The Dixie Chicks – a Hard Lesson in Target Marketing

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I fully expect this post to draw the ire of those who passionately defend that what the Dixie Chicks did was a treasonous act. Let me just state that I intend to use this example to illustrate a point, and that point has nothing to do with politics. How’s that for a disclaimer?

Over the last three years the Dixie Chicks have narrowed their target market and all signs point to a more positive business and working environment for the band.

The band built a large following by pumping out chart style country hits and showing up a state fairs working their good looks for all it was worth. Then they dropped the bomb. A comment by their lead singer made at precisely the wrong time in precisely the wrong place, sent a portion of their fan base running for cover. It became fashionable to bash the band on the same country music stations that played their hits.

Signs of a change were in the air well before that infamous concert overseas. Prior to the incident in the UK, the band had signed with a new record label and was starting to change the way they performed and recorded music – a change that was more about their talent than album sales.

Okay, enough with the background, here’s the real marketing lesson that I’m getting at.

The Dixie Chicks narrowed their target market and are now making the music they’ve wanted to make all along. Too many businesses get caught up in the chase of going after the money, the big account, without stopping to focus only on clients that value what you bring to the table, that push you to do your best work, that view your work with them as a business partnership.

I wouldn’t recommend the path that the Dixie Chicks took in order to find their ideal target market or remake their brand, but in listening to recent interviews and judging from the sales of their latest album, I believe they may have arrived where they needed to go with an ideal client (fan).

I’m not suggesting that you throw your client base, the ones that got you to this point, overboard, but I am suggesting that you develop a picture of your ideal client and go about attracting them and only them to your business. That may involve taking a good hard look at your current clients and asking yourself some pretty tough questions about where you are headed.

Life is too short to feel trapped, to dread going to work, to have clients that suck the life right out of you. There are so many incredible people and businesses out there waiting to find and experience your unique talent. Find them, push them, help them, be true to yourself and don’t look back.


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  1. Excellent advice, John. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Working with ideal clients allows you not only to do your best work but to love every minute of it. And being true to yourself, being fully self-expressed is the best way to attract your ideal clients.

    When you’re fully self-expressed you’re rarely neutral – people will love you or they’ll hate you, but you’ll be doing the work you love for those you’re meant to serve. It may feel safer to water down your message to appeal to anyone and everyone but being true to yourself and to those you’re meant to serve is worth stepping out of your comfort zone.

  2. This is a fascinating way to exemplify the issue of narrowing a target market. Creative example!

    One of the things that I think is relevant about the example you chose is sometimes there can be growing pains associated with narrowing one’s market. Obviously, the Dixie Chicks had huge growing pains, but for your average business, the tide of change can be stressful to ride.

    Several months ago we greatly narrowed our target market(s). Our business had previously been booming–in fact, TOO booming–it was stressful and we had no lives. So we chose to focus on attracting the sort of clients we work with best and enjoy the most. In doing so, the amount of inquiries we receive has significantly decreased (there’s the stressful part) yet the quality of the ones we do receive is better, and the projects we take on are more profitable than our time of taking on all kinds of hodge podge.

    It still hurts sometimes. When the inquiries are not coming in in a steady flow, I worry, but I remind myself the markets we’ve targeted bring us fulfilling, profitable and highly exposed work.

    Thank you for posting this. It was a fresh way to start my Monday 🙂

  3. The Dixie Chicks are an interesting example. While you may be correct about connecting to their ideal target market and making the music they want to, but from a business/marketing perspective I believe this has been a total fiasco.
    <br><br>
    While album sales are through the roof, ticket sales for their US tour are poor enough that they are cancelling over half their dates and doing shows in Europe and Australia. I don’t know what the Chicks have for a record deal, but typically live shows bring in much more revenue to the artists than album sales do. They have limited their own revenue potential with their attitudes.
    <br><br>
    Conversely, the music industry is notoriously fickle. It’s difficult to stay on top for any significant length of time. While the Chicks may have alienated some of their audience with their shennanigans they have also managed to keep themselves in the spotlight.
    <br><br>
    I find it difficult to believe that two of the most talented female bluegrass musicians in the world have an ‘ideal client base’ that would purchase a rock oriented album produced by a very commercial producer. It seems much more likely this is a last ditch attempt to salvage careers that were nearly destroyed by a bad PR incident. Fortunately for them it appears to be working out.

  4. Very impressive comeback.

    Of course let’s not forget one of the finest albums to come along in a long time by three of musics most talented artists.

    I’ve been a long time gone now
    Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down
    But I’ve always found my way somehow

    By takin’ the long way
    Takin’ the long way around

  5. Only in the bizzaro world of the dixie chicks and their fans is success measured in losses instead of gains. I am willing to bet had your words or your actions caused your company to lose 1/3 to 1/2 of its business, they wouldnt be championing it as a success. No, in fact I know they wouldnt. To say otherwise is merely “spin”. The chicks rode the country money pony until Natalies mouth broke its back. Now they want to claim it was in their intention all along. Total BS. Had they not aliented half their fans with their constant bashing of others, you most definately would see them continue to pander to that culture. If you believe otherwise, you are a ill informed lemming.

