Friday, November 27, 2015

The Bob Dylan Marketing Machine

Marketing, like every other endeavor in life, has its share of principles that have been repeated so often they almost become cliche. "Putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time" is one way it has been described. E.J. McCarthy's famous equation of the Four P's of Marketing -- product, price, place and promotion -- is another variation of the same idea.

How this plays out may vary depending on if you are selling cars or candy or a dining experience. Hollywood dominated the movie making business by establishing the distribution channel called movie theaters which made seeing films convenient, affordable and an experience. The record business got its power from the use of radio and television [look at what Ed Sullivan did for the Beatles], in conjunction with the local record stores. The road tour was another mechanism by which bands created new fans, and cemented the loyalty of old fans.

The internet age seemed to upend a lot of the rules of marketing, so much so that some people began to believe the old rules no longer applied, having gone the way of the buggy whip. And even though "Content is King" has become the coin of the age, once you get under the skin of what's happening out there in cyberspace you will see that when it comes to the Four P's... well, it continues to remain intact that you need a product people want at a price they're willing to pay whether they can afford it or not, from a place where they know they can get and they need to hear about it so they can want it.

Even a cursory examination of the Bob Dylan Marketing Machine shows you that he and the team he has assembled have become masters of the marketing tribe. And yes, to his credit he knows that although his name has become synonymous with the brand, that brand has the value it has because of the caliber of the team he's pulled together.

What is amazing, besides the caliber of the work he has produced, is the volume (as in quantity) of quality material that has been created. The Never Ending Tour not only became a never ending promotion of the songs and albums, it became a means of creating new content that could be turned into marketable products, or material for marketing existing products.

One of the most powerful marketing weapons is word of mouth so that in the era of social media we have a whole cadre of Dylan evangelists sharing their enthusiasm for Dylan, his every move documented, dissected and disseminated. Dylan websites, Dylan blogs and Dylan Facebook communities abound, all of them serving to promote the artist and his music.

Since the beginning of November I've been listening to The Bootleg Series Volume 12, Bob Dylan 1965-1966: The Best of the Cutting Edge, waiting to weigh in on some of what I've found here. What I've found is that there's really no other artist that could have done this. Where are the bootlegs and outtakes from the Beatles? The Stones? Yes, the music (product they created) was great, but the factory shut down.

The Dylan machine is still rolling on... like a rolling stone, with a lot of nerve, and verve and never ending fan delight.

Next May Bob will be 75. Whether the train will continue to roll after that is anyone's guess, but I can tell you this.... Here' in Duluth at our annual Dylan Fest we'll be celebrating for  week with music, poetry, art and everything Dylan that we can think of. Maybe you can join us here in the Northland. Consider yourself invited.


Michael Gray said...

No doubt you'll regard this as carping, but PLEASE - learn the difference between "it's" (meaning "it is") and "its"(meaning "belonging to it"). You've used the wrong one right there in your opening sentence. This is off-putting, and does your credibility no service.

Anonymous said...

The Dylan team has it made for the next twenty something years until all the 40 to 60 something year old white guys die or are too old to care. Until then they can release a bootleg series every year. There is a huge market and plenty to release.

Ed Newman said...

Thanks, Michael... It's embarrassing when that happens. The only good thing is that when it is digital it can be fixed and when it's in print it can't be.
I do know the difference and am surprised I made that one, but I don't have fact checkers and sometime miss a few things. (probably too many because of being in a hurry. Thanks for letting me know.

As for anonymous... are old white guys the only Dylan market? I had a different impression from some of the international locales that check in here from time to time. Thanks for posting