The results are staggering.
Even unbelievable when you look at the numbers.
Adele released her latest album ’25’ on Friday, November 20, and over the course of just 7 days, it became one of the largest selling records in modern history. Adele sold more of her new album in one week, than arguably the biggest artist on the planet right now – Taylor Swift – sold of her new album in all of 2015. That’s a lot of 20-something angst out there. Billboard magazine did the math, ’25′ averaged 335 copies sold… per minute last week.
Not only was this the first album to EVER sell more than 3 million in one week, the most impressive stat might just be that more than half of the copies of ’25′ sold last week… wait for it… were physical copies. Yes, 51% of the people used their hands to pick up a CD from an actual shelf somewhere, then walked around a store with it in a steel and plastic shopping cart, and finally paid for said CD at a “cash” register through an interaction with another human being. Two weeks ago, nearly everyone would have written off physical album sales, or anything other than music streaming services, as outdated. Today, a new horizon of possibilities exists of how music might still be sold.
In looking at the success of ’25’ pastors can heed five important lessons from Adele’s monumental week:
Lesson 1: Word of Mouth is Vital Viral Marketing
Have you heard? Did you see? We should go together… Personal 1-1 invitations to experience something new, something that excites and incites passion, is still the most valuable marketing proposition. I heard that I “should listen” to the debut single from ’25’ and saw dozens of Facebook posts about “Hello,” before I ever heard the song itself. Of course, I could not wait to hear it, and I hope the gentleman on the plane next to me that next morning enjoyed hearing it 25 or so times between Nashville and Atlanta.
The Lesson Unpacked: Giving your congregation something meaningful to be passionate and invitational about will have far more impact than a billboard or postcard. One excited neighbor, one fired-up Facebook friend, anticipating life-change with every Christmas service invite, costs less and means more than most contemporary marketing methods we tend to pursue.
Lesson 2: People Still “Will” If there is Value
It is easy to jump on the bemoaning bandwagon and talk about what people will not do anymore. Easy to sit and pine for the days of old when culture was not disintegrating before our eyes. People do not “buy” music anymore, especially CD’s or so “they” said. Do not tell that to the masses walking around Target holding an actual copy of Adele’s album. Who could have imagined in 2015, physical sales would ever outpace digital sales in the first week.
The Lesson Unpacked: As leaders in the church, if we will bring a high value to the planning, preparation and execution of what we are called to do, it might be surprising at what people WILL do. Maybe the diminishing and lackluster attendance at our churches each Sunday is not as much about what connected families won’t do anymore, and more about the value we are placing on the life-changing and transformational experiences that are offered, or not offered, each week.
Lesson 3: Leaders Do not Over Analyze Trends
This idea is closely related to #2, in that it is important to know and understand current trends in our church and community, but leaders create trends rather than responding to them. Adele and her team decided that, despite the somewhat proven formulaic approach to success that other artists recently have taken (streaming services, “prime” release times), they would stick to a plan that both reflected and protected their unique vision. The resulting sales were more than anyone projected.
The Lesson Unpacked: If we spend too much time with our finger in the wind or ear to the ground we stand a good chance of losing sight of Christ calling us into God’s preferred future of life and growth. Any organization or organism that is healthy is in some way growing, reproducing or expanding. If we will be obedient to His leadership, to reflect and protect our unique calling – no matter the trends – God will do more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Lesson 4: Waiting on Quality is Better Than Rushing
Even if we miss the “window,” sometimes resisting the urge to rush or hurry an incomplete thought or underdeveloped idea actually helps us. Waiting on a new album from Adele had almost become a cultural punch line, always rumored but never confirmed. As it turns out, close to three and a half million people thought that it was worth the wait.
The Lesson Unpacked: People do not know what they do not know, until they know what you do not know or did not see. Hurry stresses creative teams, erodes confidence in a long-range plan and often leaves ideas trapped in an immature life stage. Waiting, developing and nurturing an idea to maturity, even if it takes longer than we would like, creates an environment of exponential and lasting impact through the Gospel.
Lesson 5: Live In Your Sweet Spot
People respond to authenticity and unconsciously feel when a leader is not living in their strength or has created a persona or style different from who they are. ’25′ is the next step in Adele’s development as an artist, as a 20-something adult, now with a family, looking back on broken relationships of the past. It could have been easy to emulate the Super-Pop-Hook sound of Taylor Swift’s latest release, or the style and success of other currently charting. Instead, Adele stayed right in the center of her melody-driven vocal prowess, and the results are quite literally, history.
The Lesson Unpacked: Substance has always mattered more than style and always will. It is likely that “That Church” in your community is not gaining more ground because of their style of worship or teaching, but because they are leaders living right in the center of whom they are called to be. Changing who you are to please the masses disconnects the leader from themselves and from their congregation.
In learning from these five lessons, as well as a few others, the church might once again lead the culture through an innovative and engaging expression of the Gospel of Christ. For now, artists like Adele can inspire us toward those new horizons of possibility that lay ahead.