Sunday, April 2, 2017

Marketing the Dylan Machine and Leveraging His Latest Achievement

Yesterday Bob Dylan received his Nobel Prize and diploma. The speculation was that he might not, but that didn't make sense to me. He accepted the honor in a private ceremony that included champagne. The only ones present: the 12 members of the Swedish Academy. And Bob. The concert he gave later that evening was reportedly most excellent.

Another Dylan-related event occurred yesterday as well. I received an email touting the release of three new Dylan albums, which brought to the foreground my ongoing admiration for the Dylan marketing machine.

Example from
After half a lifetime in marketing, one is easily tempted to see everything through a marketing lens. The success of the Beatles was, in part, a marketing achievement. Pop 40 radio stations play the songs, building awareness for the product. Repeated airings lead to familiarity. Record stores were located everywhere making it easy to consider a purchase. Posters and T-shirts give fans the opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty. Naturally it helped that they produced good "products."

To some extent the only thing that's changed today is the purchase step, as and iTunes have eliminated the need to visit a bricks-and-mortar outpost.

(See more variations of Marketing Funnels here.)

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The Stockholm Waterfront concert hall seated 3,000 last night and as has been the custom these past four years, Dylan and the band opened with Things Have Changed. The current set list is packed with classics including Don't Think Twice, Highway 61 Revisited, Desolation Row and Tangled Up In Blue. But there are faves from his later years also worked in, including Beyond Here Lies Nothing and several tracks from Tempest. And he's also pulling from the latest reconfiguration of his catalog, crooner covers like Melancholy Mood.

Yesterday's email was about three recent releases that just "happened to" fall on the same day as this private medal ceremony. Under the Covers is a 20-song compilation of recordings of other peoples' material. Dylan has purportedly recorded as many as 500 songs by others, so I can imagine this is potentially the beginning of a new series of products for avid fans. When I was in college Dylan took some heat for releasing an album of covers, but to be honest I really liked that album, which began with Lily of the West and included Mr. Bojangles and Big Yellow Taxi, among others.

Under the Covers opens with Pancho and Lefty, and filters through a host of songs on various themes, many of them familiar to the long-time follower, songs like Cocaine and Hard Times. It's available for purchase here on Amazon.

The second album being ballyhooed in yesterday's email was yet another I'd not expected called Acoustic Recordings. There's almost no information about the album at other than the price ($16.99 if you're a member of Amazon Prime) and that it's a 3-CD set of acoustic recordings of "Legendary Radio Broadcasts."

And finally there's Triplicate, his most recent studio album, which has been billed as Dylan's first 3-disc album, once again featuring classic American tunes. Produced by Jack Frost, this is his 38th studio album, a sequel to last year's Fallen Angels.

The release of Triplicate was preceded by a lengthy interview with Dylan himself, prominently displayed at The interview itself created a stir, covering a full range of themes from a lifetime as well as certain features of the new 3-disc set. Yesterday's email included endorsements from reviews, designed to assist fans in making that important purchase decision at the tail end of the funnel.

"A sensitive and exquisite 30-song extravaganza." - The Guardian

"As he sings these mountain-scaling melodies and conjures the ghosts of vanished lovers hovering over the verses, he doesn't just bring these songs back to life. He makes a pretty good case for why they should live forever." - NPR

"Strong performances, great repertoire, some of his best singing in years." - Mojo

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One thing the Nobel Prize has done is bring a new audience to the top of the funnel. Listening to radio shows like John Bushey's Highway 61 Revisited on KUMD then increases familiarity, if you're new, and reinforces loyalty if you're an old-timey fan like the rest of us.

Speaking of long-time fans, we're less than two months away from Duluth Dylan Fest. Ring them bells. Here in Duluth we will be celebrating the weeks of May 20-28. Check out the schedule here. Or follow updates on Facebook.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Open your eyes.

P.S.: If you're an artist who has created Dylan-themed or Dylan-inspired paintings, check out our Call for Art

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