Astonishing sales secrets I learned playing rock and roll in sleazy biker bars

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Mon, 2006-08-21 17:56.
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I have played music in some of the sleaziest dives on the West Coast. I am not joking. I’ve had a lunatic cowboy launch a full can of Pabst at my head because he thought I was singing about him. (Remember “Third Rate Romance, Low Rent Rendezvous”?)

I once had to conk a drunk with my Telecaster as he assaulted my bass player. I’ve strummed and sung while dancers slugged each other, puked up tequila, tried to have sex, and took advantage of an overflowing bar sink to play Slip n’ Slide across the floor (breaking wrists and noses as they slammed into the far wall).

I got so good at playing in the middle of riots that, one night in a Virginia City basement bar, I caught a drunk with my right foot to keep him from falling into my mic stand, stood him up by putting my knee in his chest, and then drop-kicked him back into the crowd... all without missing a beat or botching a chord on my guitar while I sang the chorus of “Brown Sugar”.

And you ask: What the heck does any of this have to do with marketing? And I will tell you:

Learning to soothe the savage beast with music isn’t much different than using words to persuade him to buy. You are dealing, in both cases, with...

The Irrational Side

Of A Human Being.

For example: I discovered early on that, while making out a playlist for a gig, every blessed song must either:

(a) make ‘em cry in their beer... or...

(b) wanna shake their booty.

The only exceptions are boring weddings (which I refuse to play), or touring with someone who has a hit record (which I have never done -- my gigs have always been bars or dances).

That means, no matter how much the keyboard player wants to do soppy ballads, or how badly the chick singer wants to belt out Broadway hits... you stick to tunes that pass the test. If you play something slow, it better have the burly guy with the Harley tattoo wiping away a tear. And no matter how fast a song is, it better be rigged with a vicious back beat that forces people to get up and dance. Or you’re gonna be playing for the pissed-off bartender and an empty room for the rest of the night.

How do I use this discovery while writing killer ad copy?

Easy. Great copy has a rhythm, a grace to it. Essentially, it bops to an inner back beat. So you never, ever use sentences that aren’t immediately and easily understood. Or that interrupt the rhythm. Your reader will not go back and re-read a sentence that baffles him. He will simply move on to something else.

You gotta hook into your prospect’s soul, and get him nodding his head. Occasionally, I have written copy that is so right on, readers have shouted in glee as they raced through it. I’ve seen it. Every fiber of their being wakes up, and a “bliss dump” of urgent need and genuine excitement takes over. Much like a kick-ass rendition of “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” can ignite a room full of lonely secretaries and uptight executives and get ‘em dancing on the tables and throwing ties and bras into the chandeliers. (Yeah, I’ve seen that, too.)

Or... if you’re solving a problem that saves your prospect from a life in Hell, you don’t want to dick around with even a sliver of copy that isn’t riveted to the humanity of what he’s feeling.

You’re both crying in your beer, but not because it’s hopeless... rather, you’re purging the wound, and offering hope and a better life where before there was only despair.

Why does one band starve, while another has people begging them to play lavishly-funded gigs every weekend? You gotta lay into your audience with exactly what they need and want -- even if they aren’t clear on what it is they really crave.

This requires you to be a little ahead of your market, and a little smarter. I can’t tell you how many times drunks have pleaded for “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Heck, I’ve had guys threaten me when I refused.

But you can’t play it. It’s a long, hard-to-pulloff song that gets a few die-hards excited, but loses the rest of the crowd. And you’re up there, looking silly for 12 minutes while the call for taxis becomes a din.

Same with your target market. You listen to no one but the numbers and your gut instinct (if you have a gut that has proven itself already). No matter how much your partners, your wife, or your lawyer insist that you to do something... if it’s not gonna spur sales, then you don’t do it.

John Carlton,

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Advertising Secrets of the Written Word: The Ultimate Resource on How to Write Powerful Advertising Copy from One of America's Top Copywriters and Mail Order Entrepreneurs

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