Originally posted at PlanetFierce.com. As first in a series of columns exploring Life with Adam Lambert in the 4C – Community, Creativity, the Cosmos, and Commercial Sluttery (with morals)

“What’s he trying to be?”

When I was your basic Madison Avenue Type New Yorker, if my first in-depth exposure to Adam Lambert had been at the Nokia that would have been my instant inner inquiry.

What’s he trying to be? Rocker? Broadway Star? Crooner? Sex God? Pop Male Brittany who can actually sing? Lord Ga-Ga?

Because I would have been operating from alleged savvy business perspective. Where everything and everyone wants to be A Brand.

Target, position, define, label. Box it up, analyze “The Market”, stamp it: “One Specific Thing”, round ‘em up, move ‘em out, sell, baby, sell!

All part of MadAve Me’s other singular assumption: Everybody Wants to Be a Really Big Star. That there is just One Goal: Making It. Meaning sell as many records – or now downloads – as possible to the pinpointed “target market”

And these would have been penetrating insights if Glam Nation had rolled into town in 1989. Or anytime before Steve Jobs said “Let there be iPod”.

But in 2010, not so much.

Here’s why: Technology.

Technology has changed everything. Including, as you shall see, how all marketers perceive and sell to their markets.

That shift, and the unlimited opportunities (and jeopardies) technology opens to entertainers makes another number as important as ranking on the charts – and that’s the number of emotionally-bonded, likely-to-be-longterm fans. You’ll soon see why.

Welcome to your Instant MBA

This MBA may not get you a job as a CEO, but could make you more informed than many of them.

It may also encourage you to agree with my humble opinions (HO’s) – or not, for isn’t Intelligent Discussion the Bedrock Beauty of PF?

HO #1: This is the only Positioning Statement Brand Adam ever needs:

    Adam Lambert: Expect the Unexpected. Excellence Guaranteed.

No genres. No limits. Target Market: People who are excited by excellence. Especially in their entertainment.

Thus when today’s “Hot Branded Something” is trying desperately to re-invent themselves as “Not Whatever They Used to Be” – (See Cyrus, Miley; Brothers, Jonas; and inevitably Perry, Katy and Ha,Ke$) – Adam will simply be expanding. Surprising and delivering excellence. As always.

On whatever new-fangled platform the future may bring. And the fangles will be many.

Pixel Pounding

Technology has revolutionized – and decimated – both Advertising and the Recording Industry. And movies, magazines, books, television, newspapers.

The old model of Big Companies controlling the physical creation and physical distribution of physical, finite products is the S.S. Dial Telephone and the iceberg has rammed. Sinking entire industries into a “ContenTainment” blur.

And this is just the beginning – the Stone Age of the Information Age. Dinosaurs of Music Industry and Radio are still roaming the Earth.

No one’s quite sure how long re-arranging the deck chairs of “Catchy Singles” will last. But in 1999, U.S. music sales and licensing was $14.6 billion. Last year, going 10 for 10 in the decade, the figure was $6.3 billion. Not a sustainable trend

And casualties aren’t confined to “old media” either.

Example: Ringtones. Literally, unheard of before this century, the market peaked in 2007 at $880 million. Down another 15% in 2009. Yes, money’s still being made, but ringtones are on their way to 8-track land. Why? Technology. Phones can store whole songs as ringtones. People can make their own.

In five years, people on the farthest reaches of the globe could be carrying around a “mobile” with enough computer power to run Cleveland. “U B DJ VII” could let you remix every track you’ve ever owned, switching in vocals simulating every star of the past century.

So in the face of the unforeseeable, while still being required to play the Old School Making It Game, what’s a golden talent hankering for a Sir Paul kind of longevity to do?

If I were a Business Genie (insert your own lamp-rubbing joke here) and could both grant Adam some wishes and make some HO wishes for him, here is where I’d start:

1) Own Your Customers
2) Listen to Your Heart
3) Put Every Dime into Your F-U Freedom Fund

Here’s why:

F-U Fund First

Technology is uncontrollable. The needs of a big, obsoleting corporation are basically: Survive.

