Interview Dorie Clark (Sept. 2015)

Dorie ClarkRecently I had the honour to talk with branding expert Dorie Clark on her new book ‘Stand Out: how to find your breakthrough idea and build a following around it’. In her latest book, Clark lays out the steps to cut through the noise of the crowd and get noticed. Dorie’s book contains an array of useful tips and thought-provoking questions which help the reader discover his breakthrough idea.

Every minute, 12 hours of audio is uploaded to SoundCloud and more than 300 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube. As a starting musician/producer, how on earth will you have your new tracks noticed in this massive digital audio landscape? To stand out as a musician you will need to think of more than just music as the product you’re offering. Your breakthrough idea as a musician is — well — ‘YOU.’  Dorie’s approach can be translated to a music industry context. From our conversation, I distilled the tips below for how musician/producers can stand out from the crowd:

1. Be the best version of you

Musicians/producers nowadays need to have entrepreneurial skills. You will need to bring professionalism to the table. That, however, does not mean that another persona will take over the moment you step into the spotlight. Authenticity is not just a corporate buzzword. Dorie explained that being authentic gives you a competitive advantage. As a musician, just as in the corporate world, it is key to building meaningful relationships with people.

2. Transparency is the norm

The key to showmanship is taking the essence of who you are and magnifying it, says Dorie Clark. Don’t be a pretender, the audience don’t like to be conned. Clark gives Lady Gaga as an example. Although Stefani Germanotta does not choose to wear meat suits in the privacy of her home, she does wear them as Lady Gaga. Gaga is an extreme version of Germanotta; it is not incongruous.

3. Be adaptive

Reinvent yourself before the market reinvents you. Be prepared to reinvent yourself to stay relevant. Madonna, continues Clark, has remained part of the cultural dialogue because she has reinvented herself as an artist. Madonna is now less aggressive and doesn’t pump out as many records as she used to, but she is by no means a fading star. The same might be said of Ani Di Franco and Taylor Swift. Create things that are interesting to you, guessing that what the market wants is backwards. Fundamentally, it is about following your own interests.

4. Don’t waste time, create time

In any endeavour, successful time management is key. Social media, for example, is an essential tool in any business these days. With bad time management skills, social media will be a day job, Clark warns. Try and save time where you can: write a short email instead of engaging in a half hour phone conversation.

5. Widen your focus

Your breakthrough idea may be about music, but it must also be about how you build your following: how you engage with your fans, how you build your community, your promotional methods, distribution mechanism, what partnerships you have.

6. Market yourself: build up your business

Record labels and publishers will notice new acts the moment the new acts don’t need them. Musicians/producers with an existing following will get the record deal. Martin Garrix is a good example of that, and the Weeknd is a case study in online marketing done right. Clark agrees with me, and adds that the record labels and publishers still have services to provide to artists: distribution, promotion, international rights management, production element. All this doesn’t mean that the musician/producer loses his authenticity in the process. When you want to reach the world, you will need help getting on the world stage. If that means you need a major label or major publisher, that is ok.

7. Keep the momentum going

Artists sometimes think that the only thing they have to contribute is their music. The audience and the fans are actually interested in the music-making process: how you write songs, what it’s like to be on tour, etc. The internet has made it possible to share with the fans what it is like to be an artist. Clark refers to Amanda Palmer, who is constantly engaged with fans. When she releases new music, fans want to support it and that is a good place to be in as an artist.

8. Use your star power for good

Taylor Swift is using her star power for good and stands up for issues that matter in the music industry. That can make a lasting impact.


Musicians/producers face ample challenges in the music industry. Having a great track is hardly ever enough. The above tips will stimulate musicians/producers to reassess what exactly they are putting into the world. It is a learning curve and it will take work, musicians/producers. Dorie Clark shows that standing out is possible!


Who is Dorie Clark?

Dorie Clark

Dorie is a leading marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker and a contributor to the top business magazines such as Harvard Business Review, Inc., Entrepreneur and Forbes. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out. Clark is also a regular speaker. Download the free self-assessment Stand Out Workbook on

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