Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, entrepreneur, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Articles → Avoid advance promotion. Be buyable first.

I often hear musicians say they want to do advance promotion - telling people about their new album before it's available for purchase (whether digital or physical).

Though the plan may be to generate excitement, I think the opposite happens. Imaginary dialog:

Check out my new music!
Where is it? Can I buy it?
Not yet - but soon!
Why are you telling me now?
So you can be ready for the announcement!
(... 2 months pass ...)
Check out my new music! It's ready!
I think I already heard of this. Not new. Delete.

Or, as Cory Doctorow says, “Internet users have short attention spans. The moment of consummation — the moment when a reader discovers your book online, starts to read it, and thinks, huh, I should buy a copy of this book — is very brief. That's because ‘I should buy a copy of this book’ is inevitably followed by, ‘Woah, a youtube of a man putting a lemon in his nose!’ and the moment, as they say, is gone.”

(Next time you think a song you wrote deserves 5 minutes of someone's attention, look at what this guy did to compete for that same 5 minutes of someone's attention.)

So, the best plan goes like this:

  1. Record your music.
  2. Start conversations with bloggers and other biz-people you'll want to turn on to your music later. Nothing to pitch them now, just get to know them.
  3. Prepare your marketing/promotion plan, but don't do it yet.
  4. Get your music up for sale (on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, etc).
  5. Once it's available at every store (and you've tested it by buying one copy yourself) - update your websites (including MySpace, etc) to make it obvious everywhere and easy to buy.
  6. NOW do your promotion. Tell fans and friends repeatedly. Contact people you've come to know from past conversations, let them know it's available, and ask if they'd like to hear it.

NOTE: the exception to this rule is when you're raising money by letting hardcore fans buy the album before it's released.