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How to Use 'The Tipping Point' as a Catalyst for Breakthroughs in Your Artist Career

How to leverage seemingly small and insignificant things, to create big breakthrough moments...

This article is the first in a series that I’m working on, where I’ll be sharing strategies and principles that you can apply to your artist business, or indeed any business.

If you’re an artist, the content in this series is for you if you already have some momentum and you’re looking to kick on to the next level, or you’re at a stage where you have a genuinely great product (and you’re sure beyond doubt that you do) and you want to know how to maximize the impact as you launch your career.

The Tipping Point is an idea first put forward and written about by best-selling author and behavioral psychologist Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name. It has since become a well-known concept that is used in the business world to describe how small actions can lead to big changes and success.

While The Tipping Point is a book I'd heard a lot about, it wasn't until recently that I took the plunge and read it. It was a very powerful exercise because I have personally been applying much of the theory and ideas that Gladwell talks about throughout the book.

In explaining his idea of ‘The Tipping Point’, Gladwell uses examples of past phenomenons to demonstrate the various components he believes lead to the eventual tipping point event happening AKA hitting critical mass; be it at a micro or macro level.

One such example was how in the mid-nighties, Hush Puppies shoes went from being an unpopular product to a must-have fashion accessory worn by cool hipster kids in the space of a few months, resulting in the company scaling production and leveraging the momentum created towards mass adoption in the mainstream on a global scale.

Another example, explains how the crime rate in New York City dropped at an unprecedented rate, due to a seemingly insignificant and simple new initiative installed by the newly elected police commissioner of cleaning all graffiti from tube trains and keeping them that way ongoing.

Gladwell's theory was that the knock-on effect of this initiative itself was what caused the crime rate to drop. It was known that those who entered the tube network to graffiti the trains, did so by jumping over the turnstiles and not purchasing a ticket. So, to stop this from happening, the police commissioner drafted in extra police to catch them red-handed as they entered the tube network.

This in itself doesn't seem like it would be hugely significant, but in the process of stopping these people from entering the tube network, the police also found that many of them were wanted for much bigger crimes, crimes worthy of putting them behind bars for a considerable amount of time; and in turn, the crime rate across the entire city was massively reduced.

Many people question Gladwell's theory in this instance and indeed many of the other theories he references in the book; the reality is that when you're trying to backward engineer incredibly complex situations, it will always be difficult to know, one way or another if you're correct.

Ultimately Gladwell isn't an entrepreneur or somebody who likely has the skill set or even the interest to attempt to apply his ideas to a brand new situation to prove them to be true.

Whether Gladwell is right or wrong, it didn't change how excited I was in discovering his ideas, because I now have some logical theories as a mechanism to apply rationale behind some of the strategies I have naturally and innately executed on my journey that have achieved seemly impossible outcomes.

The Tipping Point framework explains that three main components are required to create an epidemic of change:

1. The Law of the Few

This law states that it only takes a few influential people to influence many other people and create an epidemic change.

2. A Stickiness Factor

A Stickiness Factor is a unique characteristic of an idea or product that makes it memorable and compels people to talk about it, share it, and spread the word. It involves making something fun, interesting, or thought-provoking to encourage viral sharing and establish a lasting connection with an audience.

3. Critical Mass or ‘The Tipping Point’ itself.

Critical Mass or the ‘tipping point’ itself is when an idea, product or phenomenon has reached a level of saturation in terms of public awareness, where it is no longer considered to be on the rise and instead has achieved mainstream adoption on a macro level or mass awareness within a micro marketplace.

While all of the examples in ‘The Tipping Point’ are based on backward-engineered theories of the past, I truly believe that it's possible to manufacture and create the perfect situation to consistently trigger a tipping point to happen. I would go as far as to say that I know it's possible because I already did it through the work I did with UK alternative rock band The Hunna, all which happened by design and without there being anything left to chance. I talk in detail about these strategies which led to the band’s tipping point later in this article.

In this next part, I'm going to talk in detail about how you as an artist or somebody who works with artists (or indeed anyone who has a great product or idea) can take both my ideas and that of Gladwell, and use them as a means to take action that creates the perfect storm to trigger a tipping point yourself.

What is the Law of the Few?

The Law of the Few is an important concept within Gladwell's theory of the tipping point, which states that it takes only a few influential people to spark an epidemic of change.

These individuals are known as the Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople - each with their own unique skill set and purpose.

Who are the Connectors?

Connectors are people who have large social networks and are skilled at connecting people with ideas, products, or services. They can spread ideas quickly and effectively.

