What Is Your Back Catalogue Worth?
The work you produce has an intrinsic value to you, as well as to the audience you’re creating for.
Building up a back catalogue is when you create work that’s not just focused on what’s current but takes account of the longer term. It is content that retains its value because there is something universal and perennial about it. In this way, not only is it valuable to others, but it also helps cement your position in the marketplace.
Currently, there’s a flurry of music artists selling their back catalogues. The likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Shakira have done it. Even Dolly Parton is thinking about it.
Putting our B2B heads on, if you build an audience and share content that finds its home with that audience, your back catalogue can also become something that’s desirable.
Let’s Introduce The Idea Of Having A Back Catalogue
A back catalogue of work is content that your audience can always access. It’s work that grows and evolves alongside your audience.
It can become a self-replenishing gold mine in terms of new clients having proof that you’re someone who does the work and potential clients getting comfortable with your approach.
A website that shares one or two articles every now and then, features a video and a few 4-page ebooks, does not comes across as high value. However, one with a back catalogue of regular audio, writing and video content posted over a period of time, suggests it’s a place of value to others.
On a You Are The Media Online in 2020, Joe Pulizzi said to everyone, ‘would anyone miss your content if it went tomorrow? If no one would miss your content, you have a problem.’
A back catalogue means you have ideas that you share today, but also a track record that shows you’re someone who keeps, and has kept on giving. It means you never become irrelevant by choosing to rest on what you produced in the past.
What Music Artists Are Doing
With touring on hold and the ever-growing increase in streaming, we’ve seen a trend for music artists selling the rights to their back catalogues. Artists are realising (i.e cashing in on) the value of songs they’ve produced over the years.
UK-based music royalty fund Hipgnosis is obtaining the rights to artists from Blondie to Mark Ronson. In a Sky article, music journalist David Sinclair says, “If you’re toying with the idea, if you’re a rock and roll star, if you’re Bob Dylan, and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘this might be the time’… [he’s] getting 20 years’ income in one year, right there in a lump sum.”
In the words of Shakira, who sold the rights to her 145 songs to Hipgnosis, “I’m humbled that songwriting has given me the privilege of communicating with others, of being a part of something bigger than myself.”
Artists are now handing over the work they’ve written and shared over the years for a fee. Old certainly doesn’t mean tired in this context.
The Value Of The Back Catalogue You Build
This story of selling back catalogues chimes with how we, in the B2B space, produce work for an audience. It proves that when your work has relevance to others, there’s more reason to keep going.
The blog articles you produced back in 2019 maybe didn’t get many views when they were first published but that doesn’t mean they’re not of value sitting within your overall bank of work.
Similar to a music artist, your job is to keep playing so that you keep developing your audience.
When people find you, they can then join the dots and get a more complete picture of why what you share is relevant to them. Those articles that received little traffic in 2019 are important in the context of your overall efforts.
A moment in time should not be your only anchor.
How Do You Know If Your Back Catalogue Is Worth Something?
Building up a back catalogue of work shows the merits in your work over time, making it easier for people to make a decision on whether to buy or subscribe. It’s not only a space that people can visit but also a record of how you’ve developed.
In the music industry, there’s a return on longevity. But what about you? How will you know whether your back catalogue is worth something? It won’t be in the same ballpark as Bob Dylan’s £300m when he sold his 600 songs to Universal Music, but how will you find out if what you share has worth?
You Are The Media has been around every week (apart from some short breaks) since October 2013 – almost eight years. Here is why building a back catalogue of content provides value in both the short and longer-term:
Over time, people see the value you provide.
Being prepared to play the long game is so important. I wonder where I’d be now if I hadn’t been producing content every week for You Are The Media. I reckon it would be somewhere very different to where I am today. When people recognise that your work is something that they can get behind, you have a licence to develop momentum.
It can support your wider efforts.
Your back catalogue makes it easier to introduce buy-in for new initiatives. The one thing that has remained constant for me, has been my writing. This was the tree I planted in 2013 and each year new branches have grown. It made introducing in-person and then online live events easier. Don’t think of the work you produce in isolation, look at it as a way to connect your intentions.
It has greater use beyond the immediate space.
Producing a back catalogue extends your scope. By this I mean what starts as a piece of work in one channel can extend into other formats. For instance, blogs have become talks or topics for other people’s podcasts, and one single article became a webinar (an April 2020 article on your first ten email subscribers became a lunchtime session).
It brings people closer.
Offering people the proof of the work you’ve already done helps you by helping them make a decision. Your back catalogue, in contrast to, say, to that of your competitors whose output may be more sporadic, demonstrates perseverance.
It contributes to sales.
Whilst the message of this article is not around selling your business based on your content, your work can be indirectly related to revenue. For instance, the work you produce can also present a way to sell products and services, but in a way that isn’t merely advertising. For instance, being a trusted business increases the impact you can make and this links to one of the aspects of what the You Are The Media Month Of Learning represents. A recent article looked at the impact of trust with a reference to the April schedule.
Your work becomes a reference and search tool.
Your back catalogue can become a place for others to take from and somewhere search engines recognise. Websites with over 311 indexed pieces of work, see 236% more traffic than those sites with not too many pages (this is via Hubspot). What this means is that the better your ongoing work is indexed there is more for a search engine to look through and support your search rankings. Ultimately you want visitors to stick around on your site and for that you need to offer work they’ll enjoy.
You grow from it.
The more you practise and deliver on something, the better you become. By learning how the audio space works, I have become a better speaker. By sharing a short video every week for the YATM email, I have become a better presenter. By writing every week, I have become a stronger writer. Whilst there is an emphasis on creating for others, never forget that this contributes to your own personal development.
Similar to writing and sharing music, you can’t just put all your effort into a once-a-year Christmas song, you have to keep on introducing new material that can stand the test of time. It all comes down to having that ability to keep going.
Is what you’re creating going to be worth something? Is what you’re producing contributing to your overall message, actions and commercial delivery? Does it give you the freedom to play and experiment? What if your entire back catalogue disappeared tomorrow, would people let you know and would they show concern?
Your back catalogue is your commercial worth, both directly and indirectly and it’s important to keep on “playing” for the audiences who show up for you.