[Yes, I’m aware of the irony in asking a question about asking questions. It’s like a meta-poll! But I digress…]

The question, in a nutshell:

Is fan-polling a smart way to test which ideas have the most likelihood of surviving and succeeding in the “marketplace,” or does it homogenize, water-down, and inhibit artistic expression?

A few weeks back we posted an article from Mark Boyd about 5 ways to effectively use fan-polling services like Popplet or Formvote (and even Facebook’s “Questions” feature)– services that let artists poll fans about all sorts of things: the direction of the music, opinions on alternate mixes, tour routing, press photos, whether to release an album or ten singles, etc.

It got us talking around the office, and I’ve asked quite a few musicians since– why don’t more artists use these tools? Is it because the idea of soliciting feedback about something as personal as “art” seems to stand in opposition to self-expression? Or is it more of a technical issue that prevents widespread adoption of this technology amongst indie artists, since using polling tools in an engaging way (and then acting on the analytics provided) takes a decent amount of computer skills and time?

What do you think about asking your fans for feedback?

When it comes to the artistic aspects of music-making, do you find fan-polling kinda creepy? Do you expect artists to be self-guided? Should their art reflect as purely as possible some kind of singular voice that needs to exist no matter what anyone else thinks?

Or do you see fan-polling as the newest extension of the collaborative process that usually shapes a music career (songwriter, producer, A&R, manager, audience, etc.)?

Honesty, I can see both sides of it. On the one hand, if you want to sustain a music career it’s important to know how well your music, artwork, performances, and general aesthetic are working for fans. On the other hand, I like to have a little faith in that inner artistic voice which says, “to hell with everybody else.”

Kid A, Bitches Brew, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Revolver, The Rite of Spring— I’ll bet none of this music would have ever been made if the artists had listened to “what the fans wanted.” And yet it’s smart to know what the fans want, right?

So what do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

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