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Sunday, May 19, 2002

Eric's Gold

Yes, I know. Gonzo Marketing's practically been talked to death. But I really like this fresh take on it by blogger Eric Vessels, who's just recently finished the book.

Here's part of the remarks which Eric posted to Gonzo Engaged:

"Gonzo Marketing: The question really does come down to quality. It matters much more now. In mass marketing, you could sell inferior junk because your goal was to blast the message (ad) to millions of eyeballs and hook a certain percentage . . . . . With Gonzo Marketing, you can't do that. In fact, you had better make damned sure your shit is great or you will essentially be marketing for your competitors! Napster proved this to the record industry. The old model allowed them to put out 11 shit tracks and 1 hit and sell tons of records. Ever get pissed off after you buy the album with "that one cool song" on it only to discover that one song was all she wrote? Not anymore, Jack. The conversation is real. And it goes a little somthin' like 'dis:

"Dude. Did you download that Slayer album?"
"Yep. All crap but track nine."
"No shit. I'm gonna have to burn a compilation!"

Now imagine that same conversation concerning the latest Tool release:
"Dude. (the kids always say "dude"...maybe we can use that in our personalization) Did you hear the Aenima album?"
"Fucking A. I got 5 tracks off Napster and they all rock!"
"Straight up. I'm gonna have to get that one!"
"No doubt"

See? Now this is precisely what the RIAA and most of the labels just can't get through their copyrighted skulls:
New Economy Rule #1 For Selling Records:
Make an awesome record. Give away the tracks. Sell a bunch or records."


Let me offer a vivid personal experience about Eric's observations from the retail side of the equation.There's a great CD shop in my neck of the woods-- Hear Music. They have about a dozen listening stations throughout the shop, each hooked into eight CD's or so. The stations are grouped into idiosyncratic, intriguing categories by the various employees of the store. In addition, you can take any CD you want to a central listening station and they'll play it for you.

On average, it's about five or six bucks per CD over internet prices. I started to get cold feet the last time I made a multiple purchase there. I calculated how much extra it was costing me over a year's time to do my buying there. Then I thought about the "one-hit wonders" to which Eric refers--all the ones I didn't have to buy because I had had the opportunity to listen to them at this wonderful store (and, yes Eric, there sure are a shitload of these rip-offs out there).

I realized that the money I had saved far outweighed the extra per-CD cost. And I'm so appreciative of this merchant's hip and helpful employees, I wouldn't dream of going there just to listen, only to head home and log on to Amazon.

Obviously, a lot of loyal customers feel the same way. Hear Music has had nothing to fear from the rise of e-commerce. Their greatest period of growth has coincided with the rise of the Web. And the icing on the cake: their dedication to the listening experience of their customers caught the attention of Starbuck's, who in '99 awarded them the contract for creating CD mixes for their cafes.

So, yes, Eric, there's gold in them thar' gonzo, customer-up models.

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