The Power of Social Proof

What is social proof?  Put simply, it’s the positive influence created when someone finds out that others are doing something.  – Aileen Lee

In his highly regarded and best-selling book Influence, Robert Cialdini outlines how to use (and defend yourself against) six principles of persuasion: reciprocity, authority, commitment & consistency, liking, scarcity, and social proof. This week we’re going to take a quick look at the latter in greater detail.

Facebook advertising has done spectacularly well, in part because it shows how many people you know already “like” a page. The more of your friends that like something, the more likely we are to check it out and like it as well. Re-posting on Facebook and Twitter is a great example of social proof – it shows we support something. Make sure any site you run has scripts that make it easily share-able (and in the right places – highly visible).

You may know, one of the main factors in weather someone decides to attend an event, is how many people they know are attending as well. Although the company may be flagrantly evil, McDonalds’ “Over 99 Billion Served” slogan certainly shows it has support. Another prominent example of social proof is the gigantic lineups outside Apple stores on launch days for new products. People love to advertise that they support the brand. Having a brand and product (music in this case) that is high-quality is definitely a pre-cursor to mass support.

Some consider social proof is to be “the new marketing“, and rightly so.  You can see here from this study by the Nielsen Company, that “recommendations from people known” ranked highest in trust-ability of all forms of advertising tested:

For me personally, when Skream gave a quote in support of a remix I had done, that quote went on to display major celebrity social proof. Think “If the pros are supporting this – maybe I should as well too, or at least have a look for myself.” Between that, and it charting on Beatport (also social proof), it created obvious support, and that support (think of a crowd gathering, and thus attracting a greater crowd) created even more support. Have a promo list that you regularly send you high-quality finished work to, and don’t be shy to ask prominent artists for quotes of support if they are playing your tunes (celebrity social proof). I even see some people using these on the right-hand side of their Soundloud pages.

Today a tweet from Royal-T had me looking at at Temple Run, an iPhone game. Even while writing this article, I still unconsciously looked at the customer rating (5 star avg. from 306312 Ratings) as a barometer for the value & quality of the game – essentially weather or not it’s worth downloading. Perhaps I am programmed to care if other people care.

A few more examples of social proof in the music industry to think about:

  • DJ’s playing your tracks, either live, on radio, or in mixes
  • Audience and other artists re-posting your music and activities
  • People attending your events in person is major social proof
  • (Also, a velvet rope outside a club with a line of people)
  • Pre-show posts on Facebook event walls
  • Tracks charting on online download sites
  • Blogs and music aggregate sites like Hype Machine
  • Being included in DJ charts
  • User-generated videos on Youtube etc for tunes, uploaded by fans
 If you have a great product waiting to be discovered, figure out how to build social proof around it by putting it in front of the right early influencers.  – Aileen Lee

The key here is to consciously understand how social proof works, start seeing how individuals and crowds respond to it, and prominently display it – use it to your own advantage. Do not underestimate the power of it. As you see in the above chart, it ranks as incredibly useful. Even if you are a beginner, start using every bit of support you have to build more and more of it – it builds its own momentum. When there’s a critical mass of people supporting something, there’s a certain tipping point where more and more people start supporting because the social proof is obvious.

  • Can you think of other ways that social proof influences the music industry?
  • How are you currently using it to your advantage?
  • How can you start using it to your advantage?

Please repost! Spread the word 😉


Look at Your Music as a WHOLE Process.

In the business world, some marketing experts such as Dean Jackson talk about breaking your business into units of Before, During, and After the customer experience. That means analyzing, step by step, the process you go through to attract customers, do business with them, and then develop long term relationships for a life-time of business transactions. Although you may not look at your music as a “business” (something to consider, though), the before/during/after model can be very useful in creating, satisfying, and nurturing your audience.

At the current time, you may think about music in regards of playing shows, releasing tracks, and promoting them when you can or feel like it. Instead, you may want to shift your perspective and start looking at shows or releases as processes, not events (if you want to put on your philosophical hat you could think of this in the way that Eastern philosophy views reality: people, places, and things are not static, they are always changing and in movement.) Here’s some ideas regarding the 3 stages of interacting with your audience:



  • Actually performing at events (which also includes networking with DJ’s, promoters, etc, and audience)
  • The blitz of promo you should be doing for a release, be it free or paid (all social network sites, in person dialogue etc.)
  • Let people know how they can find and follow you through social media / mailing lists etc


  • Follow up and contact people you made connections with and gave cards to at your event
  • Re-post reviews and promo from artists for your released tracks
  • Encourage audience to view your other work and let them know when your next releases / gigs are
One major thing to realize is that it’s very important to focus on taking care of your audience and maintaining relationships (After). Everybody wants more fans, but don’t neglect the people that already follow you!! They already like what they do – keep that connection going.

