Artists, Expect Delays
“In modern society, many of the choices you make today will not benefit you immediately. If you do a good job at work, you’ll get a paycheck in a few weeks. If you exercise today, perhaps you won’t be overweight next year. If you save money now, maybe you’ll have enough for retirement decades from now. You live in what scientists call a delayed-return environment. You can work for years before your actions deliver the intended payoff.” — James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.
Truer words were never spoken in relation to life as a music creator, am I right? It seems to take forever for the actions you take to create tangible progress and results. I understand how painful this can be, but worry not…
A few months ago, I fell in love with a song via one of Spotify’s mood playlists. I was so struck by this song that I had to interrupt the intimate conversation I was having to save it to my personal playlist for future listening, and for the rabbit hole I was certain to go down. I regularly listened to this new discovery for a solid month before deciding to share it via IG stories, another few weeks before I actually started following the band on social media (I forgot), another two weeks before I even listened to another song from the band’s catalog, and yet another week before being interested enough to learn about who they actually were. It was then that I found that the song I had just fallen in love with was released in…2016.
How did I miss this one? Where have I been? The sound and style of this group are right in my sonic wheelhouse and I would have imagined they would have come onto my radar sooner, or should I say, on time.
The truth is, this is common and more typical of how your music will land with listeners that don’t already know you. I have had this experience with artists that I already follow, discovering their new track months after it’s been released, even though I am already a fan! (I can see you in my mind pulling your hair out when reading that)
I know, sometimes it can feel like you are releasing your music out into space and it takes light years before it reaches the ears of those it’s supposed to be for. It’s frustrating and requires a ton of patience, something most of us are not wired for, especially given how we are conditioned for instant gratification. I see this a lot in PR campaigns, where the fruits of the pitching labor often land outside of the arc of the actual campaign.
It’s a lot like gardening where you plant, water, and feed a variety of seeds and then wait. Some produce nothing, some produce a viable result months later, some years later. Would you judge the success of your garden 3 to 6 weeks after planting the seeds? No, but you do so with your releases, don’t you? Even though you do your best to suppress those thoughts and judgments, they are there, chipping away at your confidence.
When you are in the throws of your release cycle, let my experience in discovering this track, and band, be a reminder of fairly typical consumer behavior. Here are I am, 5 years post-release of the song, repeat-listening, engaging, and sharing. I am also getting caught up on this group, so I am consuming everything they have, indulging in the world they started building many years ago.
I felt compelled to write this quick blog post to reassure you that your music is out there in the world, finding its way through its life cycle, ever so slowly showing up at the door of its intended audience. Its life cycle is longer than you think, so let the music go, keep creating, maintain the belief that you are onto something, and know that your music will find its home and bear fruit down the road in a way that you just can’t see yet. It’s coming.
In the same chapter of James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits (which I highly recommend that artists read), he goes on to say something important to close this out:
“Our preference for instant gratification reveals an important truth about success: because of how we are wired, most people will spend all day chasing quick hits of satisfaction. If you’re willing to wait for the rewards, you’ll face less competition and often get a bigger payoff. As the saying goes, the last mile is always the least crowded.”
Soundtrack courtesy of “Loveless” by Lo Moon, the track from 2016 that I just discovered, 5 years after its release.
If this resonated with you, please share it with other artists who might find it valuable. Check out the rest of my blog posts and get in touch with me here: www.thecompass-method.com
Patrick Ermlich is a life-long artist guide & educator, consultant, creative director, and CMO of Gramophone Media.