16

Graceful promotion is possible with a little practice

And why doing the bare minimum is a waste of time
16
Transcript

No transcript...

Hello, new subscribers. I’m Seth Werkheiser - since 2001 I’ve written a music blog for AOL Music, worked with independent music publicists, did D2C email marketing for Death Row Records, rode my bike (mostly) across America…

But my mission is this: to help creative folks sustainably continue their work without social media.

I believe social media algorithms are harmful, Zuck and Musk are terrible people, and we can create beautiful work without putting all our magical eggs into the basket of a handful of corporate overlords.

ANYWAYS - that’s me. Hello, welcome! Onto today’s piece!


The video above was in response to this wonderful quote I found via Substack notes from Elissa Altman:

If you’re not gonna talk publicly about your work, plenty of other folks will. People can’t fall in love with your work if they don’t know about it.

Tell people about your work in only the way that you can, because if an unpaid intern (or an AI prompt) could write your self-promo copy, you’re toast.

🚫 Hey, new song! [LINK]
🚫 I just posted some new art. [LINK]
🚫 New items added to the store. [LINK]
🚫 New interview - we talked about art stuff! [LINK]

Those can work if you’re Radiohead or Beyonce or Rolling Stone or Best Buy.

Which you are not.

Let’s learn from Austin Kleon, who says to learn to steal like an artist (buy that book right now, dammit).

✅ Look at how Jeff Tweedy explains a new solo acoustic track he posted:

“It’s Super Bowl Sunday, that’s what I’m told. I have tallied the results of all your requests, and opted to do an acoustic version of “King of You” from the album Star Wars. Which was an unlikely favorite. Or at least it got two votes. It’s from an album that’s meant to be full of nonsense, because I think nonsense is good for us.”

No way an AI bot or record label intern could write that. And a lot more interesting than “new song, click here.”

✅ If you interviewed someone, get out of the way and put them front and center, the way Sari Botton of Oldster Magazine does here:

In this instance above, Todd Boss is the focus, the center of attention. Get the heck out of the way and let their words champion the piece.

✅ Artist Marie Enger opens her recent newsletter like this:

“Friends, this week? It fucking sucked.

But my buddy Ray Nadine (who you might know from the 2024 GLAAD nominated comic LIGHT CARRIES ON, Raise Hell (with our good friend and yours too, Jordan Alsaqa), and SOMETHING HAS CHANGED) reminded me yesterday as I was spinning out--

The horrors persist, but so do the little treats.

Then they sent me a slurpee.”

✅ Back to Austin Kleon - he promotes a recent newsletter on Substack notes like this:

“I don’t know what it is about my brain, but as long as I can find the right image to put at the top of the newsletter, the rest just flows out. (I started this letter last week but didn’t finish it — remembering Kate’s image helped everything snap into place)”

Not one of these asks for a click, a signup, or a “buy now.”

They all attempt to draw you in with story, delight, oddities, weirdness - you know, art. Magic!

The newsletter or the song is the vehicle, but the creative spirit behind the work must provide the energy to move it forward.

We need to get away from thinking of our offerings as commodities.

We are not promoting just a new song, a new thing to read, or another piece of content.

You’ve already done the hard part; you’re an artist, photographer, teacher, musician - you know how hard it is to play the piano?! IT’S IMPOSSIBLE, I TRIED, OKAY?

But promoting your work? That’s much easier than trying to sight-read sheet music, which is another impossibility - how does anyone do it?!

Let your creative wisdom inform how you talk about and share your work. Literally spend more than 12 seconds on it, instead of banging out “hey click here” and expecting anyone to give a fuck about it.

✅ BONUS: You can also go in the opposite direction.

Think about how you’d start a comedy show. What’s the expectation?

Even if you’re not a comedian, we’re all so familiar with the process that if we had to, we could at least do the introduction part, right?

“Hey everyone, I’m Seth. So great to be here!”

But it takes an artist to spend the first three minutes wrestling with the mic stand, dropping the microphone, and yelling at the production crew to turn the music off.

But note when the music stops, and Tim Heidecker abruptly says, “Thank you, okay, all right.”

That took some work. That was magic.

Those first three moments are rough. I got a little bit of anxiety from watching it, but it was like a car wreck; I couldn’t look away.

Like - why go through all that?

Because it sets the stage for what’s to come.

Why did I pack up my camera gear and use a wired microphone and go into the woods to make a video about hyping your work?

Because this is my art, my project, my work.

Some people will get that video. Some people will be like, “That guy is weird, and I’m not subscribing.”

Great. This is what I do, this is how I work. thank u, next.

Make people feel something. Stress, tension, release. The hero’s journey.

These are all things you can learn and study and steal ideas from (and a much better use of your time, instead of spending 2+ hours a day scrolling social media).

Time for another walk in the woods.

GOOD STUFF

Share the work of other artists and creative individuals in spaces like this.

“You do not need to have a social media following, or even a social media account, in order to live a fulfilling, influential, adventurous, and joyful life. Run happy my friends.”

Marie Wilson (Outdoor & Environmental Writer)

“When should it be posted? If the event is tomorrow, the answer is not tonight. Most people won’t see it until two days from now – it’s too late. Like when restaurants post their daily specials at 6 pm – great, hope your dinner service was wonderful. I saw it at noon the next day, and it means nothing to me now, I wish I had known about it sooner so I could plan.”

Chelsea Bradley from ‘Your Content is Killing Your Brand

“There’s an extent to which the influencer industry is basically a machine that generates confirmation bias at scale. That is, every influencer is, at the very least, a walking advertisement for the idea of becoming an influencer.”

Collin Brooke from ‘You gotta be in it to win it


I’m Seth Werkheiser. You can support my writing by becoming a paid subscriber (click for more info). Write me, fight me: hey@sethw.xyz

16 Comments