Supply And Demand


It used to be that scarcity drove up value. It was simple supply and demand. When something is rare, it is more valuable.

In music we can find endless examples. The posthumous brand values of artists like Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, and Elvis Presley are far greater than their brand values prior to their deaths.

After John Bonham died and Led Zeppelin disbanded, every Page/Plant interaction became a major event. Their 2007 reunion show at the 02 Arena in London became the live music event of the decade.

We have yet to experience it, but there is a good chance that each unreleased song from the Prince archives will become extremely valuable.

Low supply = high demand = even higher value.

Today it seems like that equation might be broken.

The Weeknd is one of the top-selling artists in the world. His first single appeared in the fall of 2012, just over four years ago.

Since that time, The Weeknd has released three studio albums, three mixtapes, one compilation album (featuring all 3 mixtapes), and a mind-boggling 26 singles.

In just over four years, The Weeknd has released 26 singles. That’s an average of 6.5 singles per year. Think about that for a second.

To put that in perspective, over the course of their career The Rolling Stones have released 109 singles so far. But they put their first single out in 1964… that was 52 years ago. That’s an average of just over 2 singles per year.

Aerosmith has pumped out 63 singles since 1973. That’s an impressive number, but it is only about 1.5 singles per year.

Bruce Springsteen has given us 69 singles since ’73, a production level similar to Aerosmith.

Madonna’s career has seen her release 83 singles since 1982, which is a solid 2.44 singles annually.

None of those legendary artists even come close to The Weeknd’s incredible pace of 6.5 singles per year.

The game has changed.

For those heritage artists, the game was about releasing the right number of albums and singles, and touring just the right amount. Artists timed their releases so that they could do an album, release multiple singles while touring to support the album, take a year or so off, and then release a new album. And it worked.

Today’s artists live in a world of instant gratification. They compete with artists everywhere on the globe, creating and releasing new music incessantly. They exist in an environment where you can create and release a song, get millions of streams and downloads, and then decide if you even want to do an album or tour. They collaborate and co-create in an unprecedented way.

Today’s artists also live in a cycle of perpetual media exposure. If you’re not doing something noteworthy, you’re irrelevant.

Is your business staying top-of-mind?

Being top-of-mind today means being perpetually present in your marketing, having a constant social dialog, and continually evolving your products and creating new products.

You never want to flood the market to the point of devaluing your product, but in today’s world you cannot sit back and be invisible, hoping your die-hard fans will crave your product in six months or a year. You need to be evolving, growing, changing, and adapting.

The Weeknd has released 26 singles in four years, and that’s the new normal.

Drake has released 85 singles in his nine year career. That blows The Weeknd out of the water! Drake is averaging almost 18 singles per year.

Drake’s girlfriend Rihanna has released 64 singles since 2005, just short of 6 singles per year.

Kanye West has released 110 singles since 2003, just about 8.5 singles per year.

The game has changed.

Will you change with it?

By the way, the new album Starboy by The Weeknd is nothing short of amazing. You really should listen to it. The man is prolific because he’s brilliant.

Put the lessons of music legends to work to help you build a better business. You can still order Brand Like a Rock Star with one-click on Amazon and have it delivered well before Christmas. 

Aerosmith, Bob Marley, Drake, Elvis Presley, Kanye West, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Rolling Stones, The Weeknd 682 Comments

Who Has Your Ear?

Photo of Freddie Mercury courtesy of

You have Michael Jackson to thank for the classic Queen song “Another One Bites The Dust”.

We’ll get to that in a second.

Advice is a funny thing.

Everybody has an opinion, but is hearing it really good for you? How do you keep your eyes on the road when you have backseat drivers shouting directions?

On one hand, I recommend that any entrepreneur equip themselves with a set of blinders, the kind horses wear in races.

You can’t afford to let the bastards bring you down and steer you off course.  Illegitimi non carborundum. 

On the other hand, you need to have mentors and advisors that you can trust, people with opinions you value more than currency itself.

