“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” – Zig Ziglar
The above quote is cool and all, but I don’t think it means what we think it means. A lot of motivational speakers and Twitter gurus like to use this quote. To them, it’s a way to get you moving. They tend to believe that you must be prepared. You must train. You must get everything right first, and then, once the universe is satisfied with your amount of preparation, you’ll unlock a golden opportunity.
It’s a great thought, and while I believe it to be true, I like to think of it slightly differently. See, in the quote, the opportunity happens first, then that opportunity meets the preparation. In the quote, there are no indications about when and how the opportunity comes about. You can prepare, easily, but you can’t really fabricate an opportunity, especially in the music business.
The Internet is crazy and it never sleeps. While you’re awake reading this right now, someone from across the world is laying their head down to sleep right now, and the cycle turns continuously. As artists, we don’t get to pick and choose what listeners latch onto and how they share it; we just hope they will.
Let me give you an example. Long ago I worked with a friend who’s a singer. He worked long nights and spent a lot of money putting together a fantastic project that was received pretty well. He and I did what we thought was our due diligence and sent out press releases, contacted blogs and radio, and made sure the fan base had enough to keep them busy and entertained for a while. It did well for the moment, but eventually the buzz wore off.
Do you know what went viral weeks later?
An old-ass video of he and a group of friends singing in a Waffle House. Someone whipped out their video phone and got a snippet of them singing.
Thousands of dollars doing the right thing for a project and a potato-quality video is what catches on. Geez.
And to make matters worse, we had nothing else. An opportunity arose and we had no new content to keep newcomers engaged. We weren’t prepared.
So, how do we combat this?
The way a lot of independent artists work is they put music out and hope for the best. Sometimes they’ll plan a release, but they still generally put the music out, do a cool thing or two and then move on to the next project.
While not wrong, it’s just not enough. That’s why artists should be building pipelines.
No matter what industry you’re in right now, content is king. And if you don’t have enough content to get attention, then you’re falling behind.
Guess what? One album every nine months isn’t enough. You’ve got to do more.
Before I tell you how to create a pipeline, I’m going to give you two great reasons why pipelines work.
1. Motivation. I have no clue what it is with creative types, but we’ll have an idea and be really into it. But maybe two weeks later, we’ve moved on from that idea with nothing to show for. There’s a theory out there that we only have so much motivation and will power, and when we get the feeling to do something, we just need to do it. The problem happens when we do stuff and want to release it right away. The idea of creating a pipeline encourages you to wait for the right time, while taking advantage of your wave of creativity.
2. Time. If you’re an independent artist and you have a small team or no team at all, you’re probably doing a lot of the work yourself. That leaves very little time to do anything else. However, the pipeline theory works like a blitz — you take two or three weeks out of the month to make month’s worth of content. Then as your content is being released in phases, you can just chill, create more or have something in your back pocket for when an opportunity arises.
Creating a Pipeline for Success
It’s important to know beforehand, that you’re going to need to be committed to creating content for the allotted amount of time needed to create. When I mention content creation, I’m not just talking about making songs, though that is away at it. I also mean bite sized pieces of content for social media, whether that be photos, graphics, contests, etc.
To get yourself acclimated to the idea, I suggest taking one to two weeks to create four to six weeks worth of content. You want to create so you can release one to two things a week. So, a six-week pipeline, as six to 12 good pieces of content to be released. Make sense?
1. Get a calendar and abide by it. Before you start making the content, you need to essentially create a release schedule. What days and times and what kind of content do you want to release? Do you want to release a new song Tuesday at 6PM? Is it behind-the-scenes studio footage that you release Wednesday at noon? For contests and deals, you want to also consider how the particulars will work. Put it all on an ideal schedule of how things will be phased out (or dripped).
2. Start setting deadlines. This part is super hard, especially if you have a team or outsource some of your work. It’s tough to ask people to give you things by a certain time, but try to build extra time into your deadlines. Ideally, you’re telling your team what you want and when you want it by. If you’re working along, these are just rubrics for when you want to have final products ready to go.
3. Create! There are so many things you can create for content that range from entire new songs or cover songs to footage. Don’t think this all has to be expensive. Something I’ve learned is finished is better than perfect — it’s ok to shoot a couple videos on your iPhone. It’s ok to use a free beat you’ve found online every so often. Most of your pipeline work is just to keep you relevant. When you have specific, original content, you’ll start making campaigns for that. Create stuff that works in-between time.
4. The create some more. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of getting a fluctuation of interest and no way to engage or monetize off that. Even if it’s not on the schedule, get in the habit of recording more, taking more photos, recording more songs, etc.
5. Release your content. Easily. It’s hard to remember when to release stuff all the time. It slips your mind and that’s cool. Use a service like TuneCore Social to drip your content out amongst your social medial channels. This makes it easier for you, as you get to set it and forget it.
6. Reap the benefits. Now, you’ve got content for the next few weeks! That’s great. You can kick your feet up, or, as I’d recommend, get right back into creating. Perhaps your next piece of work is for a campaign around a single or project. You can use the same idea to put something together for it, just make sure it’s all related and has the same feeling behind it.
When it opportunity comes, you want to be prepared to handle it. Making sure you have something to keep people engaged is so important as an independent artist. Try out the pipeline theory and see how it works toward growing your fanbase.