Shep Gordon: The Original Growth Hacker

Part 1

If you don’t know who Shep Gordon is then please take a second to read the following list of names he managed: Alice Cooper, Luther Vandross, Raquel Welch, Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, Mike Myers, Renée Loux, PInk Floyd. He also invented the ‘Celebrity Chef’ yes, invented. Still interested?

Shep might also be the most interesting man in the world. Not the guy from the Dos Equis advertisement, trust me on this.

His first night in Los Angeles at his hotel, he gets punched in the face by Janis Joplin. The next day Janis apologises and introduces Shep to her friend, Jimi Hendrix. Jimi asks if Shep is Jewish. He responds “yes” Jimi then suggests “you should become a manager” and that he should manage Alice Cooper. “Sure”, Shep responds… Alice Cooper was not famous at this point.

The pressure is on and he has this outrageous commodity in Alice Cooper. After watching Alice spend most of his latest show run around the stage yelling “nobody likes me!” followed by booing and people exiting, it seemed like a long shot.

Don’t shy away from different, embrace it.

Shep realized that if you could get the parents to hate the artist, the kids would love them. The only platforms available at that time allowing the opportunity to generate rapid growth were newspapers and TV, so this was the goal.

Fake it till you make it.

Shep paid fake photographers to come and shoot Alice before and after shows with no film. The idea is to create a presence ‘real or not’ so people pay attention. Continue to get attention… Alice was booked into Wembley arena and they had sold 50 tickets. How could they get English people to know who Alice Cooper was?

Think outside the box

The answer was take a billboard van with a picture of Alice naked with a snake wrapped around him and break it down during rush hour in Piccadilly circus. This caused outrage and got feature in the British press. Two days later, Webley was sold out…

Money isn’t always the most valuable commodity

Continue to shock… After the Wembley show they had the opportunity to play a festival in Canada and were told they would receive 30% of the proceeds. We learn a great business lesson here. Shep says “I don’t want any money. I want Alice to play just before John Lennon” a lesson in understanding true value.

Learn how to optimize an opportunity

The deal was done. Alice played just before John Lennon and continued to cause controversy by throwing a chicken, yes, a chicken, into the audience where it got torn to bits and thrown back at the stage. The chicken was places on stage by Shep because who else brings a chicken to a concert? This of course caught more media attention and elevated Alice’s status ultimately leading to the creation of his first album.

Part 2

Let’s talk about Anne Murray. Who remembers Anne Murray? I must admit, I certainly don’t. A little before my time. Midnight Special 1973 primetime television, if you were cool enough to be on midnight special, you had made it. So, let’s talk about Anne Murray. “She was so middle America, she was past middle America, she was Canadian” Purest of pure voice, country singer and by no means ‘exciting’ or 1973 Midnight special worthy. Why then did Anne Murray end up on Midnight Special and become the ‘it- girl’ for a period of time in 1973. Shep Gordon, of course…

If you read my last post you will have heard about the great hacks that Shep pulled off in order to success Alice Cooper’s career. The truth was, Shep hated Alice Cooper style of music and wanted to test himself in another genre.

Compassionate Business

When building a business you want to create your own identity, however in 2015 you are competing against the world and getting recognition is no easy task. People need help and so do businesses. Shep to his peers is know as one of the nicest guys; Mike Myers even made a documentary about it. Shep often talks about doing ‘compassionate business’ and what this means is that no one loses, people only win. This means the introduction of another Shep invention, ‘The coupon’ a coupon is when a person does something for you and you don’t have the means at that point to equally pay them back (I don’t mean financially) but you pay them back the moment you have means or something they might like.

Lets all be friends

Relationship building isn’t just something that salespeople are responsible for. Also, connecting on Linkedin doesn’t mean that you have built a relationship. Relationships take time and are certainly frustrating for Marketers since you can’t directly attribute a CAC to these efforts. You will have to just trust me on this one. Shep is the master of relationship building and even learnt the art of the dinner party. He studies this for many years. Not a joke, theories include; inviting 2 people who haven’t met but you believe might want to. Always have round tables as they give a sense of equality. If there is a person of interest attending leave a spare chair at each table so they are free to move around. Serious stuff. Don’t just make business contacts, make friends.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Back to Anne Murray. How do you elevate a career and make someone cool. There is a theory that if you put someone next to a famous person, some of that fame rubs off. A modern example of this is Pia Mia & Kylie Jenner. They get pictured hanging out for about 1 month then before you know it, Pia Mia has a hit song. I wonder how that happened… This idea was taken from Shep 30 years ago. After following the ‘compassionate business’ & ‘lets be friends’ principle for many years, Shep had made some great friends in the industry. During this time period John Lennon was in his dark phase and had not been pictured for a long time. Shep had built a relationship with a friend who was part of a drinking club and guess who was a part of this club, yup, John Lennon.

A favour was asked and it lead to the above picture being taken. Anne Murray in a picture with John Lennon, now people are curious about who this Anne Murray is. Shep contacts Midnight special, says he represents the girl in the picture, they book her in and her career takes off. Good job Shep!



Manchester Lad. Previous @trubrain Los Angeles. Now @touchsurgery London and Global Operations Contributor @hyperloop I also blog:

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