RCA may be a wondrous label, run by outstanding people. But technology is as unstoppable as the demands of stock analysts on quarterly reports.

The interests of a corporation strip-mining for life support may, with no warning, not always align with their artists. (Or recently-fired employees.)

Plus Old School power structure can repeatedly ignore technologically created new opportunities, leaving huge stacks of money on the techno table.

Prudence demands ready access to an FU-4-FU’ing Me, walk-away-from-the-death-throes fund. So that at any instant, the same technology decimating big business can phoenix self-controlled Lambert Studios into action. Five friends and eight iMacMondo’s you’re in action.

Especially if you’ve managed Wish #1: Own Your Customers

Instant MBA Core Knowledge: Bonding is the new Branding.

This is not an HO. This is basic biz today.

Known because cheap, desktop technology allowed “target market” demo number crunchers to uncover the reality of sales.

Reality: A tiny fraction of customers drive the vast majority of sales for every product and service offered anywhere. And make or break your profit margin.

These essential customers have cutsey proprietary names in new business pitches, where agencies promise: “We’ll Get You Some”. Like Influencers. Or the Golden Geese.

They may be 2-15% of your customer base. But they drive 80-95% of your sales.

Drive. Not necessarily personally purchase.

The Golden Customers, with whom you must deeply, completely, thoroughly relate are the ones who love you the most.


For one, people who buy a lot – “Heavy users” in Branding hey-day – with no emotional commitment will dump you the minute something cheaper, shinier or more interesting comes along.

But more importantly, because loyal and emotionally-bonded customers generate Word-of-Mouth (WOM). And WOM=sustainable long-term sales. And your profit margin.

Glam Nation Needed No Ad Budget

Advertising is expensive. More and more so all the time. And doesn’t always generate interest or purchase. (Example: any low-turnout/canceled tour)

Word-of-Mouth is not expensive, often having that very good price: Free! And works. Every time. There’s your profit. For every service and product sold anywhere.

And while PR – or good reviews – are excellent WOM generators, loyal and emotionally-bonded customers are non-stop Excited Experts who proselytize. They recruit new users with enthusiasm and documented proof of your product’s quality. People get a tip, they’re intrigued, they’ll sample.

If the product delivers, those new recruits will buy again. And are on their way to the Golden Bonded Moment of WOM-ing, too.

The goal of every profit-oriented business is to maintain and deepen relationship with their customers – new samplers and loyal stand-bys alike – so that a sufficient number will become sufficiently bonded to maintain sufficient Word-of-Mouth to sustain sales.

Short version:

    No passion, no profit.

And remember, heavy purchase does not equal passion. Kesha, Rihanna, and Jordin Sparks all sell singles. Concert tickets, not so easy. Plus, passion-wise, what is there about those artists to create bonding? Or even make them unique and irreplaceable over the long-term?

IMHO, longevity in the ever-changing, techno-advancing, ContenTainment future – artistically, creatively, and financially – belongs to entertainers who have loyal, bonded, instantly reachable customers who are eager to spend for their favorites’ unique, high-quality product.

Who will legally purchase new Creative Expression from their trusted and revered source early and often – plus recruit other experimenters – for years to come. NO MATTER WHAT PLATFORM TECHNOLOGY CREATES.

In other words: We are Adam’s Future.

We’re his Ace-in-the-Hole, Future-Insuring, Golden Assets.

With enough loyal customers, and cheap-enough technology-based distribution, a versatile and talented artist can create entirely new categories of Entertainment.

Which is why every one of us charge-card-wielding, highly-discerning, ain’t going nowhere stans is Freedom on Legs for Mr. Lambert.

We make him able to leap technological platforms with a single bound. We make him able to risk creatively. We guarantee WOM. We are a solid layer of new model money – whatever that model may be. No matter how many times it changes.

Bond us, Mr. Lambert, bond.

You have already benefitted from TV’s biggest WOM maker – American Idol. Which allowed us to meet you. But it’s your uniqueness that made the bond.

