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Jimmy Buffett’s Cult Brand Summary
When an unknown Jimmy Buffett moved to Nashville in 1969 to take his shot at making it in the music business, success didn’t quickly follow. After twenty rejections from record labels and two years of writing for Billboard magazine, Buffett finally found a home for his music with Barnaby Records. His first album was hardly a hit, selling only 374 copies. This flop would have detered most musicians, but Buffett moved ahead and landed another record deal with ABC/Dunhill in 1973.
Buffett churned out songs over the next few years, but his unique blend of lively country and folk music with a Caribbean sound left his record company and the entire music industry confused about how to market him. Buffett’s musical sound was in a category of one, and he fought hard to keep it that way.
It wasn’t until 1977 and the release of “Margaritaville” that he enjoyed his first, and only, Top Ten hit. But the wait was worth it: almost twenty-five years later, anything even remotely sounding like “Margaritaville” is still referred to as “Jimmy Buffett music.” Buffett owns his category of music in the minds of millions. Whether or not you like Buffett’s music, it’s hard not to break into a big smile and have a heck of a good time at a Buffett concert. Where else in the world can you see thousands of happy people celebrating in a parking lot dressed in Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, and shark-fin hats, drinking frozen margaritas and eating cheeseburgers?
Most musicians focus their attention on making and selling albums and videos, but Buffett aims higher, selling his fan the opportunity for a temporary escape into the land of fun. This lifestyle is what Parrot Heads around the world are really buying. They are purchasing the opportunity to fulfill their passions with like-minded individuals through various activities, be it a road trip to a Buffett concert, meeting with local Parrot Heads for drinks at happy hour, or volunteering with other Parrot Heads to help a nonprofit organization.
The largest Parrot Head organization is the multi-national Parrot Heads in Paradise, Inc. It started as a small club in Atlanta, initiated by Scott Nickerson and sanctioned by Buffett’s Margaritaville team. Although the first meeting attracted only fourteen people, Margaritaville showed its willingness to build customer communities and started to promote the idea to all its fans in mailings.
Soon after reading about the clubs, Buffett fans around the country began contacting the Margaritaville store asking how they could start clubs in their local areas. Next thing Nickerson knew, he was sending out mini-business plans for starting Parrot Head clubs to dozens of fans. The Parrot Head Nation was born.
Parrot Heads in Paradise has thousands of members around the world. Each year they hold a convention in Key West and every year Buffett sends a playful videotaped welcome that thousands of fans see at the opening of the convention. The video greeting is a unique opportunity for Buffett to reward his most devoted fans and tell them that he is thinking of them. At the seventh annual convention in 1998, Buffett took the idea of preaching to the choir to the next level. Although members of Buffett’s band had always attended, Buffett himself had never made an appearance. That’s why Parrott Head fans were pleasantly shocked when Buffett appeared out of nowhere that year and started jamming with all his fans. Spending only a few hours of his time, Buffett created good will with thousands of his best customers that will probably last forever.
Today, Jimmy Buffett earns $100 million each year with his tours, restaurant sales, and albums. The key to his success? Creating and embracing a lifestyle a legion of loyal fans love.
Jimmy Buffett Timeline
- Dec. 25, 1946 — Born James William Buffett
- 1969 — Signs with Barnaby Records
- 1970 — Releases his first album: Down to Earth
- 1971 — Goes to Key West
- 1973 — Releases A White Sport Coat & A Pink Crustacean; the beginning of the Coral Reefer Band
- 1974 — First top 40 single with Come Monday reacheaing #30 on the Billboard Pop Chart
- 1975 — First tour with the Coral Reefer Band
- 1977 — Releases his first platinum album: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes; contains his only top 10 single: Margaritaville
- 1985 — First use of the term Parrothead
- 1987 — First Margaritaville restaurant opens in Key West
- 1992 — Starts own record label
- 1993 — Moves to Palm Beach
- 1998 — Releases biography , A Pirate Looks at Fifty; sixth person to have NY Times #1 bestsellers on both fiction and nonfiction lists
- 2000 — Releases Margaritaville tequilla
- 2002 — First Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant opens
- 2003 — Receives first Grammy nomination for It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere
- 2004 — License to Chill debuts at #1 on albums chart; Buffet’s first #1 album
- 2006 — Gets into Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
- 2007 — Landshark Lager debuts
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