Connectors are a key part of the Law of the Few. Using their vast networks they're able to spread ideas quickly and effectively. Connectors have an uncanny knack for finding the right person or group of people who can help take an idea, product, or service and make it a success.

In a marketplace where gaining traction and momentum can be difficult due to limited resources, utilized correctly, connectors have a big role to play in helping you to maximize the impact on your artist business.

By leveraging their vast network, connectors can introduce new music to potential fans more efficiently than ever before while also helping artists build relationships with industry professionals such as labels, managers and promoters.

Furthermore, they often possess valuable insights into trends within music consumption which can help inform strategies for releasing new material and marketing campaigns.

Who are the Mavens?

Mavens are experts who can provide detailed information on a product or idea. They use their knowledge to educate people about an idea, product, or service and help build trust in the brand by providing accurate and reliable information.

Mavens are the early adopters; the people that get excited about finding and discovering things they believe could hit a tipping point before anybody else does. They get great satisfaction in being the first to be in 'the know', especially when they start to see the things they've discovered starting to gain traction.

These people are incredibly important because they not only form a key component in the tipping point itself, they have the potential to become superfans and over the long term achieve the highest LTV within your artist business.

Who are the Salespeople?

Salespeople are an important part of the Law of the Few. They possess a unique skill set that is essential in helping to spark an epidemic of change within a marketplace.

Salespeople can be persuasive, convincing, and influential - all qualities that can help turn a great idea into something much bigger.

Whether you’re trying to create a tipping point for your artist business or any other venture, having salespeople within the audience that you're building is an essential component in the conditions to create a tipping point.

In the context of the tipping point framework, one person can have the qualities of a Connector, Maven and Salesperson. If a person has all three of these qualities, they can single-handedly contribute substantially towards creating a 'tipping point'.

How to Use The Law of the Few to Create an Epidemic of Change

The Law of the Few states that it takes only a few influential people to spark an epidemic of change. To use this law effectively, you must first identify and understand the respective roles of Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople.

Once you have identified the people who fit into these roles, it is important to then engage them in a meaningful way. Connectors should be given tools that allow them to share content quickly and easily; mavens should receive accurate information about products or services; and salespeople should be provided material to help drive conversions.

By understanding the Law of the Few and how to leverage it, you can create an epidemic of change within your artist business. With the right mix of these three types of people, a product or idea can spread like wildfire and achieve a tipping point that would otherwise be impossible.

The good news is that in every 100 people who are in your target audience, there are some connectors, some mavens and some salespeople. In The Tipping Point, Gladwell doesn't provide any insights on how many out of every 100 people will be a connector, a maven or a salesperson, but there are other studies that indicate that 13-14% of people out of every 100 will be an early adopter.

In the social media-driven world we live in, it's much easier for early adopters to also be connectors and salespeople too.

If you imagine these people are tipping point special forces and while this isn't an exact science, the reality is that it only requires enough of these people to be activated to start to create the momentum needed to start moving an idea or a product towards a tipping point happening.

How to Create a Stickiness Factor?

Creating a stickiness factor with an idea or a product requires implementing certain strategies and tactics to make the idea or product more memorable and engaging.

The first step is to research the target audience and understand their needs, interests, motivations, and pain points. It’s important to have a clear understanding of who will be using the product or service.

The second step is to create compelling and engaging content that can be shared across multiple platforms. This could include interesting visuals, stories, videos, articles, contests, promotional offers, and more.

Thirdly, you should focus on fostering an emotional connection with the audience by understanding their needs and appealing to their emotions. Content that resonates with people’s passions, values, and beliefs will be more likely to generate a stickiness factor.

Finally, it is important to measure the success of the content by tracking the data and using analytics to gain insights into what is working and what isn’t. This will help you refine your strategy for creating a stickiness factor.

By understanding the Law of the Few and how to create a stickiness factor, you can achieve success with your artist business by sparking an epidemic of change and gaining traction quickly. With the right mix of people in place, you can create excitement and initiate momentum toward creating a tipping point moment.

Reaching The Tipping Point

Reaching the tipping point is a major milestone for any product or idea. It signifies that there has been enough momentum achieved to hit mainstream adoption in your target market.

Several characteristics indicate a tipping point has been hit, including:

• Increased media coverage – when the media starts covering the product or idea.

• Increased word-of-mouth buzz – when the target audience starts actively talking about, referencing and recommending the product.

• Increased sales – when purchases start to happen.

• More influencers advocating for it – when influential people start to promote the product.

• Rapid adoption – when more and more people start to adopt the product.

• A critical mass of customers – when there is a high level of customer engagement.

