The Jim Morrison Guide to
Strategic Content Promotion

Jim Morrison

In 1966, The Doors were trying to make it to the pinnacle of the Los Angeles music scene by scoring a regular gig at the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood. At the time, playing the Whisky was the LA way to land a record contract.

But you didn’t just waltz in and play the Whisky. You had to work your way up to it.

In the short film The Doors in LA, guitarist Robbie Krieger tells how Morrison and the band landed a regular gig at the London Fog. The Fog was lower on the nightclub food chain, but strategically close to the Whisky on Sunset.

Krieger says they convinced friends from UCLA and throughout the LA underground music scene to come to the audition show at the London Fog. Naturally, it was important to show management that The Doors could pull a crowd.

Turns out, all these friends did show up. The place was packed, the crowd was knocking back drinks left and right, and the show was a raucous success. Needless to say, The Doors got the gig as the house band for the London Fog.

But there was one problem.

The next show, the place was empty. After all, it’s a bit hard to convince your friends to come to every show, especially when they can hang with the band in less formal settings.

Luckily, the London Fog management was patient, and The Doors did pull in crowds night after night once word got around. And they eventually made the move to the Whisky, where the band landed a record deal just 3 days before being fired for performing an Oedipal tale called The End.

Jim Morrison and The Doors have hugely influenced fans and musicians alike over the last 40 years. They’ve sold over 76 million albums worldwide, and continue to move over 1 million albums a year. But they still needed a little help from their friends to get rolling.

So, let’s step back and think about this in the context of social media.

  • Did The Doors act unethically to land the London Fog gig, or was it just smart promotion?
  • The Doors created some of the most exceptional “content” around, and yet some in social media would label them “spammy” because they asked friends to “vote” for them. Do you agree?
  • If your answer to the last question is yes, are you ok with spending the time to create truly exceptional content while simply hoping that everyone “organically” discovers it?

Discuss. :-)

About the Author: Brian Clark is the founding editor of Copyblogger, and co-founder of Teaching Sells.

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  1. It depends on who you ask Brian. Some people will tell you that anyone who “markets” or does self promotion in a social media setting is a raging jerk who should be unfollowed and beaten.

    Others will tell you that everything is self promotion in that world.

    The difference I believe is how you go about promoting. You’re either the “digg me” guy who’s in it to blatantly market, or you’re doing your marketing more subtly by creating content and conversations and making friends.

    • The Doors have been a great part of my musical influence, Robbie’s style of flamenco and blues is just amazing one for which I have adapted to my own style. Enough on that.

      Jim you bring up a great point and even two years later it hasn’t changed one bit. Their are the “Just get traffic and sell” & then there are the contribute build a following and “Sell”. I have seen some “followers” get pretty abused while others just go about their business and only listen to what they want to hear.

  2. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!

    Everyone needs help at the beginning of a project. Friends are more likely to support you if you have been supportive of others in the past, and if your motivations are thought to be good. One man’s spam is another man’s useful information. If you at least show some consideration and discrimination in how you build your business – be seen to act ethically, not necessarily ‘holier than thou’ – you can’t go too far wrong in my opinion.

  3. I don’t think it is spammy at all to do that. Especially when you are starting out you need to be a little “dirty” to get noticed.

    I am currently riding the “I hope people find me chain,” and that has been teaching me to become a lot more aggressive. So things are changing.

    I think everybody for the most part uses what you could consider spammy techniques to get noticed and then the real content value takes over and people figure out what could be spammy promotion is actually great content.

  4. Excellent contemplation of that thin line Brian!

    The differences that occur to me, are these;

    -It was very much the culture of the 60′s, 70′ and 80′s (and perhaps still), for young bands to do this.

    It was cool.

    -But most importantly, (and as it relates to SM today), the ‘friends’ had seen the hardworking quality already. They were ‘with them’ so to speak.

    The band Chicago, (the original 1968, not today’s wussy pop act), played the Whiskey-a go-go too.
    They asked friends and fans to talk to the owners to get them a weekend gig.

    Jimi Hendrix walked in incognito to check out the young talent. He heard the late great Terry Kath
    do an 8 minute solo on Steve Winwood’s ‘I’m a man’.

    Despite Hendrix’ Muhammed Ali-like ego, he remarked to Walt Parazaider, the woodwind player,
    “your guitarist is better than me!”
    He took these unknowns on a world tour the next day.

    If you got the chops, ask for the voices.
    The market will vote you up or down anyway.

