htm

    Which I had originally learned from Sean D’Souza at psychotactics.com. It’s made a world of difference in my cash flow, and in the quality of what I’ve produced, and in the ongoing connection to my clients and customers.

    Another good’un. :)

  9. Chris, this is an awesome post. Over time, I always find myself drifting toward “universal appeasement”. But by doing that, I lost my voice. My entries are less authentic. I’m certain that it hurts the quality of my blog.

    Eventually it occurs to me that I’ve been a dope, and I make a shift to return to my natural voice. This alienates some readers, but I think it makes strengthens the bonds with those who read me regularly.

    Great post.

  10. Chris, this is an awesome post. Over time, I always find myself drifting toward “universal appeasement”. But by doing that, I lost my voice. My entries are less authentic. I’m certain that it hurts the quality of my blog.

    Eventually it occurs to me that I’ve been a dope, and I make a shift to return to my natural voice. This alienates some readers, but I think it makes strengthens the bonds with those who read me regularly.

    Great post.

  11. Mark,

    Preselling can be good, but it can also be dangerous. I bought a book once before it was supposed to be released. It wound up releasing almost a year later than expected. I never bought another book from them, even though it was a pretty good book.

  12. Mark,

    Preselling can be good, but it can also be dangerous. I bought a book once before it was supposed to be released. It wound up releasing almost a year later than expected. I never bought another book from them, even though it was a pretty good book.

  13. “To the world, you may be just one person; but to one person, you may be the world”

    Chris

    Although this doesn’t directly apply to blogs it can in that your voice will resonate with a certain group of people. And that group should stay with you longer because your voice is not diluted trying to cover all bases and make everyone happy. I know I’m trying to do that now with my writing.

    Of course I am a total newby at this so it is just my humble opinion…. :-)

  14. “To the world, you may be just one person; but to one person, you may be the world”

    Chris

    Although this doesn’t directly apply to blogs it can in that your voice will resonate with a certain group of people. And that group should stay with you longer because your voice is not diluted trying to cover all bases and make everyone happy. I know I’m trying to do that now with my writing.

    Of course I am a total newby at this so it is just my humble opinion…. :-)

  15. Great story Chris.
    So are you more of a Fish fan or a h fan?

  16. Great story Chris.
    So are you more of a Fish fan or a h fan?

  17. Great guest post on problogger! Glad I know about your site now. It looks like you have a lot of good info here. :)

  18. Great guest post on problogger! Glad I know about your site now. It looks like you have a lot of good info here. :)

  19. Great post Chris.

    Because after all – why do we do whatever it is that we do?

    To make ourselves feel great because we’re fantastic?

    Or to look after our customers/readers/listeners/watchers and make THEM feel fantastic?

    My most popular posts are the ones which focus on what I can offer my readers…

    Cheers!
    KL

  20. Great post Chris.

    Because after all – why do we do whatever it is that we do?

    To make ourselves feel great because we’re fantastic?

    Or to look after our customers/readers/listeners/watchers and make THEM feel fantastic?

    My most popular posts are the ones which focus on what I can offer my readers…

    Cheers!
    KL

  21. Hi Chris:
    It’s one of the well analyzed posts by you. There is a old saying “Jack of all, Master of None”. Better you master in one sector. People will have more trust on you, on your knowledge and returns back you for consulting on your specialization.
    Initially I thought, I will write on everything. Now I focusing on Technopreneurs. Writing contents to help technopreneurs to excel and lead their professional life.

    Always interesting to read your posts.

    Rajesh Shakya

  22. Hi Chris:
    It’s one of the well analyzed posts by you. There is a old saying “Jack of all, Master of None”. Better you master in one sector. People will have more trust on you, on your knowledge and returns back you for consulting on your specialization.
    Initially I thought, I will write on everything. Now I focusing on Technopreneurs. Writing contents to help technopreneurs to excel and lead their professional life.

    Always interesting to read your posts.

    Rajesh Shakya

  23. @Guilherme – Yup and those 15mins they chase after come at the price of artistic control also – real lifetime value also brings more freedom

    @Roger

    More customers for your music or more music for your customers

    – great way of putting it :)

    @George – “cater to a very specific group” – yes and absolutely love them to bits :)

    @Mark – great article, nice one :)

    @J.D – Yup it is worth sacrificing some readers if it strengthens your relationship with the core

    @George – I agree, it isn’t worth the risk unless you can come through with your promises, provide value and stay authentic

    @Steve –

    “To the world, you may be just one person; but to one person, you may be the world”

    – Excellent :)

    @Marc – h :)

    @Julie – Thanks :D Make sure you subscribe! ;)

    @Kara-Leah – Exactly :)

    @Rajesh – Yes, choose an audience you can completely own and focus focus focus

  24. @Guilherme – Yup and those 15mins they chase after come at the price of artistic control also – real lifetime value also brings more freedom

    @Roger

    More customers for your music or more music for your customers

    – great way of putting it :)

    @George – “cater to a very specific group” – yes and absolutely love them to bits :)

    @Mark – great article, nice one :)

    @J.D – Yup it is worth sacrificing some readers if it strengthens your relationship with the core

    @George – I agree, it isn’t worth the risk unless you can come through with your promises, provide value and stay authentic

    @Steve –

    “To the world, you may be just one person; but to one person, you may be the world”

    – Excellent :)

    @Marc – h :)

    @Julie – Thanks :D Make sure you subscribe! ;)

    @Kara-Leah – Exactly :)

    @Rajesh – Yes, choose an audience you can completely own and focus focus focus