A Lesson from Spotify

In 1983, David Bowie went on tour to sell a record.

In 2023, Drake makes a record to sell a tour.

The business model flipped.

Artists used to go on tour to sell music. Now they make music to sell a tour.

Some of that is to do with how we listen to music. The mass market used to buy vinyl, then cassettes, then CDs.

That makes a difference. Physical ownership is tangible.

But music shifted to digital, and with it, the sense of value slowly diminished. On iTunes, we paid for digital music. But now, we're in the Spotify age of (practically) free streaming.

And whilst Taylor Swift fights Spotify for a greater slice of the pie, Ed Sheeran celebrates the fact that he could never have filled a sold-out Wembley gig without the invention of free streaming.

That shift has influenced consumption habits and expectations beyond the entertainment industry.

B2B content is everywhere

Even the stuffiest business folk know that blogs and social media are part of modern business.

But often, that doesn't quite align with the Spotify model, which looks like this:

  • You put ALL your best work into the world for free. Your ideas, tactics, even your systems.
  • The world starts to learn about what you do. They read, listen, and share.
  • That builds awareness, then an audience, then a relationship.
  • At least 99% of your audience will never buy your service.
  • The remaining minority is in the market to pay a high fee for 1:1 consulting. You're 'famous', which gives you authority, and through consistent publications of expertise, they want direct application to their business.

A lot of marketers and founders I know embrace content marketing, but they don't buy into this Spotify model.

They produce 'goodish' content, usually lacking in any personality, holding back the best stuff for fear that nobody will need to hire them if they give away their secrets.

That doesn't work.

Imagine if Drake decided:

"I'll save my five best tracks for concerts. Nobody's paying for the gig if they can listen to all my best stuff free on Spotify."
Imagine if Drake held back his most popular music and only played it for people that paid.

Does this mean the music is no longer the product?

No, it's absolutely the product.

Artists need to continue making and publishing their very best music.

But if they want to make any money, they need to give it all away.

They become comfortable with a hard truth...

Most people will never buy from you

So, giving them your expertise for free has zero negative impact.

Of the people that would buy, they don't want to do the work themselves.

An in-house marketer, the type managing a large budget, she doesn't want to do SEO. That's not her job.

If a specialist firm shared a strategy on how to grow organic traffic, the in-house marketer wouldn't have time to execute. Her job is to manage the budget and figure out the best way to spend it.

And this kind of reinvention happens all the time

In the 1800s, musicians and singers could make a decent living performing in local venues.

There wasn't much else going on in the form of entertainment.

But, once the gramophone hit the mass market, artists like Enrico Caruso became rich and famous.

The gramophone

Now, one person could reach and sell records to hundreds of thousands.

You weren't limited to a few hundred at your local venue.

Which meant there was less incentive to visit local venues because you could listen to the best musicians in the world from the comfort of your own home.

So, less work and money for the majority of musicians that we're still trying to make their living at the venue.

Today, we can listen to any song, at any time, for free. There's little incentive to buy music. But there's more incentive than ever to go and watch our favourite musicians live.

The same is happening in your industry.

There's a wealth of free information out there.

We can learn how to do anything for free on Youtube.

Add to that the capabilities of AI.

That naturally means that the low end of the market for any service is shrinking.

But the top end is more accessible than ever through content.

And, lucky for you, most of the posts you read on LinkedIn and the newsletters going out to thousands of people each week...

They're not very good!

They share the same generic, shallow platitudes.

So, when someone like David C Baker comes along dropping gold, connecting dots that haven't been connected before, demonstrating his consulting chops through his blog...

Well, the market goes nuts for him.

His niche famous, and with that comes the prime consulting and speaking opportunities.

That's why he's a two person business charging $20k+ per hour.

But this only happens because he, and others like him, give their best thinking away for free.

Don't hold it back!

Want to become a thought leader?

Every 4 weeks, I publish deep dives into B2B thought leaders, breaking down the content strategy they used to go from unknown consultant to top tier personality.

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