  5. Good point Brian. I really don’t have the amount of friends that it would take to help my blog gain traction. So it is really up to me to do what I can.

    Is it unethical? I don’t think so. You know I think everybody does what they can to help themselves become successful. The line in the sand that can’t be crossed is: When it has to do with taking money under false pretences. That is unethical and stealing. Promotion is a weird business to start with….no matter how it is done.

    The Masked Millionaire
    http://www.TheMaskedMillionaire.com

  6. Succinctly put Brian, although many would argue that what truly “spammy” sites do is try to get votes without having the exceptional content to back it up.
    Although to carry through your analogy, does that mean that scrapers are actually “cover bands?”

  7. I agree with pretty much everyone above. Friends are great for helping you get started, the problem is when you rely on them too much for content promotion. The Doors didn’t have their friends come for every single show, but that first wildly successful show definitely helped get them noticed.

  8. The idfference is his “friends” were actually his friends in the real world and not the virtual world. Asking your 1000 “friends” you might have on Facebook to all click on your google ad or your 33,000 RSS subscribers to help you by clicking on a link somewhere is very different. Morrison’s friends were real.

  9. Exactly the question that came to my mind when reading ‘Secrets of Shameless Self-Promoters’.

    I think I would rather create quality content. Promotion will be my second priority.

  10. Discuss I shall.

    I don’t think what they did was unethical or wrong. It was business. They did what they needed to do, and it was a strategic maneuver of leverage. They used their friends to help convey that they *were* good and *were* deserving of higher recognition.

    Sometimes, getting a break means playing dirty.

    That said, my own methods of gaining noteriety – while not so dirty – are still sneaky. There’s always a plan going on in the back of my mind, and there are ethical, honest ways of leveraging your way upwards.

    Would I ask friends to vote me up? I have. Twice in my life. I feel extremely uncomfortable asking people to be dishonest about how they feel just for my own fame and glory. If people find my content organically and like it, then I feel I’ve earned my fame and done it the right way.

    On the other hand, I’m not averse to taking advantage of the opportunity when someone mentions, “Wow, that was a great post.”

    “Yeah? A Stumble sure would help back up that compliment.” ;)

  11. WhereITHasNoNames :

    Are you saying it is OK to digg your own content?

    How many here digg their own articles? Or Vote for their stuff?

  12. How many here digg their own articles? Or Vote for their stuff?

    Digging your own articles isn’t very effective, which is why you need friends. As for voting, why not? If you don’t think your content is any good, why would anyone else?

  13. As for voting, why not? If you don’t think your content is any good, why would anyone else?

    But by creating the content in the first place, you’re already taking the attitude that your content is good enough…

    Hm. Unless you’re one of *THOSE* content creators…

    I stand corrected.

  14. I’m an artist just starting out – though I’ve been in graphics and marketing for the past 15 years. I’ve been on Facebook asking my friends to check out my website and to join my new mailing list.

    I actually don’t see it as Spammy at all. When we develop useful information into an article, with our own spin, or create a painting like I do, it’s meant to be shared. What on earth is unethical about getting your friends interested in what you have to share?

    I have friends in local bands. They still do what the Doors did back then and it’s always a blast.

  15. But by creating the content in the first place, you’re already taking the attitude that your content is good enough…

    Hm. Unless you’re one of *THOSE* content creators…

    Haha… James, I’ve never seen an author’s personal vote become the tipping point for a piece of content. But if you’re a member of a social media community, I don’t see an issue with giving your own content the thumbs up.

  16. Everything is a product, and everyone is a marketer.

    Asking friends to vouch for you isn’t really ‘spammy’. Doesn’t every job interview/housing application ask you to provide references (i.e. a friend to vote for you)?

    Limp Bizkit got their foot in the door by paying a station $10,000 to play their track. The ‘Head-On’ commercials count on being annoying and omnipresent. Shameless – yes. Effective – don’t even try to argue against it.

    By the way, I am not a fan of Limp Bizkit OR Head-On – all the more reason to use them as examples.

  17. Raja Sekharan :

    It’s not spammy at all to do that. Sometimes it takes a crowd to pull a crowd. The audience to which the content is intended may not dig that deep and it will be up to you to dig your way up.

  18. Every time someone comments on your blog or another they are hoping to get noticed by the other readers, right? You prefaced this request on Twitter. But if the person contributes something of value in doing so, are they spamming? Just because there is a secondary benefit from participation does it make it wrong? You are wondering if it’s obvious it’s the primary purpose of the exchange, does it make it wrong? It’s the opinion of the receiver that matters, right?