None of us are as smart as all of us.

Those trusted advisors might not be the obvious choices. My inner-circle of trusted advisors includes a dentist, an oil field expert, and a stock trader.

For Queen, trusted advice came from Michael Jackson.

The band had just recorded “Another One Bites The Dust”, a song written by bass player John Deacon. He was inspired by the Chic song “Good Times” (check out the mash-up that proves it), and created a cool bass riff from his inspiration. Deacon himself played almost all of the instruments in the recording session. The band thought the strange little song was fun, but never envisioned it as a hit single.

That’s when Michael Jackson heard them play it in concert. Backstage after the show he suggested to Freddie Mercury that the band promote the song to radio stations. Jackson thought the song would be a big hit.

He was right. “Another One Bites The Dust” is Queen’s all-time best-selling single with over 7 million copies sold. It was a worldwide #1 pop hit and even hit #2 on the R&B charts. The song was nominated for a Grammy and won the American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Single.

Queen listened to Michael Jackson’s advice.

Who do you listen to?

The book Brand Like A Rock Star can help you learn and use the core marketing strategies of rock legends like U2, Jimmy Buffett, AC/DC, KISS, Bob Dylan, and many others. Order it today with just one click and get started making your brand rock!

Michael Jackson, Queen, Uncategorized 103 Comments

Supply And Demand: Michael Jackson, John Lennon, and Whitney Houston


In the years before Michael Jackson passed away, you didn’t often hear his music on the radio. But as soon as he died, we wanted to hear his music again. His songs were everywhere.

The same thing will happen this week with Whitney Houston.

You see, when something is rare we naturally perceive it’s value to be higher.

John Lennon’s album Double Fantasy came out just three weeks before he was shot in December 1980. When critics first reviewed the album, most were unimpressed and some were downright scathing. Prior to Lennon’s death, the album was at #46 in the UK and #11 in the USA. Then, wimmediately after his murder, the album shot to #1 and went on to win Album of the Year at the 1981 Grammy Awards. Rolling Stone would later name the album the 29th best album of the 1980s.

What happened? Simple. We lost John Lennon and came to the stark realization that his music would no longer be with us. Knowing that, we placed new and increased value on his music. Instead of a mediocre album, we saw Double Fantasy as musical genius… in part because of the circumstances, not the music.

The death of Whitney Houston is no doubt a sad tragedy.

At one time, she was an amazing singer with a magical voice. She made history with her success. But as you watch the tributes to Whitney pour in this week, remember that over the past decade her music had been invisible on radio stations and her name had only been in the headlines for negative reasons. A few days ago, the world was not clamoring to hear “I Will Always Love You” one more time. Nobody was downloading “The Greatest Love of All” from iTunes.

That all changed with her passing.

The relationship to business is clear: when the supply of something is infinite, value is naturally lowered. When supply runs short of demand, perceived value goes up.

RIP Whitney Houston, 1963-2012.


John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston 1,862 Comments

Michael Jackson, McRibs, and the Value of Discontinued Brands


Michael Jackson is worth more dead than he was alive. Nearly bankrupt in his final days, he (well, his estate) earned nearly a billion dollars in the year after his death.

Even the comeback tour that never happened managed to make $6.5 million US in ticket sales simply because many fans wanted to keep their tickets as souvenirs.

Why is a brand like Michael Jackson able to make more dead than alive?

1. When you’re dead, you can’t screw up your brand any more. Let’s face it… Michael Jackson had managed to mangle a once-brilliant brand. Through bizarre behavior, child abuse allegations, and endless plastic surgery, Michael Jackson’s brand had faded far from his Thriller days. Once he died, there was no way he could possibly do himself any more damage.

2. When you’re dead, we realize what we lost. Despite all the oddities, Michael Jackson was a once-in-a-generation musician. He created magic. Now it is gone, and it isn’t coming back. It took losing his genius for most of us to be able to recognize it.

