Persuasion Is Like Making Hit Records

Beatles Destroyed Rock Book CoverI’m reading an excellent pop music cultural history book, “How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘N’ Roll,” by Elijah Wald.  While enjoying myself immensely through the book, I found an observation from a record producer that could have been taken directly from this blog.

Here’s the key quote.

“Emotion never makes you a hit,” he said.  “I always tell this to singers:  Emotion is not something you feel.  It’s something you make the listener feel.  And you have to be very cool and know what you’re doing.”

Mitch Miller by Norman RockwellThat from Mitch Miller, one of the best selling record producers in the history of pop music.  (Pop culture sidebar:  If Mitch Miller is meaningless to you, think Simon Cowell.  Cowell is kinda the Mitch Miller of today except that Mitch was nice and Simon isn’t.)

Miller makes those crucial distinctions inherent in my Persuasion Rules:  It’s about the other guy and All bad persuasion is sincere.  Whether trying to fashion a hit record or whether trying to fashion a persuasion “hit record,” you have to realize the point is what the receiver does, not what you do or think or feel.

Elijah Wald details the incredible success Mitch Miller enjoyed as a record producer in the 1950s and 1960s.  You may also remember Miller from his successful TV show that featured a “follow the bouncing ball” singalong format (Steven Spielberg used a Miller clip in his fun movie, “Catch Me If You Can” with Leonardo DiCaprio in that Southern family scene with Martin Sheen as the hopelessly Romantic father-in-law to-be).  Miller is still remembered and esteemed today as a man who understood the public’s tastes and knew how to combine singers with songs and bands to create hit records.

As just one great illustration of this, Mitch Miller convinced Tony Bennett, then a well known jazz singer, to cover the country western song, “Cold, Cold Heart” by Hank Williams senior.  Bennett was understandably concerned that he would destroy his hard earned reputation with jazz audiences by doing “hillbilly” music, but Mitch Miller knew otherwise.  Bennett recorded a more dramatic, jazz ballad version of the country hit and made it a hit for himself.

Realize the connection between persuasion and then something that seems unrelated, producing hit records.  Mitch Miller’s observations go to the heart of the common pulse:  It’s about the other guy, not about you.  Focus on the way the other guy thinks, feels, and acts, then launch your persuasion.

Further realize that persuasion and hit records also share another bond:  All bad persuasion (and performance) is sincere.  It’s not about your authentic feelings (your sincerity), but rather about how you are perceived and received by the other guy.  Frequently, your sincere, authentic, and genuine feelings are not in the least bit persuasive to the other guy who has an entirely different point of view from living their own life, not yours.

Once again, we can see the broad application and connection of persuasion in everyday life.  Persuasion is a Big Idea.