Dixie Chicks attempt a comeback

June 13, 2006

Dixie_1 http://www.dixiechicks.com/

The band, formerly known as the hottest thing in country music has suddenly cooled. It started back in 2003 at the start of the war in Iraq when lead singer Natalie Maines remarked on being ashamed that President Bush is from Texas. While the remark played well to her audience in London, flag-waving, Bush loving, country fans in the U.S. were outraged. And a public fire storm erupted. Radical, peace-loving musicians are nothing new. But when and how you open your mouth is important. Not to mention knowing something about your fan base.

Once-uttered phrases such as this are almost impossible to take back. Just ask Howard Dean. But they can be overcome; if you do the right things get your brand back on track.

Let’s take a look at what the Chicks have done right and wrong.

1. Get out of the spotlight and give the public a break.

GOT IT RIGHT. The girls very wisely took three years off. Today, their new album release comes at a time when views of the President and the war have changed. But even more important than that, time really can heal most wounds. Time gives fans, reporters and disk-jockeys the ability to save face and embrace the trio once again.

2. Embrace the controversy, apologize in front of the media and end the bitterness.

GOT IT WRONG. While the Dixie Chicks have certainly embraced the controversy and not shied away from the media (they recently were on the cover of Time, interviewed on the television show 60 Minutes and were heard on the Howard Stern radio show to name a few) they have not admitted any wrong doing or apologized. Instead they come across as arrogant and angry. Admitting some fault would go a long way in helping to repair their image. The first single, “not ready to make nice,” is a fine song, it creates controversy and attention. But while you sing it you actually do have to make nice with the media and fans.  Saying you don’t care what your fans or country radio thinks is egotistical.

3. Start slow.

GOT IT WRONG. Making a comeback is like starting over in many ways. You don’t get to start back where you were at the height of your fame. You need to be humble, work hard and inch your way back up the ladder. Launching a huge nationwide tour was most certainly not the way to go. The bad press surrounding the disappointing tour sales is more damaging than the losses in tour revenues. “Dixie Chicks May Lay Egg with U.S. Tour.” Wall Street Journal is a typical example. It is a sign of failure having these stories hit the press. It would have been better to do a limited tour with only cities you know you could sell out, maybe even booking smaller venues so tickets would be hard to come by.

The irony is that the album debuted at number 1 despite not getting any airplay and will likely be a huge success. But the negative press about the tour has taken the air out of the sails of that news story.

4. Keep your brand focused.

GOT IT WRONG. The Dixie Chicks are a country act. Crossing-over means more album sales, but can leave you stuck in the mushy middle. Core fans think you have sold out and new fans can quickly move on to the next thing. The Dixie Chicks today are wearing lots of black eyeliner and saying things like “Country listeners are a bunch of rednecks; we don’t need ‘em.” Not a good move. Always remember where you came from and never insult the fans who made you successful.