Back in the early 90's I worked as a club dj, record producer and also as chief buyer in a specialist record store.
We sold mainly club music - house, techno, hip-hop, drum and bass, plus jazz and soul and the cooler end of indie rock.
Over time I got to know the taste of many of my customers, most of them were either working dj's or bedroom dj's with a finely honed discernment.
These customers quickly got to know the best times to come into the shop to catch the worms. Saturday mornings first thing there would often be a line forming before I could get to opening the shop. They knew that the boxes of American imports arrived early and they wanted the pick of the top tunes before the hoi polloi got at them.
Of course, bits and pieces of interesting stuff came into stock all through the week. The super keen would be in sniffing around most days at lunchtimes or cooking up ficticious 'work' meetings out of the office and hanging round the shop.
I started making up bags for a few of the best customers as things appeared, then they could come in on a Friday night when we weren't so busy and listen to stuff and buy in a more relaxed way.
Pretty soon I was making up bags for upwards of 25 customers every week.
Because they trusted my choices (I was a dj of repute and credible trainspotter) 9 times out of 10 they took whatever I recommended.
From time to time I'd slip them a freebie or two, white-label promos or limited editions. As I was the buyer, record companies and distributors gave me a lot of promo stuff. To be fair I'd snaffle a few for myself (of course, I had my own dj cred to protect, but one couldn't play everything and I had chiseled out my own particular style and groove - Chicago-style house, DJ Pierre Wild Pitch that kinda thing - so not everything was appropriate).
I hazard a guess that around 20%-30% of the sales of 12" club tunes came from this 'on-approval' process.
Plus I had a number of mail order customers from remote areas of Scotland who I posted out a box of tunes to every week, and they simply sent me back by return anything they didn't want.
Again, 90% of the time nothing came back.
Over time, they trusted my choices because I never stitched anyone up, I gave them fair share of the rare and sought-after imports and pre-releases and gave them a bit extra for free from time to time.
This is a long winded explanation of how I discovered the notion of 'permission marketing'.
I earned the privilege of making purchases on behalf of my customers - or on approval - by being useful, credible and trustworthy, by being interested enough in them to know pretty much exactly what they would want.
In this way I was able to push the volume of sales by finding more product for my customers rather than having to chase customers for the product. (Though, of course, this happened by default as word got round that there was a record shop that didn't sell any shit, and where the staff took the time to offer a proper personal service for the discerning spotter).
So that's my little vinyl segue into this next bit.
I reviewed Seth Godin's latest book We Are All Weird the other week, and Seth sent me in the post the 12" coloured vinyl limited edition edition audio version. I guess it kinda completes the circle. Back in the record shop I never knew what Permission Marketing was, it just seemed like good practice. Years later, reading Seth's stuff, it all fell into place.
Here's the package...
The commemorative stamp...
And the coloured vinyl..
Thank you Seth, this takes pride of place alongside my complete set of Felix Da Housecat's Radikal Fear label from the mid 90's.