Taking recommendations to a higher level

Why Most Band Marketing Fails

This short article was written by Marcus Taylor, a musician & multi-award winning marketer. In 2013, Marcus won Midem’s award for ‘Young Visionary of the Year’.

Various studies predict that we see between 1,000–5,000 marketing messages each day depending on where we live.  

Our brain categorises similar things together (a process known as Gestalt). Because most marketing messages are similar, we categorise them as one.

Imagine that each shape represents a marketing message by a band.


Which one is the most memorable?

What about now?



The point is, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a black circle or an orange hexagon. What matters is what’s different. The thing that is different is the thing that catches our attention, and the thing we remember.

Virtually every successful artist was a black dot among orange hexagons. 

  • Lady Gaga – a female singer that wears dresses made of meat.
  • Eminem – a white rapper in the 90s.
  • KISS – heavy monster-like make up & outfits.
  • Nicki Minaj – a female fast-flow rapper singing in British Cockney
  • Mumford & Sons – modern double bass, banjo, and acoustic music

Paradoxically, if your music or messaging is similar to Mumford and Sons, you’re not a black dot among orange hexagons. You’re a black dot among black dots. This is why you will not replicate their success.

Compare the Market, Starbucks, and the Harlem Shake knew this 

Compare the Market did this with their ‘compare the meerkat’ ad. They succeeded. When Go Compare and all the other insurance comparison websites copied them, theirs didn’t work as well. 

Startbucks did this with their festive coffees. When all the other coffee shops copied theirs didn’t work as well.

The original Harlem Shake video did this. When all of the businesses copied it, theirs didn’t work as well.

Because of how our brains categorise information, the more of a similar thing we see, the less impact each additional thing has.

The lesson here is be the shepherd, not the sheep.

Are you a black dot or an orange hexagon?

Consider everything you do as a band, and how much of it is also done by every other band.

  • Most bands release music on a CD.
  • Most bands say “check out our music”.
  • Most bands send demos and emails to get gigs. 

What if you released your music engraved on a weird object to be played on a vinyl player? Or in a printed book with a story and links to download music at different parts of the story?

What if you said “most people don’t like our music, but if you like X, Y, and Z, you might have found your favourite new artist”. Or “We create music because we believe X, Y, Z.  Read our story here – if you like why we do what we do, you may like our music”. 

What if instead of emails and demos you sent handwritten notes? What if you contacted gig promoters by turning up to their event nights and introducing yourself? What if you sent them a gift first?

The opposite of the norm is usually where the biggest opportunities lie. What are you doing that opposes the norm?

Credit: this post was inspired by the writing / talks of Dave Trott. I thoroughly recommend reading his book Predatory Thinking.


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