If you're lucky enough to live in an advanced country, your life expectancy is an average 700,800 hours. YouTube creators release 1.3 million videos per day. An estimated 300 hours of content is uploaded each minute, or 432,000 hours per day. To consume one day’s worth of YouTube content, you’d need to spend half your life watching it without sleeping, eating or going to the washroom. Think: if you account for all the blogs, podcasts, radio, traditional TV and other media out there, you'll quickly realize that we’re in a middle of a content explosion. A perpetual nuclear content explosion, to be precise.
A good portion of the content is evergreen. The onslaught on human attention is on a level never before seen. So whether you're an established artist or a new artist, you have to fight for attention every day to make it.
You might write and produce the greatest song of all time, but it’s likely that it will drown in the flood of content that’s released every minute. The challenge for all content creators is to break through the noise. But for a recording artist, the challenge of breaking through the noise is harder, because the cost of producing a great song is higher, relatively speaking.
Here are some tips for surviving the perpetual nuclear explosion:
1) Reduce costs
Most people become romantic about the idea of becoming a recording artist, and they spend to chase the dream rather than build the dream. Money is the fuel that will help you live the life you want and deserve – but in the nuclear explosion, you could spend money on a massive ad campaign and not make a cent. You could easily spend thousands of dollars on stuff that will yield zero results.
Money and time are scarce resources, so you have to spend them wisely. By spending thriftily and astutely, you'll have a chance to be in the game longer and survive to brag about it. In business, the winning formula is simple: have more revenues than expenses. That said, start-ups, whether they’re in music or any other business, usually incur losses at the beginning. By being cost-conscious, you’ll make sure those losses aren’t crippling.
2) Be patient
If you want to become a doctor, it will take you four years to get a Bachelor’s degree, plus four years of medical school and another two years of residency before you can start practicing. Then, when you’re done, you’ll have to pay off all the debt you’ve racked up in the decade you spent studying to be a doctor.
It took me four years of undergraduate studies and 3.5 years of articling at an accounting firm before I got my CA designation. When I got it, I still needed four more years of experience before I could provide great value to my clients.
So let’s say you’re 22 years old and you just released your first single. Or you’re 38 years old and you’ve decided to finally do the thing you’re most passionate about. If doctors must sacrifice 10 years of their life to achieve their goal, why would an artist think he or she could achieve success with their first single? It takes years for an artist to learn how to record, write, and perform live. In addition, the artist needs to learn how the music business works to build a team and a fan base.
So you release your first video on YouTube and it only got 100 views. Good! Now try to build on that. Patience is very important to achieve success in anything we do.
3) Create art, not hits
Stop trying to create the same thing you hear on the radio, or writing songs that are going to be the next hit. Create music that will connect with people. If you're a cute blonde, stop trying to be Taylor Swift. She's got that market cornered. Remember: in the content explosion, if you don’t stand out, no one will remember you.
Why don't you try writing a song about Pokemon Go?!? Millions and millions of kids play it every day. Or, if you're a millennial, try telling Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to go F themselves.
Create something cool and refreshing, and don’t worry about radio or what the industry professionals tell you. There are rules and norms of how to write and produce songs, which you need to understand. But do your thing. If people like it, you’ll get the signs that you’re onto something.
4) Make product
You need to be constantly in the public eye via your social and traditional media channels. Nowadays, you can’t release an album and wait for years to release the next one, because by then you’ll be forgotten. It will take you more work to break through the noise again.
If you can’t put out songs regularly, then you need to create content regularly. This could be video or social media updates about your activities.
5) Become an attention-hacker
Find ways to get attention. Always be on the lookout for ways to break through. There will be many new platforms and technologies coming online every day, and you get opportunities to gain attention from those platforms.
Influencer marketing is something that’s not being fully utilized. There are many Instagrammers and Snapchatters who have a large following. Why not send them your CD, T-shirt or build a relationship with them, so they can push your brand?
Part of being a hacker is being a perpetual learner. And you always need an open mind.
The most important thing in this world is networking. It’s all about relationships, and if you have 10 people who are rooting and pushing for you, then your chances of breaking through the noise will get better. You need to be present at all the key events that you possibly can make it to. In Toronto we’re lucky, because world-class music conferences and events – such as Canadian Music Week Inc., Indie Week and NxNE – are always taking place.
Pretty much wherever you are, other conferences and events take place every day that you can attend and build relationships. They don’t have to be music-related. You never know who you’ll meet. Someone might be looking to invest in a musical act.
Yes, it’s getting hard to gain attention and build an audience. But let’s face it, if you’re an accountant, lawyer, doctor, restaurant, dentist, coffee shop, in the apparel business or the owner of an online store, we’re all in the same game. We’re trying to attract fans who will support us in the journey we’ve decided to pursue.