A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

PRESS 'PLAY'



When a slaphead musician, Moby released his album ‘Play’, in 1999, it was a critical disaster. Just 30 people turned up for the launch party, and the omens weren’t good at all.

So how come 9 years later, it’s now sold over 10 million copies?

The answer is quite fascinating, and may contain within it, the germ of an idea for you to transform one of your struggling ideas into an outrageous success.

You see, the ‘normal’ way to make money from a record (certainly in pre-internet days) is to get it played as much as possible on the radio and TV. People hear it, like it and go out and buy the album. And then the bandwagon starts to gather pace. But with thousands of artists battling for a limited amount of airtime, it isn’t easy for a relative unknown to get significant coverage. Without radio and TV coverage nobody gets to hear the music. And if they don’t hear it, they don’t go out and buy it.

At first, nobody was playing ‘Play’, and nobody was buying it.

The record company (and Moby himself, who was broke at the time) were keen to recoup some money from what was looking like a total disaster. What they did, was probably done as a last resort, but it turned the record into a hit and Moby into a star.

They started licensing the tracks on the album to companies for use in advertising campaigns. I don’t know whether they did it purely for the licensing fees, or whether they had the longer game in mind from the start, but the outcome was that the songs on the album quickly gained a massive audience momentum... far bigger than could normally be achieved from radio play alone. ‘Play’ was the first ever album to have all its tracks licensed for use in either advertising or films.

People heard the songs in the ad’s and movies, liked them, and went out and bought the album. And the rest is history as they say.

Now I know what you’re thinking though…

“Why the heck is he telling me that? Has he taken leave of what few senses he has left? I don’t have any undiscovered music to license out – or anything else for that matter!”

Well maybe you haven’t, but the point is this – there’s always more than one route to the same destination… in this case a multi-million best selling record. Your destination will probably be different, but there will still be numerous routes to get there.

There will be the well-trodden path that everyone else is on. It will be crowded and uncomfortable and you’re going to have a real fight on your hands to make any progress. In music terms, just think about the huge queue of ‘hopeful’s’ outside the X Factor auditions, and you will get the idea.
   
And then there will be other paths too, which may take a little lateral thinking to reach, but they’ll be far less crowded and you’ll get the chance to do things on your own terms. Compare the rise of the Arctic Monkeys via the internet and word of mouth to that of your average X Factor winner, and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s difficult for me to be more specific here, because I don’t know what you’re involved in, and working on, but let me give you an example from my own business which might explain what I’m talking about a little better…

Walk into any W. H. Smith and you will find literally thousands of books all competing for attention – and their publishers are the lucky ones - the ones that have managed to secure some much needed shelf space. Only a small percentage of books even make it to the shelves. I don’t have a single book for sale in W. H. Smith or any other bookstore for that matter, (not that I’ve ever tried to get them there) and yet I could still sell millions of pounds worth of books and other publications every year.

So how would I do it?

Simply by selecting a different and less crowded route, to achieving the same end… through selling a lot of different publications and making plenty of money. In my case this different route would probably consist of a combination of unique subject matter and unusual marketing methods, but it doesn’t really matter.

The point is that I have looked at the mainstream way of doing things, didn’t like the crowds or the odds and subsequently looked for a different route.

Whatever business or field you’re in, there are always back roads, shortcuts and alternative routes away from the main highway which everyone else is using. Once you separate yourself from the crowd, the rules of the road are far more flexible. You also get to do things your way… maybe even carve out a piece of your own track while nobody’s looking.

It’s all the more satisfying when you arrive at your destination, knowing that you’ve done it on your own terms, and avoided becoming a physical or emotional casualty of the mainstream journey.

Moby did it, I know I could do it, and you most likely can too.



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