By the time you’re done writing, arranging, recording, mixing, sequencing, and mastering your music– you’re probably a little too close to the art you’ve created; it’s tough to take a step back and get a feel for WHO your music will appeal to. In fact, from your central position deep inside the creative spiral, you may have the absolute worst promotional vantage point!
Most artists have a difficult time answering the following questions with any certainty:
* Who is my audience (age, gender, education, region, interests, etc.)?
* What do they want from my music?
* What do I offer this audience that is unique?
* How can I market my music to this audience in the most effective way?
* What did I want to achieve musically? Did I succeed with this particular recording, show, video, etc?
Mind the gap!
Oftentimes there is a gulf between your ambitions and your accomplishments. This distance is not always a bad thing. If every band that set out to sound like Radiohead succeeded, well… we’d no longer need Radiohead, would we? But in striving towards an inspiration and failing (because of our own limitations, talents, unique experience, etc.), plenty of bands are able to create something new and worthwhile; though emotionally speaking, they may still feel the weight of NOT being Radiohead more than they feel the joy of being THEMSELVES.
No matter who your heroes are (Tom Waits, Jay-Z, Pavement, John Prine, Prince, Yo-Yo Ma, Miles Davis, whoever), we all experience this at some point in our lives. Because of that creative disappointment, because of the tension between the original mission and the actual accomplishment, we can be bad judges of our potential audience. By paying attention to that gap, we’ll better understand who we are, who our audience is, and how we need to differentiate ourselves from the bands and artists we may emulate or associate ourselves with.
Some wise person once said, “As soon as you claim to know something, you don’t.”
Sure, it helps to have an outside perspective– a manager, friend, booking agent, critic, or fellow band– to help us see who our true audience is; but without the help of those outside eyes and ears, how can we (on our own) determine who we are as artists, who our intended audience is, who our actual audience is, and how to promote our music to them? And as we change as people and artists, and as our audience changes due to age or fashion, can we ever really answer these questions?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.