For a successful project, the launch is critically important - but not in the way you may think.
You spend weeks, months, maybe even years working on your art. You pour blood, sweat, tears, time, and money into your project. It only makes sense that you want to the world to validate your hard work on day one - features on your favorite blogs, direct messages from your heroes, confetti canons exploding everywhere.
That’s the dream. (I’m guilty of dreaming this dream, too.)
But it rarely works that way. And that’s OK. The launch isn’t the start of a project; it’s not the end, either. Consider these ideas to strengthen your strategy as you approach your next launch.
Our hours are our power
“Barbara Hendricks explains to authors how misguided their timelines often are: ‘I urge authors to consider how long it took them to write their books and see them published and to devote at least that much time to pushing them,’” Ryan Holiday notes in his latest book, Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts.
There are a few reasons why you should spend as least as much time promoting your work as you do making it, Holiday argues. Maybe most important is that many people won’t see your work the first time you share it, and even if they do, they might need to be reminded a few times to check it out.
“Audiences often need to hear about things multiple times and be exposed to them from multiple angles before they’re willing to give something a chance,” he writes. “You have to give yourself the runway to get airborne. To cut the engines halfway through? That’s the best way to ensure you never leave the ground.”
If it takes a year to record your debut album, you should spend a year marketing it by playing shows, selling merch, being active on social media, and making new music. Ideally even longer than that.
Everything is a remix
It can feel awkward to share the same thing over and over, so that’s why you should mix it up. Share reviews of your work, give interviews, and re-post pictures of loyal fans with your work. There are countless ways to remind people your work exists that doesn’t have to feel gross, you just have to be creative.
Today, the endless stream of social media means most people dip in and out without seeing every last tweet or Instagram post. Plus, algorithms can complicate things, too - ultimately they decide what to show people and when. And if your followers live in different time zones, which is almost a certainty, they might not even be awake when you share your work.
Posting about your new project once at 8 a.m. isn’t going to connect with everyone, no matter how great that announcement is. You’re at the mercy of the networks when you share, and that’s all the more reason to continually mix it up.
Share the love (and the work)
Rather than investing all your time, energy, and money into one big push, spread it around. One idea Holiday suggests: Instead of hiring a PR advisor, use that money to buy copies of your work to hand out for free. The word of mouth you generate from fans holding your actual work will be more valuable than you can imagine.
What would happen if you mailed prints to your favorite artists and small businesses? Would they hang it on their wall? Share it on Instagram? Who knows! But if they do, and dozens of people walk into their business every day, or they have thousands of Instagram followers, all of a sudden you’re reaching a ton of people outside of your network.
Making is marketing
If your goal is to make something that lasts, you need to do more than just make the thing, or as Holiday reminds us: “Making is also marketing.” You need to make new work to support all of your work.
Holiday points to a study by Alan Sorensen and Ken Hendricks, two economists, to illustrate how new work impacts the whole body of work: “With each new album, the sales of a band’s previous album will increase. As the researchers wrote, ‘Various patterns in the data suggest the source of the spillover is information: a new release causes some uninformed consumers to discover the artist and purchase the artist’s past albums.’ In fact, sales of non-debut albums increase by an average of 25 percent because of this additional discovery and exposure.”
So, if you’re really not sure how to get people to notice your work, make more!
But, let’s be honest: No one ever knows what’ll stick. Hollywood movies with hundred million dollar budgets wouldn’t flop if a guaranteed formula existed. What is all but guaranteed, though, is that the more work you make, the better chance someone will see it. I’ll often find a director or author and fall in love with their newest release, only to devour their previous work in the weeks after.
If they stopped after their first project because it didn’t meet their expectations, they might be working a desk job and I never would’ve found them.
Or look at it another way: Athletes don’t get into the hall of fame because of a single game. It’s about a career. It’s no different for artists.
Plan your launch strategy accordingly.