5 Against 1.


After so many posts about Pearl Jam, you may be ready to hear about something else (look, I can play their discography from start to finish on a long road trip, but it’s nice to throw in a little Tom Petty once in a while).

Here are five great blogs and articles about other superband’s marketing strategies:

Bruce Springsteen – via thinkdigital.net

Phish – via hubspot.com

Dave Matthews Band – via techdirt.com

The Rolling Stones – via inc.com

Green Day – via socialmediaexplorer.com



Can’t Find A Better B(r)and – A guest blog.

This is a guest blog post by Ryan Zajac (@ryanandrewzee).  He is an avid Pearl Jam fan.  We have seen several dozen shows together.  He can out talk me on Pearl Jam any day of the week.
Members of Pearl Jam’s official fan club follow the band with loyalty matched only by sports fans who support a favourite team.  On Pearl Jam concert nights, pre-game and post-game debate takes shape in the form of diehard fans glued to their computers and smart phones speculating what songs will make up that night’s setlist.  Song-by-song analysis follows as real-time setlist updates flow through from social media.  Finally, debate on internet message boards commences immediately after the show wraps; where did that night’s show fall in the annals of Pearl Jam history? Speculation constantly surrounds rumoured Pearl Jam tour dates, similar to sports fans pining over that year’s crop of free agents.  Pearl Jam fans also spend money to wear their team’s colours, lots of money.
Possibly the best example of just how big the merchandise side of Pearl Jam’s business has grown came last year.  In January 2013 Pearl Jam confirmed what had been rumoured for months; a headlining show at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois on July 19, 2013.  “The Friendly Confines” had long been a dream venue for Pearl Jam fans to see the band.  The combination of lead singer, Eddie Vedder, having a life-long allegiance to the Cubs, Pearl Jam only playing a handful of dates in the United States the previous two years and a history of legendary shows in Chicago built this event up to what could best be described as, “the Super Bowl of Pearl Jam shows.”  When tickets went on sale in early February, the concert sold out in 45 minutes.  Pearl Jam was now the fastest concert sellout since Wrigley Field began hosting shows in 2005.  Pearl Jam sold out Wrigley Field faster than Springsteen and faster than McCartney.
Wrigley Field 2013  My bachelor party.  Me on the left, Ryan second from right.

Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field 2013 – My bachelor party. Me on the left, Ryan second from right.

If you were to ask a diehard fan one year later how they remember the show, chances are you will get one of two responses: 1) rain delay (the show was sidelined for three hours thanks to a storm that also wiped out the Pitchfork Festival and Phish across town.  Pearl Jam returned to the stage at 11:45 PM and played for another two hours) or 2) the lines for merch. 
To the second point, Pearl Jam management sent an email 48 hours before the show to all fan club members who were lucky enough to score tickets a complete listing of all of the merchandise that would be for sale to commemorate this historic concert.  Instead of the usual one gig poster, there would be four separate posters for this concert.  Since the show was at a baseball stadium the usual concert t-shirts would not suffice; there were flags, hats, pennants and an entire set of baseball cards  also up for grabs (the baseball card of Jeff Ament’s bass tech turned out to to be the most saught after/rare of the bunch).  Pearl Jam fans are notorious animals when it comes to consuming band merchandise (quite literally, animals.  There are now Pearl Jam dog tags available).  This email was essentially like putting the Sears Christmas Wishbook in a six year old’s hands in the 1980’s; over-stimulation, rash decisions and credit card debt ensued. 
It wasn’t enough for the Pearl Jam braintrust to whet fan’s appetites with the merch teaser email, it was announced there would be a trailer setup at Wrigley Field the DAY BEFORE THE SHOW as well as the morning of the concert.  Lineups were hundreds of people long and fans waited up to four hours to buy a souvenir (what better way to spend your summer vacation than standing in line with a bunch of sweaty dudes in their 30’s bragging about how many times they’ve seen Even Flow, or how many posters they have hanging up at their parent’s house?  Yes, I’m guilty on both accounts).  As the concert started at 7:45 on Friday night, people were still waiting in line.  Yes, people were missing the concert to purchase merch.  By midnight when the rain delay had passed not only had Wrigley Field sold out of beer, the only thing left at the merch table was the “Mind Your Manners” tshirt” (Black Friday 2014 Sale Alert).  I don’t think selling out of Stone Gossard’s 2013 baseball card was exactly what Eddie Vedder circa 1995 had in mind when he sang “Not For You.”
The merchandise explosion of Pearl Jam is a far-cry from the band’s strategy even ten years ago.  In the early 2000’s there were only a handful of items for sale on their website.  Each item released, whether a sticker or t-shirt, felt like a well-thought-out piece of art.  Nowadays, Pearl Jam releases a spring and fall line of clothing and you can even outfit youngsters in PJ gear.  In an era when people don’t purchase music like they did at the start of Pearl Jam’s career, bands must find alternate ways to generate revenue.  This must be magnified in a situation like Pearl Jam’s where everything is done in-house; it’s not just the band affected by the bottom-line but the small staff of close friends they’ve enlisted to work for them.  Part of the superfan in me however misses the days when Pearl Jam was, “dropping the leash” instead of selling the dog collars.

