by Ryan Holiday
Published by Portfolio
ISBN: 9780143109013
eBook ISBN: 9781101992142
Copyright (c) 2017 by Ryan Holiday

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“A Better Way, a New Model

In every industry—from books to movies to restaurants to plays and software—certain creations can be described as “perennial.” By that I mean that, regardless of how well they may have done at their release or the scale of audience they have reached, these products have found continued success and more customers over time. They are the kind of art or products that we return to more than once, that we recommend to others, even if they’re no longer trendy or brand-new. In this way, they are timeless, dependable resources and unsung moneymakers, paying like annuities to their owners. Like gold or land, they increase in value over time because they are always of value to someone, somewhere. In other words, they are not simply perennial; they are ‘perennial sellers.’

Take The Shawshank Redemption, for example. As a movie, it underwhelmed at the box office—never playing on more than a thousand screens and barely clawing back its production budget in gross ticket sales. But in the years since release, it has brought in more than $100 million. There are minor actors in that movie who receive $800-plus checks every month in residuals. Turn on your television this weekend and you will probably find the movie playing somewhere on some channel.

There is a restaurant right next to the Staples Center in Los Angeles called the Original Pantry Cafe that is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year…and has been since 1924  (it famously doesn’t even have locks on the doors). Known simply as the Pantry to its devoted regulars, it has amassed over 33,000 consecutive days (and over 792,000 consecutive hours) of selling breakfast food and the occasional steak. Most mornings there is a line outside to get in. The only thing that’s changed in ninety-three years are the prices, grudgingly increased due to a century of inflation. A few blocks away, there’s Clifton’s Cafeteria, a restaurant that’s been serving diners since 1935 (and that partly inspired the whimsical personality of Disneyland). On its wall is the longest continuously running neon sign in the world—lit without fail for over seventy-seven years.

My favorite band growing up was the heavy metal group Iron Maiden. Despite getting little radio airplay, they have managed to sell more than 85 million albums over the course of a four-decade-long career. Even today, they regularly sell out shows of 30,000 or even 60,000 seats all over the world. How can they beat Madonna in Spotify streams (her top five songs at 110 million streams vs. Iron Maiden’s top five songs at 160 million streams)? How do they do it? How does that happen?

Not that selling actual music is the only way to be perennial in the music business. Have you ever seen a drummer playing Zildjian cymbals? If you’ve watched Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and Nirvana), Keith Moon (The Who), or Phil Collins, you sure have. That company was founded in Constantinople in 1623. Zildjian has been making cymbals for four centuries.

Fiskars, the scissor company, has been around since 1649. The high-end candle company Cire Trudon has been around since the seventeenth century. Trudon may have made its name supplying candles to the court of King Louis XIV and later to Napoleon, but it’s still a growing company—Trudon opened its first New York City retail location in 2015.

Here’s what’s even crazier: Chances are those companies will still exist in ten years. Whatever changes I will have to make to this book in later editions, I have little doubt that, barring some tragedy, the Pantry, Shawshank, Iron Maiden, and Zildjian will still be going strong. They are examples of a phenomenon known in economics as the Lindy effect. Named after a famous restaurant where showbiz types used to meet to discuss trends in the industry, it observes that every day something lasts, the chances that it will continue to last increase. Or as the investor and writer Nassim Taleb has put it, “If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years… Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy.”

In other words, classics stay classic and become more so over time. Think of it as compound interest for creative work.

Brilliant financial minds have grasped this reality of the creative industries for some time. In the 1990s, the investment banker Bill Pullman created an investment vehicle that allowed owners of the rights to valuable songs to raise bonds based on the future income streams of those perennial assets. Today they’re called “Bowie Bonds,” since the late David Bowie raised some $55 million off the royalties of his back catalog.


How did the movie The Shawshank Redemption fail at the box office but go on to gross more than $100 million as a cult classic? 

How did The 48 Laws of Power miss the bestseller lists for more than a decade and still sell more than a million copies?

How is Iron Maiden still filling stadiums worldwide without radio or TV exposure forty years after the band was founded?

Bestselling author and marketer Ryan Holiday calls such works and artists perennial sellers. How do they endure and thrive while most books, movies, songs, video games, and pieces of art disappear quickly after initial success? How can we create and market creative works that achieve longevity?

Holiday explores this mystery by drawing on his extensive experience working with businesses and creators such as Google, American Apparel, and the author John Grisham, as well as his interviews with the minds behind some of the greatest perennial sellers of our time. His fascinating examples include:

” Rick Rubin, producer for Adele, Jay-Z, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who teaches his artists to push past short-term thinking and root their work in long-term inspiration.
” Tim Ferriss, whose books have sold millions of copies, in part because he rigorously tests every element of his work to see what generates the strongest response.
” Seinfeld, which managed to capture both the essence of the nineties and timeless themes to become a modern classic.
” Harper Lee, who transformed a muddled manuscript into To Kill a Mockingbirdwith the help of the right editor and feedback.
” Winston Churchill, Stefan Zweig, and Lady Gaga, who each learned the essential tenets of building a platform of loyal, dedicated supporters.

Holiday reveals that the key to success for many perennial sellers is that their creators dont distinguish between the making and the marketing. The products purpose and audience are in the creators mind from day one. By thinking holistically about the relationship between their audience and their work, creators of all kinds improve the chances that their offerings will stand the test of time.


Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author ofTrust Me, Im LyingThe Obstacle Is the WayEgo Is the Enemy; and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as multi-platinum musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.


This week’s selection ‘PERENNIAL SELLER: THE ART OF MAKING AND MARKETING WORK THAT LASTS’ by Ryan Holiday appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

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