Build on that.

Solidify your rock-hard foundation of Freedom of Expression and Longevity in the unknowable technological future by instituting new, innovative, interactive and emotionally-bonding ways to exploit your devoted and diverse fans. (Insert “Til you’re screaming my name” jokes here.)

And give us interesting and creative ways to recruit new assets.

Legally Possess Now & Always

And when I wished “Own your customers” I meant that not just emotionally, but literally. Legally.

Equally important as relating to Radio – IMHO possibly more so – is Adam setting up first-class mechanisms through his own Lambertarian Enterprises LLC, to relate on his own, outside the legal entanglements of the system, to his essential golden assets: his fans. (And we’ll discuss possibilities in future columns.)

He must not sign away any post-contract techno-relating with his fanbase. And he may have already lost rights to the AO email list. Twitter follower status unknown.

But Twitter could die next year. And something new appear next month.

Pioneer new categories and ways of fan relationship, Mr. Lambert. Understand this is as important an area as album and concert creation. And demands the same level of newness and excitement.

Forget what the industry thinks fans are. Ignore bullet points. Shatter templates. Run from repeats that “worked” for so-and-so.

You – and your fans alike – are a category of one.

Adam Lambert fans want different, exciting, social change oriented, creatively inspiring interaction.

Pioneer this field. And don’t let 19, Sony, or RCA own any of it.

Because for an individual artist, on a global basis, it doesn’t take many customers to sustain a long, excitingly creative career. That no amount of “latest big thing” ContenTainment buzzery can change.

You do the math.

Broad current numbers: labels today take 60+% off the top of record sales. Plus the artist’s sliver to cover costs and advance until recoupment. (Q3 is the expert in this label/artist split stuff, but here’s an article if you’re interested:

Compare this to techno possibilities of artist-owned product and distribution base.
Quick example using today’s technology:

Imagine 200K global customers happily spending 50 bucks a year for high-quality Adam Lambert Live performance, be that PPV, day-after-concert downloads, mid and end of tour DVD’s, anything.

200K x $50 =$10 million. Annually. Finagle customers/sales/productions costs any direction – plenty of room to play. Including produce only 10 amazing-razzle-dazzle-whatever you please extravaganza tour shows a year.

Though Adam may not be touring. He may be in movies. Making EP’s or video poetry readings as he pleases on the side.

Anytime Adam invents something new – say it’s a mobile phone episode concert series, or musical soap opera for that matter – he puts it in the pipeline. Loyal fans buy. They WOM to others.

Plus the more fascinatingly creative he is, the more likely he is to get PR across the ContenTainment 24/7 need for content.

Heart Knowledge Means Freedom

Money, fame, and fortune buy a lot of things. Freedom is not always among them.

Adam has said, repeatedly – including the morning after the finale – that the excitement for him about winning Idol runner-up was a chance to [i]create[/i].

He wants to create and – thank you, Libra Rising – collaborate. Much as he loves music, he will not be content for long – thank you, Moon in Aries – with just one creative outlet.

If he wants to be a Big Global Pop Star, go for it. If RCA can make everything happen for him, using his fanbase and ability to pioneer platforms for a mutual Giant Star Forever career, fabulous.

But death rattling companies need vehicles of change.

Adam’s label may know Adam’s one of their best hopes for riding into the future. And will make it worth his while.

Adam needs to know way down inside, how much he wants To Be Big, and how much he wants to be Free. The list of “Used To Be Big” is Long. The list of Creatively Free, shorter.

If he knows his heart, his main jobs are: 1) Continually invent new excellence. 2) Make sure his innovative people are continually inventing meaningful, creative ways to maintain his golden asset fanbase at whatever number works for his goals.

Be that 50,000, two million, five million, ten thousand. (10K x $200 in purchases a year = $2 million. Sideline. While he directs his first movie. Or whatever they’re called then…)

May it be whatever number brings him the greatest freedom of creativity and the greatest happiness of heart.

And may all his wishes come true. Especially his most golden ones.