    Secondly, good friendships are based on giving, most often without expectation of return, yet the return usually comes in abundance.

    My policy has always been to give first and often…I know I will get back in some fashion when I least expect it yet everyone has a 100% win…but I don’t give with the expectation I will get back or have a check list of who did what, when, and how.

    So, I don’t know if I added value to this conversation but I hope I did.

  19. You have to self-promote at some level if you’re looking for some kind of recognition. Now, blatant spamming over and over with stuff you’re not interested in gets pretty annoying.

    Example – I write about technology stuff and I had a new twitter friend slammin’ recipes at me everyday. Once a week would be ok, maybe, or once every other day at most, but 2-3 recipes per day didn’t settle well – Unfriended. Sorry.

  20. If your content sucks, having your friends support it is spammy. If your content is excellent, mustering the support of your friends & community is just smart. The tricky part is having the self-knowledge to know which is which.

    In other words, you can do it if you’re The Doors, but if you’re Donovan you should think carefully. :)

    Also, as Bill S. mentioned, how often you hit people up is a factor. I’ve unfollowed some folks because they forgot that their content (including twitters) needs to be, on balance, beneficial to their readers. But even there, quality is still the deciding factor for me. Back when I thought @SethGodin on Twitter was actually SG, it did not bother me in the slightest that he only tweeted SG posts–I just saw it as a useful pointer to material that I wanted to see.

  21. On the web, getting discovered works better than telling people how great you are. i.e. word of mouth beats self-promotion.

    A band is a little different. Crazy, packed crowds often lead to better performances. So there’s a tangible effect of having more people at your show. Big crowd = better music = greater likelihood of getting a record deal.

  22. Provided the underlying content/media is valuable, a truly subjective measure I know, then I don’t think its spammy. Not everyone has the relationships or the financial budget to launch something and get the coverage they need to see their creation take off. Either you have capital or you have relationships – good luck if you lack both! Asking your friends to help (provided they value what you do doing) to promote is ok in the early stages.

    Techcrunch is a good example of this – it confers a lot of clout to startups that get on – but once there, it’s the value of the startup that ultimately determines its uptake. With respect to blogs, there’s also a difference. It is a good give and take. You offer your knowledge and thoughts, contribute to the conversation, and if you are a so called social media marketer, you seek out 2nd order effects.

  23. “Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.” — Robert Stephens of Geek Squad

  24. Not spammy… just today’s reality. If you’re creating something informational, helpful, or entertaining, and you’re offering it up to people free of charge, it seems fair to ask them for a simple vote in exchange for whatever it is they got out of the transaction.

  25. The nice thing about the fact that they were able to fill it once with lots of people is the fact that they had that kind of network. Look, I’ve got lots and lots of friends, but they aren’t necessarily interested in the creative work that I do. If I told all my friends to come out to a reading, I don’t think I could pack the house. It says something to the management that they know people who think it’s fun to watch them and it also showed the management something that everyone was having a really good time.

  26. You do what you gotta do – hopefully with some sense of decorum and taste.

    Wayne Dyer tells a great story about how he created the demand for his first book by calling bookstores and asking for his own book in different accents. He bought up the first printing from the publisher, stuck ‘em in a van, and sold them across the country, plugging them on radio shows – offering great content on said shows -not even mentioning the book so much.

  27. word of mouth has to start somewhere. Sure it would be nice to have it start with pleased customers. And that should be incorporated into the strategies.

    But word of mouth can also come from people who truly think the world needs to know about you. There’s nothing wrong with their help so long as: 1. they really believe the world needs you, and 2. they’re really your friends.

  28. Jim Morrison is a God. He is exempt from questions of ethics. :-)

    Nice point though.

  29. Honestly, I think the social media sites have created the impression that to vote your own content is spam. Actually, if not mistaken, some have taken the position that if you do, they will ban you. But so what? As Brian says, I vote ain’t gonna cut it. It is simply you putting your stuff out there IMHO. :-)

  30. I think content is everything in every way…..bet on good content and you´ll succeed

  31. Yeah, Tom, You tell ‘em. I digg my stuff, ’cause I’m not going to wait for someone to tell me I’m special. I AM!
    I like your blog Brian.

  32. I’m with Tom.

    I concentrate on writing stuff that answers a question – so by definition it’s intended to be beneficial to people in my niche.

    Once I’ve posted it I give it a Digg, just so that people know it’s there. Sometimes they like it and sometimes they don’t – but that’s life.

