Evergreen Content For Artists: How to Use It To Secure Your Creative Livelihood

Pencil drawing word "Create"

There’s never been a better time to be a creative person in the history of the world. Digital technology has allowed creative types of all kinds to have their own voice; artists can expose their art to anyone anywhere with or without the backing of significant corporate support.

One of the reasons why artists don’t necessarily need corporate support anymore is because if done properly, they can live comfortably from the income generated for them by their evergreen content.

In this last special post in the Evergreen Content Series, I look at how artists, writers, musicians – creative people – specifically can leverage their talents to ensure their evergreen content will secure their creative livelihood for a long time.

If you haven’t done so already, I’d suggest you start by checking out the other posts in the Evergreen Content Series listed below:

That being said, here are the 3 lessons that will help you ensure your evergreen content funds the creative lifestyle you deserve for years to come.

Create Quality Things

This one’s kind of a no brainer, but it needs to be said: if you want your creative income to last, you need to create quality work. Things of quality, whether they be kitchen knives, leather boots, songs, films, novels, cars, recipes, whatever… they all have one thing in common: they hold up to the test of time because they’re made better than things that don’t.

Have you ever wondered why people still listen to music by artists like Led Zeppelin? Hank Williams? Muddy Waters? Mozart? Do you ever wonder why those artists still get played and listened to regularly today? And why so many other bands from just 10 years ago (that were once super popular, but then seemed to disappear overnight as soon as the next trendy group came along) don’t?

I don’t wonder why at all because I know: the first artists I listed (and actually know the names of) are better. Simply put, their songs are better, and they’re better artists, at least when considered from an originality perspective.

The same can be said of film, novels, art, etc.: True quality always lasts and stands out regardless of whatever industry it happens to be a part of.

This is good news though, because if quality lasts, so do the results it produces – quality content always stays relevant in some capacity.

Let me demonstrate:

Ozzy Osbourne's Spotify page

Here’s a picture I took of Ozzy Osbourne’s Spotify page (and those numbers have likely changed since I took this photo). Ozzy’s music is definitely not for everybody, but most people can probably say they’ve heard the song Crazy Train once before (or at least know someone who has). Look at how many times it’s been played on Spotify: almost a quarter billion.

Now, sure, there are plenty of artists who have many more songs with many more plays than Ozzy’s Crazy Train… but let’s do some math here:

  • Ozzy Osbourne (at the time of writing this article) is 71 years old
  • The song Crazy Train was released on the album Blizzard of Oz, which came out in the year 1980
  • Ozzy Osbourne’s “prime” years of his career AFTER departing Black Sabbath came through this period up until about 1991
  • The internet wasn’t publicly available until 1991 (and it has come a long way since then in terms of how it operates and how the public uses it)
  • Spotify didn’t officially launch until the year 2008, nor did it become as popular as it is today for nearly another decade

I’m not a mathematician, but I’d venture to guess that there have been exponentially more plays of the song Crazy Train since it’s release than the ones recorded on Spotify.

And guess what?

Ozzy was paid for them then, and he still gets paid today every single time Crazy Train is played.

Not a bad deal for something he created more than half his lifetime ago.

The lesson here is: if you create quality content that lasts, it won’t stop producing for you even when it’s not new, fresh, or exciting anymore.

Create More Things

Do you know what’s better than having one big hit like Crazy Train?

If your answer is having several more of them, you’re onto something, my friend. If you’re a creator, chances are you’re already creating things regularly… but ensuring you are regularly releasing more creations and new things to your audience means you have more potential of those things producing excellent results for you.

Girl holding red balloon dressed as Stephen King's Pennywise the dancing clown
Recognize that face paint?

Let’s get away from the music example for this one, and instead, let’s look at the author Stephen King.

I’m sure he doesn’t need an introduction, but for anyone who doesn’t know, Stephen King is considered the modern master of writing horror fiction novels. In fact, he’s got over 60 books (not including shorter works) published in his name. Many of his books and short stories have become hugely successful film adaptations as well, which have only further cemented King’s status in the horror genre while also padding his wallet at the same time.

Now, it’s important to note, though, that like any artist’s collective works, not all things are created equal: some of them are better than others. If you look up ranked lists of King’s best novels, you’ll find that despite a few fluctuations, most critics and fans agree on which of them are his best, and which of them could be much better.

See for yourself:

However, King’s novels have collectively sold over 350 million copies, and even the ones ranked far from his greatest have sold in excessive quantities and continue to do so. That’s enough to pretty much keep him cemented as a permanent best-selling author on the charts.