Shoe the shoeless.


If you’re a music nerd like me, you are probably very familiar with unboxing videos on YouTube.  For better or for worse, I’ve decided to contribute an equally embarrassing piece of content to the internet, while maintaining every single ounce of nerdiness as my unboxing comrades.  Enjoy this supernerd’s broad examination of Pearl Jam’s merchandise (fear not, a much classier piece on merchandise is coming next post).





Do the Evolution.


As bands get more comfortable doing interviews, they are better able to stick to their talking points.  With a little bit of coaching, a band can deliver clear, concise information to their audience. Providing media coaching seems like a fact of life for most publicists.

For some bands, though, it takes two decades to achieve this comfort.

Here are eight short videos chronicling the evolution of Pearl Jam’s comfort and willingness to engage media, and as you’ll see in the last video, maybe this was strategy all along.










But hey, nobody said it was easy… (that’s me on the right)

Sponsored by no one?


Not all strategies are going to make sense to your audience.

Pearl Jam confused many of their fans in 2009, when they signed on with Target, allowing the dog-branding retailer to be the exclusive big box distributor of their album, ‘Backspacer’.

A band that had once done a “Sponsored by No One” tour (including appearing on a commercial-free Late Show with David Letterman episode), a band that had always been outspoken about their distaste for corporations, and band who had even taken a multiple-album break from producing music videos) was suddenly modifying their own videos into Target commercials:

This wasn’t the first time they had done a commercial for an album (they made this commercial for their 1998 album, “Yield”), but it was the first time they would allow Target level cross-branding to take place.

Well, after seeing many copies of ‘Backspacer’ hit the bargain bins, this deal was not renewed, and fans have quickly tried to forget.  Unfortunately for Target, this was not their last bad decision (see: 2013 onwards).

Won’t you listen to what the man said.


The world was given a glimpse into Pearl Jam’s crisis communication strategies last week. While on tour in Europe, Pearl Jam’s singer, Eddie Vedder, made some off-the-cuff remarks during a song. While attempting to contrast the love in the stadium they were playing in, against the wars that are taking place around the world, he ruffled more than a few feathers by speaking indirectly about the violence in Israel.

If you haven’t seen the video, please take a look for context…

Now, this is a band who has always been associated with activism, whether it be Voters For Choice, The Tibetan Freedom Concert, Vote For Change, or Free the West Memphis Three, they have always been vocal, and this would be no exception, even if fans were possibly more divided on this than on his previous tirades regarding American politics.

But when it came to handling this situation, they could have quietly ignored the tidal wave of outrage that was headed their way and gone radio silent like Rihanna after her she quickly removed her “#FreePalestine” tweet.



But after a day or two, pearljam.com posted the following open letter from Vedder:

Imagine That — I’m Still Anti-War.

July 16 2014


Most of us have heard John Lennon sing 


“You may say I’m a dreamer,… but I’m not the only one.”


And some of us, after another morning dose of news coverage full of death and destruction, feel the need to reach out to others to see if we are not alone in our outrage. With about a dozen assorted ongoing conflicts in the news everyday, and with the stories becoming more horrific, the level of sadness becomes  unbearable. 

