Slow Burn Vs. Fast Burn

The plight of many a youngster today seems to be the thought process of “going viral”.  Even my son who is only 9 is constantly talking about videos that his friends have shown him of animated stick figure cartoons that are getting millions of hits.  On my plane ride to Manila I sat beside my road manager, Josh, who is a bit younger than me.Therefore has a much different perspective on a lot of things in the world than I do.  He was mentioning that he had a friend that was in the middle of marketing a new record for an artist that has been around for a while and is need of a bit of a shot in the arm.  He and his friend apparently had been dissecting a bunch of viral videos on youtube in an effort to try to figure out what this artist might be able to do to capture the attention of new fans.  Of course that led to my road manager challenging me to find something cool that Building 429 could do that might go viral in an effort to continue to fan the flames of the fire that we’ve started this past year.  So I sat and thought about it for a minute and then challenged his thought process with this.

Of all the artist’s that have gone “viral” who are still relevant 5 years later? 
Should I really push all of my efforts to a short term solution in a long term game??

Well the first thing that jumps in my mind as it relates to artists going viral is the band OK Go!  If you don’t remember, a couple of years ago they came out with a video of them using treadmills to create this weird dance to the soundtrack of one of their songs.  Cool idea right???   Yeah but… where are they now?  In fact… what if they showed up to one of their shows and tried to just play the song that they did the video to?  Would it work?  I doubt it…. in fact I daresay that I’ve never heard another one of their songs and I wouldn’t care to hear anything they did… unless I could see the weird treadmill thing.  Which is what brought me to a question that stumped Josh pretty good:  Name one band that went viral that actually still has a career 5 years later.  He couldn’t do it.  After we mulled that over for about 30 minutes he brought one artist to my attention that is undeniable… Justin Bieber.

I thought about that for a while and then I posed this question…. would Justin Bieber be who he is today if he didn’t go WAY beyond the viral videos and get into the work of building a BRAND??  That’s an easy one right? The answer is NO.  The kid has been touring his tail off proving that he’s not just a gimmick.

I’ve heard Dave Ramsey speak on his show a lot in the past about the fact that there is no “get rich quick” scheme that actually works.  He goes so far as to say in several of his conferences that he’s never met someone who got rich quick doing any program that didn’t also go bankrupt long term.  What does that have to do with Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Etc.

There is no get rich quick scheme that will sustain you…. yeah sure you can create a buzz with you wacky video… maybe a million people will view it, but ultimately if they are interested in the video you made and not the BRAND of you… then you and your brand will eventually go bankrupt.   Oh and yeah you will be making the people of Facebook and Youtube richer while you go viral… I promise they’ll make more off of your viral video than you ever will… remember you uploaded it to their servers and therefore it’s theirs?  Their advertisers will pay them HUGE money for the video you made and got famous off of… but you’ll be famous for 6 months max unless you figure out how to catch lightning in a bottle again… making them more money again….. you get the point right?

Consistent creation of exceptional art might take longer, but it will also burn longer. is a well known blogger/pastor/influencer in my life and I’ve heard him talk about this even on a church level.  Churches that grow rapidly are also at a greater risk for rapid loss as well, why??  Well because people fall in love with the thought of the church, not so much the substance of it.  It’s new it’s fresh, and it’s cool… but sooner or later that runs out and you have to show people that you and the brand you represent is going to be relevant to their lives long term… not just when it’s fun.

Every person who goes viral on a social media will have to face up with the reality that at some point they have to actually put the work in too.  Yes you may be found on youtube, but you can also easily be forgotten on youtube as well….  Props to people like and for the hard work they’ve put in to back up their lucky break on youtube.

By the way… if you disagree with me on this feel free to challenge, but the proof is in American Idol.  How many people have been HUGE stars… I mean the talk of AMERICA only to completely disappear??  Well out of all the people who have been on the show these are the ones that come to mind as current successes:

Kelly Clarkson

Chris Daughtery


Carrie Underwood

There have many with 1 big hit…. but everyone else is having to get back to the reality of WORKING THEIR TAIL OFF to make it happen.

So here’s the point:  even if you hit it out of the park going “viral” you still have the whole “put up or shut up” moment waiting after you get over the initial success.  Me personally, I like the story of Coldplay, or the Foo Fighters, or Mettallica, or in our market…. Mercy Me, Tobymac, Steven Curtis Chapman.

I think we have a tendency to try so hard to find the gimmick that we miss out on substance that could give us a far greater edge than the gimmick ever would.


Long term substance always wins… and that’s what we as a church, an artist, and as people should be chasing.

“Viral” is just a way to be found… not a way to stay found… the question isn’t how do we go “Viral” but rather, how do we stay “relevant” as we create the art that we love so much.  Better yet don’t put a name on it… just create, get better, challenge the status quo in your field so when lighting does strike you’ll be ready to harness a fast burn in a long burn system.  You see “Viral” isn’t bad, it can be harnessed.   However, without substance it can also be your undoing.