• Increased visibility in the marketplace – when the product or idea becomes well-known.

When the majority of these characteristics are present, it’s safe to say that the tipping point has been hit. This is a moment of great excitement and celebration, as it signifies that the product or idea has achieved mainstream adoption. It’s also time to start capitalizing on the momentum and using it to further expand your reach.

Understanding Micro and Macro Level Tipping Points

When it comes to understanding tipping points, there are two levels: micro and macro. Micro-level tipping points refer to the local or regional adoption of an idea or product; whereas macro-level tipping points refer to the nationwide adoption of an idea or product.

At the micro level, a tipping point is most likely to occur in a specific geographical area or within a certain demographic. When enough people adopt the product or idea, it reaches critical mass and is no longer on the rise; instead, it has achieved widespread adoption in that region.

At the macro level, a tipping point can be further divided into three stages: early adopters, middle adopters, and late adopters. Early adopters are the innovators and trendsetters who initially try a product or idea; middle adopters are the majority of consumers who adopt it after early adopters have tested it out; and late adopters are those who finally adopt it once the momentum has been established.

Ultimately, when it comes to reaching the tipping point and achieving mass adoption, both micro and macro levels play an important role. By understanding how these two levels work together, you can create a successful strategy for your business and reach critical mass in no time!

How to apply The Tipping Point Framework to Your Artist Business

To help you understand this part fully, I'm going to provide actual examples of how myself and my team utilized The Tipping Point framework (despite me not having read the book until recently!) in launching and breaking UK alternative rock band The Hunna in October 2015.

Along the journey, we created multiple instances of micro-level tipping points, that all fed into a major tipping point in taking the band from playing in front of 250 people in London, to selling 10,000 tickets in less than 2 years from that first show.

In less than 10 months from launch, we were able to achieve a top 20 album chart position in the UK and sell 2,500 tickets in London. Along the journey to selling 10,000 tickets in London, we were also able to sell 80,000 tickets across the UK, sell 60,000 albums in the UK and generate more than 150 million streams on Spotify alone.

As I said earlier, these tipping point moments were not by chance, they were by design, and being in a place of reflection now, it's possible to understand how we applied the framework that Gladwell talks about in 'The Tipping Point' and how we can further refine our approach to ensure that our future artist campaigns have the same, if not better success rates.

The Prerequisites to Creating The Tipping Point as an Artist

The key to this success was not only what we did in our execution towards creating these tipping point moments, but also in our preparation before we even launched the project. I'd go as far as to say, that the work we did in preparation, was the reason we were able to get the results we achieved.

One of the fundamentals of being able to create a tipping point is being in a position where you can capitalize on the momentum. It's hard to initiate momentum in the first place, but once you have it, you have to constantly keep adding fuel to it to both maintain it and increase the pace toward achieving the first micro-level tipping points.

You Need A Product Your Audience Can't Resist

To be able to successfully do this, in the music game, you have to understand that songs are the currency and that you need two types of songs in your arsenal:

a) Door-opening songs that have the potential to reach a wide audience - songs that create an instant connection and excitement with the audience, to the point where they want to send it to friends / share it on social and save it to their playlists on streaming platforms.

b) Retention songs that hold the audience once you've got them through the door - songs that can often become hit songs within the audience, even though at first they didn't grab their attention.

In the case of The Hunna, the band had worked very hard to get a mix of these types of songs in the bank, and so before we even launched the project, we already had an entire album of material in place.

This was critical in giving us the ability to initiate the momentum and maintain it ongoing.

You Need A Brand That Your Audience Can't Resist

When you have the product (in your case the songs), you need to ensure that you're able to create a connection with the audience through your brand.

The Hunna had a very clear and strong brand identity from the very start, which was reflected through their look, their sound, and the way they spoke about themselves.

This made them instantly relatable to new audiences that found them online through streaming platforms or social media.

We created an entire Brand DNA (read this for my breakdown of what goes into a Brand DNA) in advance of launching the project, which gave us boundaries to adhere to across everything that we did and allowed us to create content that we knew would resonate with the target audience.

This was another factor that was critical in giving us the ability to initiate the momentum and maintain it ongoing.

You Need to Understand That You're Creating Your Own Market

If you'd spoken to anyone in the music business in 2015, they'd tell you that guitar music is dead and that only a fool would try to break an alternative rock band. All of the data back then suggested that this was true - there had been very few bands breaking through for some time and when it came to mainstream exposure on radio and media in general, there wasn't any space being dedicated to the genre.