I hope to cover this topic in greater detail in the future, as this a mere skim of the surface and it would be valuable to go into more depth for each unit. Just remember, start looking at your relationship with your audience as a whole process, not just simple events.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

What are YOU going to do this year?

It’s the start of the new year.

Take a second and think, look or listen back to where you were with your music 365 days ago.

How far have you come? What did you accomplish over the last year?

Well it’s a new start, and you have that experience and knowledge to piggyback on.

Now, grab a piece of paper and take 10 minutes to yourself.

Brainstorm and write down all the things you would like to do and accomplish this year.

Be realistic but ambitious.

What are you going to do?

Now go tell some people that are close to you, and one day at a time, go do it.



12(K) Principles

A minimal(istic) electronic record label and mastering house “12K“, based out of NYC and founded in 1997, caught my attention this week. In the about section on their website, they describe how they consciously approach their music and the marketplace. They give us “12 Principles Upon Which 12K was Founded“.

I believe that having intention behind what you’re doing and being able to easily communicate your philosophy helps it spread.

Some of  these ideas may not resonate with you personally (such as 4 or 7 – I understand and appreciate them but may choose different approaches), but there is value to all of these perspectives. I equally  enjoy their music as well as how they tell their story.

“..Trying to create something beautiful, however small, in this oversaturated, violent world that we live in. A small space – a place to breathe.” Taylor Deupree


1. Don’t tell listeners what they want to hear, let them discover that for themselves.

2. Treat your audience as they are: intelligent, passionate lovers of art and sound.

3. Evolve constantly, but slowly.

4. Stay quiet, stay small.

5. Strive for timelessness.

6. Never try to be perfect. Soul is in imperfection.

7. Simplicity. Anti-Design.

8. Never try to innovate, be true to yourself, and innovation may happen.

9. Explore sound as art, as a physical phenomenon – with emotion.

10. Develop community.

11. Be spontaneous.

12. Everything will change.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Thanks to @djfractal for passing this along.

The Best Way to Learn

“If you want to learn something, read about it.
If you want to understand something, write about it.
If you want to master something, teach it.”
~Yogi Bhajan

I usually aim to have the week’s article up on Wednesday, but yesterday I was doing recording for an online video tutorial website in the works. It’s not my project, but I helped contribute on sections covering DJ gear, cueing tracks and beatmatching. It was definitely challenging at moments but was certainly worthwhile and fun too. The experience got me thinking about how we learn by teaching.

The best test of whether or not you really understand a concept is trying to teach it to someone else. Teaching calls for complete understanding of the concept. – Richard Rusczyk

If you want to see where holes are in your knowledge or skills, show someone else how to do something step by step, or explain a concept bit by bit. If there’s somewhere that you aren’t really clear on, you’ll find out really quickly. Then, take the time to figure it out and learn your craft even better.

Look up Edgar Dale’s “Cone of Experience” and you’ll find that people retain less if they just read text, and people retain the most if they are teaching others, or having direct experience with that which they are trying to learn.

Teaching forces you to break down the components parts of a process. When a DJ has been playing for 10 years he doesn’t have to think about beatmatching, but if you ask him to explain it, it’s not as easy. We may get to the point where don’t have to think about performing a task anymore, but there will likely still be places where we can improve or learn whole new skills.

Also, when you are learning something new yourself, share it immediately with other people while you are learning it. This way you’ll you’ll learn them more solidly and quickly then if you kept it to yourself. Show someone how to use Ableton. Teach a younger friend how to beatmatch. You don’t have to be a pro to share. It’s probably more likely that you’ll become better through the process. Teach someone. You’ll learn it better yourself.

  • Who could you share some knowledge or skills with? (good karma too)
  • What could you show or explain to someone else?
  • Go do it.

Vital Visual Impact

As a part of the sub|division fam, a group of West-Coast music lovers pushing forward thinking sounds, we are celebrating our two year anniversary this month. 24 months packed with parties, mixes, tracks, and media coverage and the crew is still gaining momentum and further support. For sub|div, 2 years of content also means we’ve needed a lot of graphic work done. A lot. One undeniable aspect of this success is the consistently high quality branding work done by Carlin @ Cab Design. The identifiable logo, color schemes and fonts are a big part of the glue that holds the brand together (Monolithium being the other major ingredient in the adhesive mix!).