And what becomes of our planet when that sadness becomes apathy? 


Because we feel helpless. And we turn our heads and turn the page.


Currently, I’m full of hope. That hope springs from the multitudes of people that our band has been fortunate enough to play for night after night here in Europe. To see flags of so many different nations, and to have these huge crowds gathered peacefully and joyfully is the exact inspiration behind the words I felt the need to  emphatically relay.
When attempting to make a plea for more peace in the world at a rock concert, we are reflecting the feelings of all those we have come in contact with so we may all have a better understanding of each other. 


That’s not something I’m going to stop anytime soon. Call me naïve. 


I’d rather be naïve, heartfelt and hopeful than resigned to say 
nothing for fear of misinterpretation and retribution.

The majority of humans on this planet are more consumed by the pursuit of love, health, family, food and shelter than any kind of war. 

War hurts. It hurts no matter which sides the bombs are falling on.


With all the global achievements in modern technology,
enhanced communication and information devices, cracking the human genome, land rovers on Mars etc., do we really have to resign ourselves to the devastating reality that conflict will be resolved with bombs, murder and acts of barbarism?

We are such a remarkable species. Capable of creating beauty. 
Capable of awe-inspiring advancements. We must be capable of resolving conflicts without bloodshed.


I don’t know how to reconcile the peaceful rainbow of flags we see each night at our concerts with the daily news of a dozen global conflicts and their horrific consequences. I don’t know how to process the feeling of guilt and complicity when I hear about the deaths of a civilian family from a U.S. drone strike. But I know that we can’t let the sadness turn into apathy. And I do know we are better off when we reach out to each other.


“I hope someday you’ll join us,…”


Won’t you listen to what the man said.
— Eddie Vedder” – pearljam.com

Standing behind his words, but giving it context. The strategy has seemed to work, and the conversation has for the most part been silenced.

Now if only they would hold a press conference every time they lose a drummer, the way a company does when its CEO steps down…

10 things Pearl Jam taught this marketer about marketing – A guest blog.

This is a guest blog post by Whitney Gibson (@twhitneyshan).  She is an award winning marketer who leads the PR team for a massive experiential marketing agency.  She has seen Pearl Jam one time.
…She is also my wife.
When I met Shaun and he told me he had followed Pearl Jam around North America, I thought, “wow, what a massive nerd.*
I knew Pearl Jam as a band whose hits I listened to on the radio growing up. However, I learned from Shaun about the culture surrounding the band – from the message boards, collectables and excruciatingly long lines to get tickets for secret shows, to the long lasting friendships Shaun built with people from around the world at concerts, I still thought he was a nerd, but more specifically, I thought the powerful culture surround Pearl Jam was fascinating.
As someone who has worked on PR for nearly a decade, one day I finally asked him what agency is responsible for their incredible marketing. When Shaun explained that the whole operation was internal and took place in Pearl Jam’s warehouse in Seattle – practice and recording spaces, fan club management, design, web development, social media, ticket sales – EVERYTHING – I was flabbergasted! I’ve had the good fortune of working with many Fortune 500 brands, none of which had the brilliant top to bottom internal marketing structure of Pearl Jam in-house. I mean, Pearl Jam was nailing things like content development and community management before those were marketing buzzwords.
Not every brand has the money and means to keep these things in-house and still do them really, really, well, but I think all marketers can take away the following from Pearl Jam:
1) Hire people who are not only the right fit for your brand, but are its future.
2) Be willing to take risks
3) Provide a place (or places) where your fans can connect with one another and your brand
4) Reward fan loyalty
5) Ignite conversation by always giving your fans something to talk about
6) Create a sense of exclusivity with your communities, but ensure those who want to participate, can
7) Keep some secrets
8) Limited runs of unique branded swag can drive a culture of collectors
9) When people truly love your brand, they’ll pay. Too many brands give things away in their quest to get noticed 
10) Challenge convention, everyday. Make your brand stand for something meaningful.
*Fortunately, he had a few other redeeming qualities (we are now married).