The music world is very much like the book world in many respects. Big names garner huge sales without much effort, and little names usually need a lot of publicity to make their mark. In December, a music great did something not many people would have the nerve to try, and it worked out for her spectacularly!
If you haven’t heard about Beyonce and the self-titled album she released in mid-December, you probably don’t listen to Top 40 radio. But she did something daring—instead of months of promotion leading up to the album release, Beyonce used Instagram and posted a video and the word “Surprise!” on the day of the release. Nothing more. No one knew about the album, it had an exclusive release on iTunes (meaning, you could only buy it there), and best of all, she did no other marketing at all. The one photo caused an all-out frenzy and people went directly to iTunes to download, making it one of the top selling albums of 2013, even though it was only released in the final few weeks of the year. Amazing, by any standards!
Of course, she’s such a superstar and has such a following that it wasn’t impossible for this to succeed in her case. It was risky, but it paid off. The debate is on now, however, about other musicians doing something similar, and whether or not it would work now that it’s been done. Was it great just because it was a gimmick? Could she do the same for her next album and still do as well? Only time will tell, but the idea of not spending money on marketing has got to be throwing publicity departments everywhere into a tailspin.
The question here is whether or not companies need to be throwing HUGE publicity/marketing money behind sure-sellers who have proven themselves to have enormous followings. This idea is starting to make the rounds on forums and websites galore. Can they go with minimal marketing and still sell high, while that money could be thrown into lesser-known acts who often get very little in the way of marketing funds and publicity? Sure, record companies want all of their acts to sell big, but they don’t want to “waste” marketing money on someone who might not sell as many albums. It’s a tough decision, and certainly one that’s just been challenged.
This can all be applied to authors and publishing companies as well. If an author has already sold well and has a proven track record, more money will be spent promoting the author’s books in stores, online and through whatever media necessary. But a new author—even one with a lot of buzz—will traditionally get less backing from their publisher for marketing. That seems a little counterproductive. Beyonce’s experiment has many wondering whether this is an old idea that might do well to change. If publishing companies spent less sending bigger authors out on book tours etc., would we stop buying those books? I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t keep looking for new books from my favourite authors just because I haven’t seen a full page ad in a magazine talking it up. But I WOULD be inclined to pick up a book by a new author that has some promotion behind it. Often, we find out about these books through word of mouth. It’s not enough, in my opinion.
The world is changing, and social media is becoming the way to connect authors/musicians with their fans. One tweet, one status update or one selfie on Instagram is often enough to generate thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. Maybe we’d do better to start focusing some social media marketing on well known names, and leave the traditional marketing to promote the lesser known.
What do you think about new creative ideas for promotion and marketing? Do you think lesser known authors would benefit from more backing, while not taking anything away from high-profile authors? Do we need to change our thinking behind promotion and social media? Join the conversation!