Silent Season is a BC based label that imparts a strong visual impact. Their website (perhaps my favorite ever) and every release feature high quality nature images including beautiful Vancouver Island forests. It feels like there photos they use for their website and releases are so much more than just images, they are an integral part of everything they do. It imparts their ethos.

Even if you are doing a free release, I believe it’s 100% worth it to commission some cover art. I’m speaking for myself here but I’m more likely to check out a track or mix if there’s quality cover art. Perhaps it shows that you value your work. High quality posters raise the pervieved value of events. Using great art that is somehow logically connected to each other creates a sense of consistency. Have you noticed in record stores or online that you can often tell what label a release is on before you read it?

I absolutely love Prison Garde’s no-nonsense approach to the visual element (as he also acts as a curator for Catalog Gallery).

On the topic of design. If you are booking me for a show, and the aesthetic for the print material resembles a psychedelic spirit / shaman disguised as a forest animal / has more than on fluo pantone on a primrary color/ has my name written in weed leaves, or any type of budda/shiva/lion of judah icons, I will not post the information about the show. Forgive me, but I place a great deal of importance on visual language, and do not wish to be lumped into things that I find aesthetically offensive.

With that being said, if you are booking me, and want a tight looking flyer, drop an extra 100 bucks on the booking, send me the copy, and let me handle it for you. I will make it pretty, promise.

If you look at Cabfree’s work for sub|division – your subconscious mind (see what I did there) already knows that it’s part of a body of work even before you consciously identify it.

  • Create an impression on your audience before they even listen.
  • Hire someone to do your graphic work (let a pro work for you!)
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency is key.

This post is not so much a “big up” to efforts of friends, but rather to highlight what is working. Consistent visual branding helps tremendously (thank you Carlin). Don’t miss a crucial aspect of music culture. Look good, on purpose.

A Quality Artist Page in Minutes

Having a home page for an artist is a necessity. You need to have somewhere you can send fans and potential fans to get a vibe for what you’re about, and have access to your music. It’s almost 2012 and I think only a percentage of producers and performers have this nailed. I was hoping tumblr would fill this need, but I find it more useful for updates and photos and perhaps not ideal as a hub for all your info. Facebook pages have become bland, uninteresting, and are not particularly customizable. Myspace is dead. If you still have an account delete it now. If you’re good with html or CSS etc., then you can build your own page with code, but not everyone knows tech, and I assume most artists would rather be making music then testing scripts. Enter

Not too long ago while browsing Twitter, I’d come across sub|division’s Eames’ page that he has linked in his bio. His page is pretty bare bones, but gives a quick idea about what he’s up to, his personal style, and most importantly – links your to his vital pages easily and cleanly. You may be thinking “Ugh, another thing to sign up for”, or “I don’t need any more social networking, thank you”, but there’s no real maintenance required and it really only takes a few minutes to get something looking good. It’s such a quick and easy process there’s really no reason not to set one up.

“Flavors allows you to create a gorgeous website in minutes, bringing together social media updates, photos, videos and more into a unified web presence.”

Part of the beauty of is that there is the option to load feeds from particular social media streams automatically (Facebook / Soundcloud / Twitter feeds, and so many more). This means that when you click on my Twitter button, my feed pops up right on the page! Same goes for even lesser known or used sites such as or Vimeo. You can have a feed load automatically when someone arrives. This integration seems smooth and uninterruptive.

A few notes:

  • Minor HTML is available, such as bold, italics and linking for your bio
  • You can upload your own background (and change where the text layout is accordingly)
  • There is no advertising or pop-ups. Your site is clean and without unnecessary tabs, bars, or other crap
  • In addition to social media streams, you can add any RSS feed as well
  • $20 a year gives access to advanced features, but they are not at all necessarily for a functional and eye-pleasing page
  • The upgrade allows for a custom URL, such as “” I believe (assuming your address is available)
  • You can also be sneaky and purchase a domain name yourself (often for less than $10 a year) and then route it to your flavors page.

Have a quick look at one I set up today:

Note: There are other sites that provide similar services such as I was actually going to write about it first before I came across flavors.  After using both, I found be a bit faster to set up and more intuitive, but certainly has more options and is highly customizable (though also blocks advanced features until you pay for an upgrade). It took me about 3 minutes to set up with and about an hour with get everything right (although you can do one with less time). You could try both for free though and see what works for you 🙂

Watch a quick 2 min video on it and go set one up!

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or would like help setting up a page: leave a comment below. Heck post your own 🙂