I’ve always found the idea of “Shameless Self Promotion” to be a bit of an oxymoron. Why should we be ashamed of promoting ourselves and our own personal brand? A fantastic blog article by Nathan Hangen points out, very aptly, that there is a big difference between promoting and “self-adulation”. He is mostly referring to the difference between bragging about what you’ve done and giving people an idea or vision to follow. I ultimately think that he’s right.
Let me refer back to my favorite example of my ambivalence toward self promotion- 30 Seconds to Mars. As I’ve said before, love or hate the music, you cannot deny that these guys have nearly perfected the art of self-promotion and creating a vision for their extremely loyal fan-base. Whether that is a result of the cult of personality that Jared Leto inspires or from not being terrible musicians or from being able to provide an exciting show while on tour, I don’t know. I’ve never actually been to one of their shows 😉 The question that I keep asking is- would this be a good model for other aspiring artists, musicians, writers, etc… to follow in order to achieve some level of success?
It really doesn’t matter if your art is good or bad, but it does matter greatly if people are buzzing about you. There are plenty of songs I would never have played unless someone else had told me about them. Even more so, there are hundreds of books that I would never have picked up if I hadn’t read a good review of it. With the ever flattening and globalizing world, we have less time to spend weeding and sorting through the media onslaught of stuff and there is an exponentially larger amount of product on the web for us to look at!
Everyone is advertising something these days. I can’t seem to go 20 minutes without having my inbox full of junk mail or someone sending me a coupon of some sort for things that I have no desire to purchase. But, this model works because for every one of us who throws it away, there is a chance that someone will be inspired to go out and buy! The name of the game is volume and that hasn’t changed for decades- you all remember the onslaught of fliers and bulk mailers when we all still received letters from the post office.
To put this in perspective- there are over 7 billion people on this planet, most of whom have some sort of access to the internet or TV or some form of social media. Let’s say that you are trying to sell a novel (or whatever else you’d like to sell) and it’s an e-book. You now need to reach the millions (or more) people out there who read and who have an e-reader, so what do you do? By the way- You also feel a need to make a bit of money on this proposition and you are not pricing your novel too high, let’s say $2.99 per download. If you only sell 1000, then you’ve made $2990 and this doesn’t even cover the cost of self publication (even in E-Book). You have a problem of volume and need to expand.
This is where the buzz comes in. If people get to talking, then they will tell their friend and that friend will tell their friends, etc and so on, but the same applies whether you are good or bad. For the sake of longevity, it would help to be good at what you do, but even 1 hit wonders made a little money on at least 1 song 😉 The same concept applies in business; a satisfied customer will tell 3 friends where an unsatisfied customer will tell 3000! (Here is the book by the same title) It takes more money and effort to constantly bring in new customers than to retain loyal ones and this applies to artists as well as businesses.
What 30 Seconds to Mars has done is to create a cult like following by providing “Echelon” only special events and options to people who have joined the mailing list or liked their Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter. Why is this ingenious? Because it is 🙂 For all of the people who ignore their mailings, there is another group who are enticed by the offer to be a part of something, to feel special, and let’s face it- all customers want to be made to feel appreciated and special. They want to feel like these larger than life guys care about them as individuals and that they understand whatever it is the listener thinks they are suffering through. It is human nature to want to be a part of a tribe. The other part of their success that doesn’t hurt is the fact that they are good looking men, and Jared Leto has had an eternal following of teenagers since the early 90’s. They went into this endeavor with a bit of an ace up their sleeve, but were able to continue being successful because of the distance that they consciously put between the band and the previous Leto “Brand” associated with his acting.
From the literary side, there are quite a few successful authors who have published books under a pen name. Most notably, Steven King and Anne Rice have both been published under multiple pseudonyms and the only explanation that I’ve ever read to explain this move is that what they were publishing had the potential to alienate their loyal readers. The same really doesn’t apply to music, but there is always the potential for a side project to influence people happiness with the original artistic endeavor.
So, this rambling all started with me wondering if the 30 Seconds to Mars business model (I’m sure that there is another name because these guys didn’t invent this concept- I just don’t know it!) can be applied to any type of Shameless Self Promotion and I can’t see why it wouldn’t. Social Media is free advertising, but you also need to find a way to catch people’s attention. This is where my ambivalence comes in. I’m not a person who is comfortable hyping myself up in any way, but to some extent, that is how you need to proceed in order to hook the customers and keep them coming back for more. There is a fine line between promotions and bragging, but if you don’t leave the women wanting to take you home and the men dreaming about you, then you haven’t hooked them. It’s all about selling yourself and your vision to the masses.