    Giving my own articles a Digg to get them started is a) a question of taking control of my business, rather than waiting for someone else to and b) making sure I don’t deprive people of the incredible benefits they’ll get from reading my article!

    Cheers,

    Martin.

  33. IOWNIE, I’m unclear about the differences between Jim Morrison’s real friends and somebody else’s online friends. Are you asserting that because Morrison was in the same physical location as his friends, that makes them legitimate, whereas online friends are not legit?

    I know why you say that, but it’s not clear to me that’s a valid line any more. I “know” lots of people at work, some I might even call friends, but to me, they’re not more “real” than some people I’ve known online for years. Quite the reverse – some of the online friends, I know much better than many of my co-workers.

  34. It is natural, acceptable and unavoidable to bring in your own personal mass of social power to launch a media vehicle. It is disingenuous to say that it should or can be done in isolation

  35. Leo F. Swiontek :

    I don’t think it’s wrong to use help of friends for self promotion.also why it’s spammy if friends support is taken.Usually people needs help in many stages & whatz up if it’s for self development.But this sort of self promotion should have some limits and one should not keep it in practice forever.

  36. Bugger… Life is so much easier when its comfortably in black and white… Now you go and throw in a couple shades of grey!! Heh heh..
    It’s a tough one though. If you have something worthwhile to offer then any way you find to get it out there might be acceptable, but then again thats like saying ‘the end justifies the means’, and is that the kind of moral standing any of us want to promote?
    At the same time, sticking with the ‘Doors’ analogy, they used somewhat dubious methods to draw attention, but they would never have made it further than that had they not brought the goods… their aim was to get a Whisky gig and, ultimately, a record deal.. It wasn’t their friends in the long run that got them there, it was damn good content!

  37. I’ve been through this with a band. When you’re starting out most venue owners don’t care how good you are – they just want paying punters.

    One Battle of the Bands, after the gig the other bands were singing a couple of our songs because they were
    so catchy. Unfortunately for us we had fewer friends so we didn’t win. That’s the way it goes.

    Now I know record companies and venue owners are looking for social proof and “buzz” and talent comes way behind. Give them what they want, I say.

    I wouldn’t use these dubious methods online but in the music business they are what make or break you.

  38. It was smart promotion! You have to do what it takes to create a buzz. Maintaining it is the hard part. I’m in the music business working with independent musicians using the DIY (do-it-yourself) approach and having all these free social networks available to help them create a buzz is so important today. Now it still boils down to talent but it doesn’t hurt to have a ton of friends and fans follow you on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The Doors did it right back then but could you imagine how big they would have been today with online networking before a label deal?

  39. This totally makes sense, because nothing attracts others like success.
    I think it’s even more true in 2008 — most people just don’t have time to investigate an unknown band or an unknown blog unless there’s a real good reason. But when there’s a crowd inside the club, they suddenly become more receptive — hmmm, this must be good… look at all these people.
    You have to bring your own audience with you… they are “your references” (to refer to an earlier comment here).
    That’s why it’s MUCH easier to go from 400 to 600 people reading your blog per day than to go from 4 to 6 people reading your blog per day.

    http://spiddlement.wordpress.com

  40. Brian,

    In some industries this is called shilling: asking someone to vouch for (vote for, purchase, etc.) something of yours because of a relationship with you, not becuase they like the product, service, blog, whatever.

    I think

    (a) voting for yourself can’t be shilling (and shouldn’t be considered spam) because there’s no presumption of being a neutral party–as long as you haven’t invented five fake email addresses to go vote for yourself anonymously; and

    (b) Morrison wasn’t asking people to put in a vote for something because they liked him but had no interest in his work, he was asking them to show up, to put in a vote for something they all did like (his work), just to remember to show up all on the same night to make a large statement. No problem there. Why hide the light under a bushel basket?

    Asking folks to Stumble you just ’cause they know you, a bit dicey. Asking folks to read your blog ’cause they know you, then decide for themselves if they like what you say enough to Stumble, fine. Same with asking politely about a Stumble if somebody’s expressed admiration of a post.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  41. OK I’ll bite on your metaphor and chew for a second.

    While the method of promoting themselves may have been somewhat “grey hat”, the Doors already had excellent content in the form of a solid band, excellent songs, and a good playlist.

    I would liken this more to a Slate employee being spammy on a few sites to promote Slate, for example, then some SEO guy with yuck content spamming sites to come visit his most wonderful directory site of everything goodness.

    Good argument, very thought provoking.

    I heart your blog.

    –Angela