3. When you’re dead, supply and demand work in your favor. With nothing more to offer, everything Michael Jackson did becomes more valuable. Merchadise and souvenirs become currency.  Unreleased music from before he died becomes infinitely more valuable than it otherwise would have been.

4. When you’re dead, we get to remember you the way we want to. Michael Jackson is remembered as a quirky musical genius, not a surgically-manipulated circus sideshow. Elvis Presley is remembered as young and energetic, not bloated and pathetic. Kurt Cobain is a troubled genius, not a drug-addled wife beater. We can write our own history, thank you very much.

Think about the various products that your company makes, especially the ones that have passionate customers but limited appeal. Would these fringe products be more valuable if they were completely discontinued or released in limited or time-sensitive quantities?

If this strategy sounds crazy to you, just ask McDonald’s how they are doing with their McRib sandwich. The product was a mediocre seller from 1981 to 1985. Since 1994 McDonald’s has periodically brought McRib back for limited periods. Last November, the McRib helped boost McDonald’s monthly sales by 4.8%.

Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, McDonalds, McRib, Michael Jackson 1,185 Comments

We Covet What We Cannot Have


Michael Jackson earned more dead last year than Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, and Madonna.  Jackson’s estate earned $275 million, thanks mainly to his back catalog and the movie This Is It, detailing the concert rehearsals just before his death.

Prior to dying, Jackson was nearly bankrupt.  He left his family with $500 million in debts.  His reputation as a legendary musician was soiled by rampant rumors of indecent acts with children and persistent stories about his eccentric lifestyle.  His career, most would have judged, was over.

Yet today Michael Jackson out-earns many active living celebrities.  Why?

One reason is that his reputation cannot be further damaged by his actions.  Forbes writer Lacey Rose accurately pointed out that in death, a celebrity cannot be tainted by a tabloid story or rehab stint.

Another reason is that the purchase price of a brand naturally increases when a product is in short supply and demand is high.

When Ed Hardy products were only available at cool boutique stores, it was an in-demand brand.  Today, when you can buy Ed Hardy bedsheets at TJ Maxx, the brand’s value has changed dramatically.

When Krispy Kreme donuts were only available in certain states, and only at Krispy Kreme restaurants, the brand was powerful.  When those same donuts are for sale at the gas station, the value decreases.

If you could buy a Rolex watch at Target, would the brand carry the same weight?  When you see you are at a Rolex dealer, you know you are in the presence of quality.

There is a delicate balance between making your product available to all who want it, yet keeping it exclusive enough to have increased perceived value.

Jay-Z, Lady GaGa, Madonna, Michael Jackson 207 Comments

BP and Michael Jackson: Can Damaged Brands Survive?

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Last week marked the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson.  I happened to be in London, England when the occasion passed, and it was prominently discussed on British media.  One comment made on the radio reminded us that even though Michael Jackson’s star has been restored in death, his reputation in his later years was deeply troubled.  The allegations of child abuse leveled against him would not go away, and his bizarre behaviour only fueled them.  The radio host wisely noted that only dying could really save Michael Jackson’s reputation.  It is oddly true that since his death the world has spent very little time talking about the troubles that plagued him.

Later that same day I was walking in Trafalgar Square where an exhibit was advertised at the National Gallery. It was sponsored by British Petroleum and the company’s green “BP” logo was prominently displayed.

Like Michael Jackson, death might be the only saviour for BP’s reputation at this point.  The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has damaged the company’s reputation so badly that they cannot put their logo on anything without inviting scorn.  Their logo on the advertising invites criticism that BP would spend money sponsoring an art exhibit at a time when they should be devoting every penny towards fixing their mistake in the Gulf.  It doesn’t make the company look community-minded, as it was surely intended to.

Can the BP brand survive?  Those in the know seem to think BP is financially strong enough to survive the mess, although it is hard to imagine filling up at a BP station in the future.  Even if the company survives, most agree that CEO Tony Hayward won’t.  And when this is all over there’s no chance any of them will be forgiven the way the world forgave Michael Jackson.  Sometimes, the brand is simply damaged beyond repair.

