As the digital world pummels us with more information and choice, many of us react by walling off the things we simply won’t pay attention to. It’s a survival strategy. We increasingly define ourselves by the things we choose to pay attention to, and bestowing attention is a form of currency we are reluctant to squander.
This is a problem if you’re trying to grow an audience. Building a better mousetrap doesn’t matter if you’re in a world where mousetraps of any kind are on the other side of the wall. You’re less likely to find new audiences for your orchestra with better programming or brilliant performances if orchestras are on the other side of the attentional wall.
As our walls carve smaller micro-niches and we cut off more of the world from even passing consideration, building better products in categories in which we no longer pay attention to brings diminishing returns.
What to do? It’s a truism on the internet that you have to go where your audience is. So you have to be precise about defining who you think your potential audience might be (and this might be a different audience than what you currently have). Then you have to go where they are – they’ll no longer come to you (and they’re less likely to just encounter you).
The “cold call” version of this strategy is going out into the community to places where you don’t normally show up and displaying your wares. A concert in the mall, a gallery in a restaurant. This is usually a low-yield strategy, the real-world version of the salesman who calls you uninvited at home and attempts to sell you something.
A much better way of breaching the walled garden is to collaborate with someone who’s already on the other side of the wall. An example from this weekend’s New York Times:
Even in this moment of dominant solo idols — Beyoncé, Drake, Rihanna — there exists a less instantly recognizable realm of rising studio superstars that have leapt from the depths of SoundCloud or the E.D.M. heap into the upper echelon of influence, dominating radio play and landing high-profile festival appearances. Acts like the Chainsmokers, along with Diplo, Disclosure, Calvin Harris and even the rap figurehead DJ Khaled have proven reliable hitmakers as lead artists, frequently employing their industry friends to carry the tune while laboring in partial obscurity.Benefiting from the cross-pollination of regions and genres, these collaborations can introduce the featured artists to new audiences, with rappers and crooners crossing over among dance-pop aficionados. But the producers are pulling the strings and rightly taking much of the credit.