STOP LISTENING start shouting
“We are the music makers & we are the dreamers of dreams” – Willy Wonka
All of us who make music, want it to reach an audience. The goal is to reach the largest audience possible while keeping our creative integrity. While we have the greatest opportunity in history to reach an audience quickly, there is a flip side of the equation that is making it more difficult in this day & age.
More than any other time in history, our attention is spread incredibly thin. The power to get attention is now in everybody’s hands but most of us are really bad at it. We have a hard time managing our own attention let alone that of others. Everyone is throwing art & opinions in eachother’s face on a never ending basis. Some of it might be good, but when people are bombarded with so much of it, even the good stuff fades into the background.
Playing it safe
In an attempt to get people’s attention, artists & musicians have traded their creative individualism to become marketers. Unfortunately not the good kind. They do research, trying to find out what people are already buying & then put their creative focus on delivering that in an attempt to ‘cash in’. From a business standpoint this can work, sometimes really well, but from an artistic point of view, this is suicide.
Artists are not meant to survey their audience to find out what they want.
No no NO!
We tell them what they want! We do it loud & we do it proud!
Artistry is about changing the way people view the world & making your mark, not about conforming to the world as it currently is. Art is meant to move society forward, to show them the way, to carve out a new path. A great artist doesn’t give a damn what you think and she shouldn’t. She knows more about art then her audience. This is why she has an audience in the first place!
The consumer is constantly screaming “give me what I want!”, while inside they are really thinking “inspire me”, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it. To give the customer what she wants is everything that is wrong with music today. Popular music just continues to get more & more dumbed down. The consumer doesn’t know what she wants, plain and simple, and if you ask her, she will likely regurgitate something that has already been recycled, filtered, over produced & watered down for the masses.
Why is so much popular music watered down?
Plain & simple, it’s safe. It doesn’t offend people (except the minority that wants to turn things upside down). It’s middle ground music that has appealed to the masses in the past, but is now wearing a different colored t-shirt to appear new.
If you listen to your audience, you are going to fall into mediocre, middle ground music that people love to ignore while it plays in the background like a buzzing refrigerator (which can often make a much more beautiful sound than what is currently on the radio).
Make you mark
If you want to make a mark on the music scene, fitting in is the best way to disappear. There is just too much ‘decent’ music that all sounds similar. Why would anyone care about more of the same? You are just one of millions of people trying to sell or give away your music.
Although we all love music, there is just too much to consume. It’s being thrown at us from every direction. Why would I stop & listen to you, especially if it’s just the same ole stuff?
Take a look at the best bands throughout the ages. Which ones really stand out? Are they the safe, middle of the road bands or the ones with a huge “fuck you” stamped on their forehead? The ones that bent and broke the rules. The ones that spoke from their soul. The ones that were an assault on what we previously thought music could be. The ones that shouldn’t have made it, but somehow were too good to ignore.
They were unapologetically themselves. If you are unapologetically pop because that is where the art in you takes you, then in my eyes you are still a rebel. Erasure is unapologetically pop & they are brilliant! This is because they know who they are & they don’t listen to what anybody says or survey where the market is going. They just do what they love.
This isn’t the fucking stock market, people. If you are only looking for a quick cash cow, don’t make art. Get into banking instead.
One of these is not like the others
My goal for you is that your creative voice gets so loud that it drowns out the chatter of the masses. Stop listening to opinion of others & start your own journey. When you are different, you attract the attention of people who care about art in music. When you are not like the others, you interrupt peoples brains because you’ve just given it something unexpected that it doesn’t yet have a clear definition of how to categorize it. It has to stop & think, instead of the automatic “define & file away” pattern. Sure, this might not lead to sales in the millions, but if you consider the successes that came before you, that have stood the test of time, it’s a damn good strategy! Plus, you maintain your artistic dignity & that has to count for something.
What can you do today to become more like you & less like them?
Unapologetically happy music making,