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June 2006



I am not trying to comment on the war but just to state the history of what happened regarding the Dixie Chicks and thier brand.

There is no dispute over the fact that when the Dixie Chicks made the comment at the beginning of the war it was very controversial. Not as much for being against the war as the timing and tone of the comments. They faced a huge media firestorm. CD burnings, radio boycotts, death threats etc. Today saying what they did would never even make the news since the majority of the US citizens are against the war including myself.


One hardly has to be a peace loving radical to think Bush's invasion of Iraq was disasterous. Take the pope and Bush Sr, for example. Pope John Paul II, months before he died and weeks before the war started, said that a second Iraq war would be an ill-advised "defeat for humanity." George HW Bush, in his previously published book on the 1st Iraq war, seems to have agreed with the pope. The elder Bush said that invading Iraq would be a disaster, and listed all the problems we are having today (having writted this years earlier). A week before the invasion, Bush Jr invited a middle east expert to the White House. The expert returned baffled, and said that Bush did not know anything about the strife between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. To be ashamed of this president is just common sense.

Mack Collier

You must have a great CD collection ;) You are exactly right, Sarah stayed true to her music and fans, and that's why her latest CD, Afterglow, which was considered 'average' by critics, still sold over 2 million copies. Reason? Because she wasn't aiming the album at the mainstream critics, but at the same fanbase she had been marketing to since the late 80s. Her fanbase loved it, and it became her fourth platinum album.

BTW you've probably already seen it, but here's the link to watch Sarah's video to World on Fire. IMO the second best video of all-time, behind only Johnny Cash's video for Hurt.



Mack, now you have done it, you brought up Sarah McLachlan, she is my favorite artist of all time. We obviously have a very similar CD collection and view of branding.

You are right, I wanted to believe that it isn't Jewel's fault that it is the nasty record executives. But at the end of the day we are all responsible for our brands and Jewel has made terrible choices. Who cares if you like Nascar, it is not your audience. I have been to Nascar races, but even I don't want to hear Jewel sing there. In concert she is amazing, in the studio she stinks. Trying to be who you are not rarely works. Being true to yourself and your brand is the path to success. And no one has done that better than Sarah.


Mack Collier

"Mack, how right you are. I too was an original Jewel fan. I too have been so disapointed with the direction her music and image has taken. I can only imagine it has been the record company trying to make her more "radio-friendly" but you would think she and/or the label would have gotten a clue by now that it isn't working."

I assumed the same, but Jewel claims her performance at the NASCAR race was her idea, and that she's 'a big NASCAR fan'. Of course she recently appeared on The Young and The Restless as well.

Also, you have to consider how fellow Atlantic artists The Donnas are being promoted. The group of twentysomethings have had several of their songs included in video games, and of course their song 'Fall Behind Me' was featured during the Winter Olympics to promote the women's snowboarding team. So their promotions are a bit more in line with their target audience than Jewel's going after Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans.

Jewel's first album, Pieces of You, was recorded live in the same coffeehouse in San Diego where she was discovered. This is a HUGE reason why it sold 12 million copies, because as you know, Jewel's live performances are amazing. When she gets in a studio and tries to over-produce her music to make it 'radio-friendly', that's when everything goes to heck in a handbasket for her.

You don't have to concentrate on 'radio-friendly' music in order to have a successful career. Look at Sarah McLachlan. I talked to Nettwerk's(Who handles Sarah's management) Erin Kinghorn, who handles Marketing for the label, and she told me that "For all our artists, we let them develop into what they want to be. If you want to look at Sarah, she's always stayed true to herself, and stayed true to her music. We've never tried to control any of our artists. We've allowed them to develop organically and develop their following that way...It's a matter of helping the artist, and guiding their career, instead of running their career. And also, looking at it as a career, and not as needing to put out a hit record. We're in the business of developing artists, we're not in the business of creating artists for revenue.".

When a musician doesn't stay true to themselves and their music, their fans will walk.


Mack, how right you are. I too was an original Jewel fan. I too have been so disapointed with the direction her music and image has taken. I can only imagine it has been the record company trying to make her more "radio-friendly" but you would think she and/or the label would have gotten a clue by now that it isn't working.