The truth is, that it wasn't that fans didn't want to support guitar bands, it was more that nobody was developing and launching them, due to this preconceived idea that it was dead. The very idea itself was a self-fulfilling prophecy and so that was what was happening.

The famous quote from Steve Jobs rings true here:

"People don't know what they want until you show it to them"

We knew that there there was the possibility to create our own market - even if it wasn't visible yet to others - and so this belief meant we were prepared to take a (calculated) risk others were not prepared to take.

The truth is that you only need 10,000 fans who love an artist enough, to want to buy tickets to see them in one city, to be able to sell 10,000 tickets in that city. In a country with a large population such as the UK, that's not impossible to achieve - and not just in one city, but across every major town and city in the country.

Through understanding that big goals happen, by achieving small goals day by day, it's easy to consider that if you build an artist's audience one fan at a time and connect with those fans deeply, that seemingly impossible goals can be achieved.

Simplification is Essential to Your Success

If you want to scale anything, the key to being able to do so is to create processes and systems that are simple to understand and replicate. This idea is true at every level, no matter what part of the project you are involved in.

That starts with songs. Those door-opening songs are songs that are simple and easy for the human ear to receive and connect with.

It means having a clear Brand DNA that allows you to simply and easily connect content to an audience.

It's also essential to break big goals down into small, achievable daily tasks that can be easily managed and monitored.

Understanding Your Macro and Micro Level Goals

Understanding and planning for macro-level goals, such as ticket and album sales (for example) but also the mini goals that occur along the journey to get those bigger goals achieved.

For The Hunna, we wanted to break through into venues of 1,000 capacity plus and achieve a UK album chart position that would help us move towards achieving our bigger goal of breaking the UK and to do so in unprecedented time frames.

In approaching these macro-level objectives, it was important to understand that there were many micro-goals that we needed to execute to make the bigger goals happen. In doing this, it was also essential that we understood that we wouldn't be successful in achieving every micro-goal, but that if we kept on moving forward and executing, we would win enough of the micro-goal wins to make the bigger goals happen.

You Need a Strategic Plan

Having an understanding of what your micro and macro-level goals are is one thing, but unless you have a plan that ties it all together, there is little to no chance that you'll ever achieve any of your objectives.

The purpose of a strategic plan is to consider in advance everything you need to do to make your big macro-level goals become a reality and provide clarity on how the micro-level tipping points for each macro-level goal are connected.

Think of the strategic plan as being a map.

You'd not embark on a road trip from Los Angles to New York City, without first fully defining and understanding the best route to take, to get to the destination as fast and as efficiently as possible.

And so, you shouldn't set off on your journey to try to create a big tipping point, without first creating your strategic plan.

Before we launched The Hunna, we created a strategic plan to identify each step of the way, including long-term goals and short-term objectives like hitting key chart positions, radio plays, brand partnerships, strategic licensing deals, and touring wins.

This allowed us to map out our journey in advance and know exactly what we needed to do on a daily basis to make our bigger goals happen.

For The Hunna, I was clear on our initial 3 Year macro level objectives:

  1. To see the band performing at 5,000 capacity Brixton Academy in London

  2. To achieve a top 20 UK album position with their debut album.

  3. To secure mainstream media exposure, specifically to break through and achieve BBC Radio 1 play listing, despite there essentially being no spaces available.

  4. To work towards achieving UK album sales of 60,000+

  5. To generate millions of streams on streaming platforms, towards achieving 100 million streams.

  6. To start to gain traction internationally.

If we could achieve all of these things, we'd be in a position where we'd be considered to have a breaking artist on our hands and be in a place where we'd be hitting a macro level 'tipping point' that would allow us to fully break through in the UK to Arena level and start to do so on a global scale.

The entire strategic plan is a subject for another article, but, focusing on point 1 above, there is a clear pathway to get to 5,000 people in London.

You start at selling a 250-capacity venue, then 500, then 1000, then 2000, then 3000, then you get to 5000.

This is incredibly ambitious, as often artists will play a 250-capacity venue to 100 people, then go and do that again, this time to 150 people, then again, this time to 200, and so on. If each show is 3 months apart, it can take a year to get to 250 tickets sold and start to create some momentum.

This isn't what we wanted to achieve, and we knew that if we could build a compelling live story by selling out shows in advance (shows of a much bigger capacity than would normally be expected at that moment in time), it would help us to create the micro-level tipping points that were needed to get the other things happening.

To achieve this objective, we needed to be smart in how we built our audience and in how we would leverage it, and the stories we would create along the way to feed and grow our momentum.

