I’ve noticed lately that my attention span is getting worse. I am finding it increasingly hard to focus on anything for any length of time (even getting to the end of this sentence was a struggle). Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, or maybe it’s to do with the inevitable sleep deprivation that comes with all this fathering-of-children business, but essentially I put it down to the fact that any time I sit down to do anything, some device or other beeps at me or displays a notification that simply demands another bit of my (ever-shortening) attention.
Needless to say I am not alone – everybody else I know is drowning in a sea of constant interruptions and diversions, usually because they are permanently wired up to that big old thing called the Internet which, frankly, never shuts up (and, for the record, is one day going to become sentient, take slight issue with the popularity of One Direction and devour us all alive). And never mind the Internet: there’s real life too. Demanding jobs, bossy toddlers, trips to the mechanic and a need to pay off the 5853% interest on a Wonga loan all impact on Joe Average’s ability to put his mind to a specific task for longer than 5 minutes (unless, it would appear, it involves Candy Crush).
And yet, despite all this, we musicians still think that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect busy, pushed-for-time members of the public to walk down to WH Smiths, purchase a music magazine, scour the magazine for a 20-word dismissal of our music, locate a boutique record store that stocks said music, buy a 180 gram limited edition vinyl copy of our latest 120-minute triple LP, nip down to the corner hifi shop to buy a turntable to actually play the masterpiece on, whip out the joss sticks, then listen in reverence to the album for 2 hours.
Yes, there are some die-hard fans who will go to those 1970s-style lengths to discover, buy and enjoy new music but sadly these days they are in the minority. Those dastardly short attention spans make it very unlikely that a potential fan will complete any of the above steps to listening bliss (they might get as far as WH Smiths, but odds are they’ll buy a saucy magazine instead – and one in which there is, surprisingly, no room for album reviews). But don’t despair: there are still ways to get people to listen to your music, but you have to bear the fact that we are living in an era of information overload in mind when you go about promoting it. Here are some tips for dealing with music fans who don’t have time for anything…
- Don’t assume that everybody wants to listen to an album’s worth of material. Allow – and encourage – people to stream or download individual tracks. That might be all they have time for.
- Offer your music in a variety of formats: streams, downloads, videos, acoustic versions, CD, vinyl…this ensures that you are catering for everybody (and every device).
- Don’t just rely on promoting your music in print publications. Although some magazines and newspapers publish their features and reviews online, not all do. Increasingly, people are consuming content they used to enjoy in print publications via a Facebook feed (which Mark Zuckerburg is now using to manipulate your emotions, it would seem). So remember that online music promo is now as important – if not more so – than traditional press.
- Create compelling reasons for people to listen to your music or watch your latest video: don’t just stick a boring tweet up that says ‘download our latest song now’. Be clever with visuals, concepts, language…do whatever it takes to stand out (so long as it’s not too naff, or illegal).
- Think about timing: when are people most likely to have a gap in their day to notice you and your music? If you are posting your new tracks up at 11pm on a Friday night, or launching an album 5 days before Christmas, you are going to struggle in your quest for people’s attention.
- Remind people about what you’re promoting – within reason. It’s very unusual for people to take action the very first time they see a bit of promotion for something, so you may find that you need to give them a little nudge. This could be in the form of a ‘chaser’ e-newsletter, another Facebook status update or tweet, or a follow up Facebook ad campaign. Don’t overdo it though – over-communication is no solution the problem of time-poverty, and will just annoy your fans.
- Create edits of your songs, where appropriate, for an online audience (or indeed any audience). If you have a track that generously presents a 10 minute instrumental section before the first verse arrives, you might want to think about shortening it a bit when you use the song in certain promotional contexts.
- If presenting your music to A&Rs, publishers and live agents, give them a sample of your music before introducing them to the full version of your latest opus or your entire back catalogue.
If you made it this far, well done: there’s hope for our attention spans yet. Now get yer joss sticks out and whack that very long record of mine on.