Seth Godin’s Wrong About The Beatles (Or The Importance Of Shutting Up)


I'm a Seth Godin fan. He's right 99% of the time. But his latest post about the Beatles is completely off base.


Now I wasn't around when the Beatles were born (I didn't my make my planetary appearance till 1967) and my parents weren't huge Beatles fans. They were Motown fans (except my dad hated Smokey Robinson because "he sounds like a girl.") and those are the records I heard growing up. So my view comes not from first hand experience but just from what I've read about them.

Now here's where I have a problem with Seth's analysis, and it's the heart of the post.

The next stage was brief but essential. That's when people started noticing them, started showing up, started screaming. At this moment, the Beatles didn't stop marketing. They didn't stop doing radio shows at the BBC or flying all night to play a concert in Denver (empty seats) or Kansas. During the transition stage, in fact, the Beatles and their management really poured it on.

If you plan on using this strategy today you will die.

It's the strategy of N'Sync.

Contrary to what some marketers think, times really do change. Unlike when the Beatles came to existence you are famous faster and there are wwaayy too many media outlets to control.

If you have, say, a song, that is getting traction, here's what happens.

It's not just on the radio.

Today the video is on MTV and the hundreds of other other video places.

Your song is on the internet being traded around freely.

Thousands of fans on thousands of blogs are calling you the next big thing.

Magazines are talking about you and placing you on their cover.

TV Shows are screaming for interviews.

Now Seth says that now is the time too keep marketing harder than ever.


Now is really the time to shut up.

Because if you keep talking. Keep marketing. Putting your face on lunch boxes, and appearing on whatever show that will book you. You will fade out faster than 98 Degrees.

You have to get scarce.

At some point you have to let the audience run things.

Now there are myriads of examples of folks who, when they started to get traction, pushed even harder and saw their chances of getting into the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame fade.

If you have a good product and folks are saying good things about you and you want to be around longer than 15 minutes then maybe you should consider shutting up.

The shut up strategy is for those who want to last a while.

Why is Prince still famous? Because when he got traction in the 1980's he shut the fuck up. He was scarce. Fans were eager and still are, just to hear him speak. They crave any information they can get their hands on.

Look at Apple (the computer company). They don't put out press releases everyday and talk about what's coming up all the time.

They let their fans do most of the marketing for them now.

Being quiet is their marketing strategy.

In fact, that's when the Beatles really became the Beatles. It was when, after they got famous, they shut the fuck up and stop doing interviews and became scarce.

That's when the fans started craving for more information.

That's when the songs became, to the audience, more important. 

And that's when they became the Beatles.

Before that they were just Seth generation's N'Sync. 

Explore posts in the same categories: Army Of One, blogs, cursing, hype, money, music, new media, old media

14 Comments on “Seth Godin’s Wrong About The Beatles (Or The Importance Of Shutting Up)”

  1. Robert Harvis Says:

    Taking on Seth and Beatles fans? I don’t know about that strategy.
    I see your point. I just don’t know if Seth was saying that you have to start making cheesy lunchboxes after you get some success. I think he was saying that you have to keep working.

    Great post though. I like this site.

  2. VampireFeet Says:

    i agree with your post.
    i think you made a bigger point with your pictures than you did with your words.

  3. Chris P. Says:

    Char, I enjoy your insight here, and I tend to agree that Seth, despite his typical clairvoyance, simply dropped the ball with regard to “2.0” marketing.

    I would argue that the blogosphere (and also the growth of other media outlets) has given the gift of autonomy to the audience. As a result, that same audience feels empowered by the ability to draw conclusions, produce hype, and speculate.

    Because of this, the independent audience now rejects in-your-face, overly intensive marketing as a contrived attempt to curry its favor. This all points back to something that I think resonates throughout the blogosphere – the fact that people are now gaining recognition for genuine, noteworthy achievements and contributions instead of a bunch of empty hype. Hopefully all of this will result in associated increases in things like product quality, corporate integrity, and celebrity intellect.

    And no, I just couldn’t resist that last one.

  4. I admire and follow Seth Godin, but he is wrong quite more often than you state.

    I consider Seth to be, with Tom Peters and Christopher Locke, among the most brilliant marketing strategists today.

    But I disagreed entirely with “All Marketers are Liars”, that people hunger for stories, even if they’re not true. That is crazy and false. A story that turns out to be a lie generally backfires. Think: false advertising and consumer fraud.

    Your view of “shut up” makes a great deal of sense in many, but not all, marketing situations. Some commodity products must keep battering away at their message, or the consumer will forget them completely, since there are so many alternatives, competitors.

    Seth Godin actually told me personally, or perhaps in a blog post, that it is often better for people to “stumble” upon you or your product.

    People like to discover things. They are repulsed by hype and loud, unilateral, non-interactive preaching and pulpit pounding. Which is why churches are torture chambers.

  5. Robert Bruce Says:

    Uh, let’s revise that last line to read “contemporary, jumbo-tron watching, assault-on-the-senses, empty-of-truth-but-full-of-people, american infotainment churches”….

    Will you allow me that revision Vaspers?

  6. seth godin Says:

    a few things
    1. thanks for reading
    2. by “marketing” I meant, “Making Sgt. Peppers” when the easy thing would be to take the nsync strategy, which is to make the same album again and again.
    3. Vaspers doesn’t understand my Liars book at all.

    Of course you are right that yelling doesn’t make sense in this world.

  7. Liz Strauss Says:

    Knowing when to handle the audience and when to handle yourself is an art of the true artist. You called this one right on again. I think that you’ve got way more plans up your sleeve than smut 3.0. . . . . When are you going to make me a millionaire?

  8. Martin Says:

    What I’m getting from you Char is that today’s marketing is totally different to yesertyear – no more “shove a product down our throats” til we’re brainswashed into buying it.

    We’re a savvy bunch of consumers these days (aka: we can see through the marketing bullshit 99.9999% of the times!) and it is us who decide what to like/follow/purchase – not some marketing/pr department directive.

    I think the PR & marketing folks are really struggling to get a handle on all of this and how it affects their medium. A press release or two won’t do it any more. It’s really … find the biggest fans / potential influencers, cultivate them and just step back and watch the show unfold.

  9. To be fair to Seth, I will take another look at “All Marketers are Liars”, but this title is inflammatory, and will receive inflammatory remarks and analysis.

    I repeat though: Seth Godin is very smart, and I do agree with most of his thinking.

    I don’t criticize just the megachurches, or “infotainment” churches. I have encountered perversion, corruption, and Command and Control, CEO style pastoring at even little rural churches.

    There may be a few good churches out there somewhere. I have not seen any. But I do not see them all.

    The very idea of a pastor being the leader is anti-biblical, notice who Apostle Paul addresses his writings to. Not the “pastors” but the congregation as a whole.

  10. What I am opposed to is pew potatoes sitting passively, soaking up a lecture by a hypocritical, domineering fool…whether church, mosque, synagogue, temple, school, or business.

  11. Here’s how Seth promotes “All Marketers are Liars” book on his own blog:


    Successful marketers don’t talk about features or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story. A story we want to believe.


    Seth, I’m sorry, but I just disagree completely with this.

    Successful marketers don’t tell a story “we want to believe”, they tell a story that is true, and is proven true when the customer uses the product to attain a desired result.

    Guys often say to a woman, “What do you want me to say?”, and that is the prelude to a lie, an insincerity.

  12. vinylart Says:

    I’m still skidding around trying to get traction, but my childhood invisibleness is creeping back in already, making me want to back off.

    Seth says to lean into it. Gravity’s working sideways, man.


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