BP, Michael Jackson 121 Comments

Life After Death

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When I heard that Sony Music was paying $250 million to the estate of Michael Jackson for the rights to his past music and 10 projects to be released over the next 7 years, my first thought was that they are completely nuts.  I mean, they just signed a dead artist who hasn’t had a legitimate hit song since 1995 to the biggest record deal in history!  He was nearly bankrupt prior to his death and his last album struggled to reach the break even point.  What were they thinking?!?

But when you stop and think about,  there are two reason that Sony might actually be quite shrewd paying this much for Jackson’s music past and future.

1. It is no longer about CD’s and downloads.  It is about movie soundtracks, TV shows, commercials, computer games, and platforms we haven’t even considered yet.  In the old world of CD sales this deal would be nuts, but maybe not so much anymore.

2. Michael Jackson is now a rarity.  Like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Bob Marley, we sadly won’t be blessed with any new music from him.  That makes his brand infinitely more valuable.  In death, Elvis made $55 million last year.  John Lennon’s estate claimed over $15 million in 2009.  Bob Marley’s estate still earns close to $10 million annually… that’s $892,500,000 in Jamaican dollars.

Michael was already far more wealthy in death than he was in life.  His estate earned $90 million in the seven months following his death.  And the years to come with obviously be much more profitable.


What can your business learn from this morbid story?

1. The law of supply and demand is impossible to refute.  If demand is high and supply is low, the value goes sky high.  Examples?  Nintendo’s Wii machine was impossible to find two years ago at Christmas.  The supply was low, but everybody wanted one.  That’s why they fetched over $1000 on e-bay.  Michael Jackson is in demand (because he’s dead) and he’s in low supply (also thanks to death), so once again his value is very high.   How does your brand control supply and demand?  Remember that “supply” could easily be “exposure”.  Are you controlling your brand from overexposure?

2. If you have something cool (like, say, unreleased Michael Jackson material) it pays off to tell people that it is coming.  Create some advance interest.  By telling us that there are 10 Michael Jackson projects coming in the next 7 years, Sony has teased us with what could come.  Rumor is that there are three albums worth of new and unreleased MJ material in the vaults.  Another rumor is that Michael was planning to re-release a new version of  “Off The Wall”.   Apple has done this brilliantly… things like the iPad were the topic of much discussion and anticipation long before they came out.  What does your brand do to generate interest in what you are about to do?

Now Sony couldbe crazy.  But if Elvis Presley is any example, Michael Jackson’s music will endure for years to come in any number of forms and platforms, and Sony will more than recoup their $250 million.

Apple, Bob Marley, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Nintendo, The Beatles 1,610 Comments

Michael Will Be Missed


We lost Michael Jackson today. There is no doubt that Michael’s musical brilliance was overshadowed in recent years by his personal and legal troubles, but there should be no question that Michael Jackson was a muscial genius whose music will influence music for generations to come.
It has been a while since his music was heard to any great extent on the radio. Changing musical tides, along with Jackson’s sea of troublesome publicity, made hearing songs from music’s biggest selling album in history a rarity.
Michael Jackson, in death, will live alongside Elvis Presley as an artist that changed the face of music. Like Jackson, Elvis Presley was a fading star when he passed away in 1977. His popularity had diminished. His troubles with drugs and his weight had made him the object of ridicule. Yet when he died, our world stopped. Suddenly Elvis was young again, vibrant and electric, and his music took on a fresh relevance that has never been lost since.
His legal and personal troubles aside, people will now begin to again appreciate Michael Jackson’s music. In the coming days and weeks, you will see sales and downloads of Michael Jackson songs spike. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Michael Jackson reach the top of the chart posthumously with re-released material.
Sometimes it takes losing something to fully appreciate it.
Being rare makes something valuable.
Sadly, that’s what it will take to generate a new interest in one of the greatest artists in music history. But that’s just “Human Nature”.
Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson 107 Comments