So how did that happen?

Simply put, he wrote some excellent stuff, which in turn, developed an audience who became interested in his other existing work, including those which were deemed not as great.

When people are interested in something, they will always decide for themselves what they like… and great work merely serves as the gateway drug to the rest of the creator’s creations (no matter how long ago they were created).

Image of the 8 novels in Andrei Sapokowski's Witcher series
My collection of the Witcher book series. Author Andrej Sapkowski wrote the first novel in 1993; Netflix just released a Witcher series based on these books in 2019. Fans have since flocked in droves to the source of inspiration.

Take this photo from my bookshelf as another example: perhaps you’ve heard of Andrej Sapowski’s “Witcher” novels.

The novels center around the adventures of primary character “Geralt of Rivia,” and the first of his tales was published in 1993… in Polish. The books were not even translated into English until 2007! However, if you fast forward to 2020… you’ll see that the Witcher series has since spawned multiple television adaptations (the most recent being released worldwide on Netflix), 3 award-winning video games, and a graphic novel (in addition to more books in the series).

Since their original publication date, Sapkowski’s novels have now sold over 33 million copies worldwide. Perhaps most interesting is that most of his success came several years after the books were initially released thanks to CD Project Red’s video game adaptation taking the world by storm.

The lesson here is: not everything you create is going to be a home-run, but if you’re constantly at the bat, the numbers suggest you’re going to hit at least a few of them. When (or if) you do eventually hit one… those home-runs will score you plenty of attention, some of which will spark interest in your other work too.

Create Specific Things

If you want people to find your creations… you need to make sure they are “findable” in the first place. What I mean by that is that people only actively search for things that they are looking for (as simple as that sounds). Therefore, especially when starting out, create specific things.

Let me demonstrate yet again with a real-world example.

Suppose you’re driving along the highway one day, and your car breaks down in a place you’ve never been before. You need to get it fixed to get back on the road. Up until that moment, you had no awareness of your potential need for auto-service… but now, stuck on the side of the highway, you find yourself using your cellphone for a Google search of an “auto-service near me.” Chances are that whatever highly rated auto-service shows up near the top of your list just acquired themselves a new customer solely based on being searchable and appearing first.

Flat tire close up
We’ve all been there and it’s never planned.

While that example might be for a common auto problem… how about we switch it to a search for a graphic designer? If someone looking for a graphic designer (who doesn’t already know one) needs to find one… chances are the process they go about for finding for one is exactly the same as the auto example: with a Google search.

However, “”graphic designer”” is a pretty broad search category, and people usually don’t search for something like art in such general terms (for example, most people don’t just type “”rock music”” in a Google search when looking for new artists).

That’s why specifics become essential: if you’re a “gothic death metal style” graphic designer who’s tagged his work and built a client base in that niche… you’re going to be the one who people find over “John Smith: general graphic designer” because you will have specific clients looking for exactly what you are providing. I won’t get into the algorithms of how Google or other websites determine their results… but specifics and keywords are a crucial part of the process.

Traditional tattoo art of skull, rose, ace of hearts, and a heart with an arrow through it
Just like picking a tattoo artist… you’re going to search for someone who does the kind of work you’re interested in.

Getting back to my point, the best part of being specific is that once your work starts getting “found” within your particular niche, it’s going to start to generate referrals from people who like it to other people who like it or would want it. This, in turn, boosts your search results and thus also generates more business and demand for your stuff.

It’s important to note here that I’m not suggesting that you only create one type of art… but whatever you do create… make sure you know who would want to find it and make it easier for them to do so.

The lesson here is: today, the digital world allows anyone anywhere at any time to access your creative works… so make sure to be specific about what they actually are and who they might interest. This will ensure that when people actually start looking for what you offer… they will find it.

Your Creative Livelihood Is Like A Lake

I’d like to conclude this Evergreen Content Series and specifically this post geared toward creatives with an analogy.

I like to look at the prosperous livelihood of any creator very much like a placid lake way up in the mountains.

For one, the more streams that feed a lake, the bigger the lake will likely be.

Multiple streams trickling into a river

Secondly, for anyone who actually wants to enjoy the lake, they have to know it exists and they have to know how to get there. Furthermore, the better-painted picture of the lake people are presented (when shown to the right people), the stronger the interest levels will be for those who actually want to go there and experience it for themselves.

Finally, better efforts to take care of the lake in the first place will ensure it’s preservation – if it’s pristine qualities remain pristine – it will likely be appreciated not only by the current generation but by many more that follow as well.  

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