Really excellent points Mack. When you create a powerful brand, there is no reason to move away from your image. Doing so is most often likely to cause harm than good.

Mack Collier

"Crossing-over means more album sales, but can leave you stuck in the mushy middle. Core fans think you have sold out and new fans can quickly move on to the next thing."

Exactly! I have been ranting about how Jewel's marketing has been wrong for years. In the mid 90s after her first album was released, Pieces of You, that album sold over 10 million copies because of a groundswell of grassroots support, while Jewel focused her marketing at this hardcore, but small group, called EDAs( read this post to get a simply amazing example of their support:http://www.beyondmadisonavenue.com/2006/02/now-this-is-grassroots-marketing_25.html), that grassroots support eventually spilled over to the mainstream.

But with every album after that, she moved her marketing more and more toward the mainstream, and away from her hardcore fans, and began recording more 'radio-friendly' music. As a result, her first album sold 11 million copies, and the COMBINED sales of her last THREE albums have sold less than 2 million copies.

Of course, she debuted her first single in 3 years earlier this year by performing at a NASCAR race. Amazing. Her current album was released last month, and last week it sold 13,000 copies.

Anyone see the connection? Because Jewel certainly doesn't.

Harry Joiner

Music is a little like a greeting card: It says stuff I feel but don't have the talent to write myself. The only time I stop liking a band is when I feel that the "confluence of values" between me and the band is either diminishing or is not genuine. That's when the band stops speaking for me.

So it was with the Dixie Chicks. I liked them just fine when "what they said" matched "how I felt." But then they voiced a political POV that was completely inconsistent with my own, and that's when I stopped listening.

And what did they do? Then they got mad at me for not listening. Why? They made a conscious decision to drive a psychological barrier between me and their music.

Sure it's a free country, but you can't talk your way out of problems you behave yourself into. And now their fan base is smaller by [at least] 1.

So be it. Their choice. I'll listen to somebody else.


Thanks for your comments Mark.

Let me clarify a few things. First of all, I love the Dixie Chicks. I am one of the new fans they have picked up after moving away from the pure country sound.

Second, I love the new album and I love the fact that they have stuck to what they believe. It turns out, they were ahead of their time. Now most people agree with them. Most of us are now equally embarrassed to be from the same country as Bush.

But the tour has been a big failure so far. Why? I think it is the slow roll-out part of the equation. With the old fans they were a big hit but now they need to rebuild with a new fan base. People will buy a song way before they shell out $100 on concert tickets.

I worry that the failure of the tour and more importantly the bad press surrounding it which could put a bad spin on the comeback of the group.

They definitely can reinvent, they can forget about the old fans too. But you just can't dis them to reporters, it doesn't sound nice. These are nice girls, it's against the image I think they want to project.

I don't think they need to beg for forgiveness. This is not a crime and they didn't do anything terrbily wrong. This is not a Martha Steward deal.

But a little humility would be nice. I think they are rightfully angry about the backlash and poor treatment they got. It was a bum deal. But bashing is not really what they want to be about.

Moving forward is hard. Rebanding is hard, but you still need to use the Immutable Laws to do it.

Mark True

I think you've missed the boat, Laura. The Dixie Chicks know EXACTLY what they're doing. And you, of all people, should understand and applaud it as a great example of brand management.

I don't think they got out of the spotlight to give the public a break. I think they underwent a little discernement to figure out who they are. And I think they've succeeded.

Apologies aren't all they're cracked up to be, especially when you say something that 60 percent of the American population says! And I didn't exactly hear you stand up and apologize last fall when you dissed professional graphic designers with your support of the Logo Factory.

Finally, I think they are VERY focused. They AREN'T a country act any more. I don't know if they've moved on because of the incident or despite it, but there's no doubt they've have moved on.

This is what the lead singer said in the recent Time magazine article aboput their wild ride:

"I'd rather have a smaller following of really cool people who get it … who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith. We don't want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do."

They clearly understand that they can't be all things to all people. They want to be something different. They want to appeal to a different audience. If you listen to their new album, you'll hear that they are no longer a country band. In fact, they wrote ALL the material on this latest album so it really reflects who they are.

I think if you go back and think about it, you'll agree that the Dixie Chicks are master branders.

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