Five Lessons the Music Business Can Learn from Amazon: Guest Post

Kristina Wallender is head of marketing for Ticketfly, a technology platform that powers ticketing and digital marketing for venues and event promoters.

The live music industry has a reputation for unfriendly customer practices and resistance to change. Like so many other industries, it’s ripe for disruption by technology and new ways of thinking. is a company we might learn from as we evaluate new ways to grow the business and better serve our fans. Prior to joining Ticketfly as head of marketing, I spent six years inside Amazon, driving retail and advertising strategy. Below is a summary of the key lessons I learned, and how they might apply to the music business.

#1: Read your reviews
When Amazon first launched customer reviews, it was highly controversial. People believed negative reviews would lower product sales. However, CEO Jeff Bezos said “We don’t make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.” He was right –- 92% of Amazon shoppers read product reviews before making a purchase. While reviews help customers make purchase decisions, they also help vendors understand how their products are perceived and what customers wish they could change.

If you’re a talent buyer, you can find artist reviews on Amazon and iTunes. If you’re a venue or business with a physical location, you can get feedback from Yelp, Google Places, Bing Places and the recently launched reviews feature on Facebook. Read your reviews and listen to what customers are saying about you on social media. Then synthesize what you’ve learned to determine how you can change to better meet your customer needs. As Nic Adler, social media guru and owner of the Roxy in LA, says “Until you listen, you can’t make real change.”

#2: Use data to make decisions
Data is the foundation of customer obsession and the universal language at Amazon. Inside Amazon’s walls, it’s heretical to start a sentence with the words “I think.” Instead, sentences must begin with “The data shows that.” Amazon meticulously logs absolutely everything -- every search term, click, purchase and every share. There is literally nothing that you do on Amazon that is not being tracked and used to personalize your experience and make business decisions.

These days, the music industry has ever-increasing access to data about customers and their listening habits. Companies like Next Big Sound are making data available and visualizing it in interesting ways to illustrate artist trends. Google Analytics is an amazingly powerful free tool that provides insight about what your customers are looking for and how they find your website, Bandsintown sends personalized alerts when your favorite bands are playing nearby. How are you using data to understand your customers and personalize their experience?

#3: Encourage your super consumers
Although Amazon Prime was originally envisioned as a shipping club, it has evolved to be one of the most effective loyalty programs ever created. The price has remained $79 per year since launch, but the value keeps increasing as Amazon adds more benefits. It costs Amazon a lot more than $79 to deliver a year’s worth of packages in two days and give you free instant video and eBook borrowing. Although the short-term math tells Amazon not to do it, in the long run it pays off because once customers join Prime they purchase far more on Amazon than they would have otherwise. They become Amazon’s super consumers.

Live music has the power to inspire super consumers like the “Parrotheads” who made Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville the most lucrative song ever written and the Dave Matthews fans celebrating their 15th anniversary in the Warehouse fan club. For most promoters, the top 5% of their fans generate 20% of total ticket sales. Tools like Ticketfly’s Fanbase, a comprehensive customer analytics product, can be used to identify these top fans and reward them directly. Do you know who your top fans are? What are you doing to encourage them?

#4: Never stop experimenting is a petri dish of innovation. Every Amazon success once started out as an experiment. Prime, 1-Click, free 3G access on Kindle, delivery drones, these are all experiments. One thing I didn’t realize until I was an insider is that no two customers ever see the exact same content on In addition to personalized recommendations, Amazon is also testing content to determine drives the highest sales, a practice referred to as A/B testing.

Artists like Kanye West are running experiments of their own. Kanye is supporting his Yeezus tour with pop-up merchandise shops around the country selling everything from T-shirts to $500 jackets. The tour has had its ups and downs, but it will be interesting to see if the pop-up shop concept created additional revenue for him. For website owners, tools like Optimizely make it easy to run A/B tests on your content. Optimizely has proven that small things, like changing your buy button from grey to red, can result in huge sales increases. How are you experimenting in your business? What tools are you using to test and measure the results?

#5: Use technology to your advantage
One of my favorite quotes from Amazon is: “Don’t let humans do things technology can do better.” I managed North American Operations for the Movies category, and I was astounded by the automation in the procurement and fulfillment process. Amazon has sophisticated algorithms that price, purchase and receive products from vendors with minimal human involvement. Products are shipped to customers with robots that pick, pack, and ship in its fulfillment centers.

More technology is becoming available to make tasks easier for music marketers and promoters. Tools like Hootsuite consolidate social media conversations about your business so you can view and respond all in one place. Venues and promoters can use Ticketfly’s platform to power their website and marketing channels with a single workflow. What technologies might you use to free up time for you to focus on the strategic areas of your business? welcomes responsible commentary, submit all guest posts to


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