So our plan was more like this:

We would use an 'oversubscribe' strategy (a topic of another article) - where we would ensure that for every show we planned to do, we would have at least double the number of people wanting to go to the show.

We would start a 250 capacity show in London, sell this show, and then add the next show, which would be 500 capacity. As we executed this plan, we would start to do the same in other cities across the UK, each show selling creating its own micro-level tipping point.

We would do a show in each location every 3 months and if we pulled this off, we would be able to get to Brixton Academy in less than 3 years from launch.

As it happened, what we did was play to 250 people, then 1100, then 2500 - we sold the first shows (it was actually 250 x 3 [750 tickets]) - 2500 people in London in exactly 1 year from starting.

By surpassing our goals, we were now in a position where Brixton Academy was in our sight, and we ended up selling a 3500 capacity venue on route to selling 2 x 5000 capacity Brixton Academy less than 2 years from launching the project - a whole year ahead of schedule and at double the volume than we had aimed for.

You Need A Promotion Strategy To Amplify Your Brand & Make Your Strategic Plan a Reality

Once you have your product (songs) and a brand that audiences identify with, you need to be able to drive audiences toward that product.

The biggest issue we face today is that there are so many tools, tactics, and strategies out there, that it's easy to get overwhelmed by the noise and to try to do too many things at once. If you get sucked into this, you're in danger of diluting the overall impact and massively damaging your chances of initiating and then maintaining momentum.

In creating The Hunna's campaign, we had a very limited budget vs what the major labels had and so we knew we needed a way to create that initial buzz, and then leverage it, through employing a carefully crafted strategy of social media marketing.

This is where (without realizing it), I created a strategy that leveraged the 'Law of The Few' and if it worked, it would allow us to start to spread The Hunna's music like wildfire.

In keeping with my philosophy of simplifying everything, the plan was so simple, most people wouldn't believe it would work.

We would leverage an audience I believed would be full of mavens, connectors, and salespeople - females aged 13-18, who went to specific schools around the UK and who all lived within the same zip/postal codes.

If we could activate enough of them, we'd have a situation where the band's name would be known by every kid at each of the schools we targeted, and the momentum this created would lead to us being able to sell tickets, merchandise and albums with ease.

The strategy looked like this:

  1. We would create just one compelling and exciting piece of content that was aligned perfectly with our Brand DNA;

  2. We would use just one platform (in this case Facebook) as a mechanism to find, connect and funnel our target audience into direct messaging;

  3. Through using highly targeted Facebook ads, our goal would be to turn this one piece of content into a 'honeypot' full of engagement and social proof, making it irresistible to those who saw it.

  4. We'd have a single objective of 'send message' on this piece of content and as soon as a potential fan sent a message we'd connect and engage with them in a way that would make them feel special to be an early adopter.

This very simple strategy was incredibly effective, and within a few days of launching, the plan started to work allowing us to sell get the first London show on sale and sell it in less than a month of starting.

Thus, our first micro-level tipping point was created and because we had worked so hard in our preparation, we were able to maintain this momentum by releasing new music and content every 6 weeks, constantly engaging with fans and continually touring.

With every show being 'oversubscribed' we were able to create a story that the band was starting to break; this unlocked opportunities for us to get media on board as well as start to enjoy editorial playlist support from both Spotify and Apple Music.

After securing a debut album chart position of 13, the door to BBC Radio 1 was unlocked and the converted playlist slots started to arrive.

All of these things happened from simply building a connected fanbase of very specific highly engaged fans. As those fans started to spread the word, every other kid in the same age group around the UK wanted to be part of the story too, all coming together to create the micro-level tipping points needed to trigger the macro-level tipping points.

This macro-level tipping point resulted in the band selling 10,000 tickets in London (2 x 5,000 capacity Brixton Academy), 80,000 tickets across the UK, 60,000 albums in the UK alone, as well as over 150m streams all within 3 years or less.

In conclusion, achieving a tipping point requires preparation, focus and momentum. By understanding the fundamentals of creating a tipping point, including maintaining momentum and understanding micro- and macro-level tipping points, artists and businesses can unlock their potential to break through in any market or industry.

I saw and experienced this firsthand when we masterminded The Hunna's successful campaign to make them a breaking artist in the UK, which demonstrated how we inadvertently applied the Tipping Point framework to the band's own journey.

To achieve your own success story you must have the right prerequisites including having door opening and retaining songs, an engaged fanbase, compelling content & media coverage.

With these things in place coupled with dedication and commitment, you will be well on your way toward creating your first micro-level tipping point, and towards achieving your own macro-level tipping points ahead.

Missed my first and most important article? here’s the link to it:


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