The Psychology of Crowds

Reprinted from Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

It's the day after Thanksgiving -- widely known in the USA as one of the busiest shopping days of the year. And it's always amazed me. Why do people go out in droves to crowded malls and risk trampling just to save a few bucks on a DVD player or crock pot?

One answer has everything to do with crowd psychology.

I learned this lesson years ago as I watched people file out after comedy shows. (Yes, in a former life I performed stand-up comedy and music parodies regularly.) I sold my own comedy tapes and usually parked near the exit to catch anyone who wanted to buy the recording I had plugged onstage.

One show in particular stands out. The audience was about a hundred people strong. Nearly half of them marched right past me. Then one person stopped to buy a tape. Then another.

One of the buyers noticed I had a stack of promo photos and asked how much it would be for an autographed copy. No one had ever asked that before, so I said, "If you buy the tape, I'll give you an autographed picture free."

The other buyer overhead the conversation and said, "Then I'll take one too." By then, other patrons who were filing out had stopped to see what was going on. I heard a number of remarks along the lines of "What's going on? Oh, he's selling tapes. Let's stop and get one." Within minutes, there was a long and growing line. Each person saw that I was signing photos and wanted one too.

It was an eye-opening experience. What was so appealing to the second half of the audience that the first half couldn't care less about? You know the answer:

They were at first curious just to see what all the commotion was about, then interested in getting a piece of what so many other people were enjoying.

Mel Torment of Finger Records writes, "The packed house, frothing crowd mentality creates a sheep-like response, and when everyone suddenly thinks a band is cool, it is automatically assumed that so and so is the only band that matters ..."

And Stephen Bucaro writes about the importance of "consensus" when selling: "Consensus involves getting prospective customers to believe that 'everybody's doing it.' Everybody is just waiting in line to purchase your product. Everybody can't be wrong, so the product must be fantastic!"

This topic may be worth covering over a number of blog posts. So check back for more thoughts on the psychology of crowds.

In the meantime, start thinking about ways you can stimulate curiosity and attract a crowd feeding frenzy.

Bob Baker is the author of "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook," "Unleash the Artist Within" and "Branding Yourself Online." He also publishes TheBuzzFactor.com, a web site, blog and e-zine that deliver free music marketing tips and self-promotion ideas to musicians of all kinds. Visit TheBuzzFactor.com for more details.

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