  6. Jeni – The Lemming Sisters are another musical topic all together.

    We all at one time or another pander – heck, choosing an obviously hot and emotional topic as my example for this post probably makes me guilty of that.

    I’ve not said the Dixie Chicks plan was anything intentional, maybe though it was inevitable.

    What’s interesting to note is the result. That’s the point of the example. Why is their new album selling so well? Could they have continued on the path they were on and still beleived they were doing what they were meant to do?

    This post was not meant to support or bash their actions, it’s not a fan’s point of view, it’s simply an observation and illustration of a marketing principle.

    Read the last line of the post and forget the rest if you think it’s “Total BS”

    “Life is too short to feel trapped, to dread going to work, to have clients that suck the life right out of you. There are so many incredible people and businesses out there waiting to find and experience your unique talent. Find them, push them, help them, be true to yourself and don’t look back.”

  7. The Dixie Chicks targeted market is definately of interest.
    One comment made referred to their loss in revenue due to expressing their believes.

    Money is not everything, sometimes getting the message out is more important.

  8. The Dixie Chicks put a whopping share of their future earnings on the line simply to express their heartfelt beliefs. I wish our industry had more people with their integrity.

  9. Nope your wrong Jeni. Your completely out of the loop and uniformed. The tour is on and yes they have made modifications here and there but in fact ticket sales are starting to go very well.

    Now that is called FLEXIBILITY and staying power.

    They will succeed Jeni.

    Much to the heartache of those that want them to fail.

  10. You are a liar Steve. I have countless links to back up my claims. Shall I post them? Can you say the same? No, you cant, so stop wasting everyones time.

  11. You can back your claims with all the so called “facts” you want Jen but that does not change the FACT that the Chicks have gone beyond Platinum and are Number two on the Billboard Charts for the 4th week in a row and most shows are rapidly selling now with many approaching sold out status.

    Your completely out of touch with what is going on and spewing HOT AIR with already obsolete data.

    The effort to Blackball the Chicks has failed and there is nothing you can do to change that.

    The Chicks made it clear they didn’t want to risk their future pandering to so called fans who turned around and stabbed them in the back overnight.

    And I do not blame them ONE BIT.

  12. “Why is their new album selling so well”

    Answer: Music industry analysts say the debut success of the Dixie Chicks new album has much to do with heavy media attention and a prevailing anti-Bush sentiment by people who bought the CD, but don’t necessarily enjoy the music.

    Source: http://www.cjournal.com/columns/local_story_159122322.html

    They prosituted their art for the sake of retribution. Turns out that their new “cooler” fans, as they like to refer to them, find them worthy of a $10 cd, but not the $65 per concert ticket.

    This is GREAT news for their label, as the chicks contract specifically states that they must pay back all promtional costs before getting their 20% royalties. Bad news for the chicks as they make their money from concert sales. And seeing as they have already had to cancel *ahem* “postpone” half of their tour here in the sates due to poor sales, Id say their marketing strategy failed miserably, unless you consider losing an estimated $20 million, a success.

    Maybe biting off your nose to spite your face is indeed a marketing principle, however I disgree that it was a “good” one.

  13. They had a huge opening week due to the controversy surrounding them and their ‘we don’t need them’ backturning on country music fans. And since then, their sales have been falling like a 10-ton rock, and they are indeed having trouble with their tour.

    Hope they spend their money well, because their careers are likely over after this album.

  14. The Dixie Chicks are selling millions of cd’s and are still one of the best bands performing world-wide.

    They are in a league of their own now with The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, what have you.

    And how many of you cynics have given the Album a SERIOUS uninterrupted listen from start to finish?

    Never mind. You don’t need to answer that probably ZERO. That seems to be quite common.

    It would probably irk you even more that the Album spills over with excellence and there is not one FLAW in the whole performance.

  15. I Quote “Life is too short to feel trapped, to dread going to work, to have clients that suck the life right out of you. There are so many incredible people and businesses out there waiting to find and experience your unique talent. Find them, push them, help them, be true to yourself and don’t look back”

    Amen to that… Couldnt agree more!!

  16. In case you haven’t noticed. The Chicks have been receiving 10 Minute standing ovations before the show is even half way over.

    Averaging 10,000 to 12,000 people a show since opening night at the Joe on July 21.

    Those of you in Marketing need to take a close look at how The Chicks marketing team is over coming the barriers and obstacle they are up against.

    You might learn something. Otherwise you may become “obsolete”.

  17. I think John is correct that it was a marketing decision. Good or bad they made a choice to leave thier fan base. My feelings is there is hypocrocy on both sides.
    Those who didn’t like them are listening to them to support what they said while others who enjoyed their music are dumping them like yesterday’s trash.
    I believe if you enjoy their music and find them entertaining then go see them and buy their CD’s.
    If not then ignore them and move on.
    “Life is too short to feel trapped in listening to someone You do not like.” and may I add respect.

  18. …in hot water with their political statements. However, John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing believes that when the fans who didn’t appreciate their politics turned their backs on the band, they were free to make the kind of music …

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