The listener’s perspective:
Before you show off your new songs to your friends and acquaintances there are a few things you might want to consider. ..
There tend to be a few different ways of listening to something..
From the critiquing point of view.. This is where many many “would be” fans end up because of how you present your work. When you ask for somebody’s opinion on your song, don’t expect them to get as excited as you are about your music. They are going to be listening for mistakes instead of for content.
From the student’s point of view.. This is similar to the critique point of view, but from a high level of respect. As opposed to listening to the music for the joy of it, they are more likely picking it apart and taking notes so they can apply it to their own work. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. This may be true but just remember, they are learning from you so they can be your competition in the future instead of your biggest fan. This is fine and healthy and shouldn’t be frowned upon, but just remember who you are dealing with when you are sharing your work.
From the fans point of view.. Obviously this is the optimal perspective. These are the people who are hooked and pretty much will like anything you do, go to all your shows and buy your merchandise. You did something right to gain these people as fans. This is the pattern you want to study and repeat as often as possible. Just remember that these are not the people who will tell you when your art has gone to crap. Sometimes an honest critic isn’t a terrible thing.
I didn’t take into account the importance of perspective on the listener until I had a couple of experiences. From there my whole view changed….
Years back, I was making music in more of a Big Beat style and I handed out cassette copies to a few of my friends at the time. I Don’t recall much excitement in their initial reaction. It was more like “hey that’s pretty good but you make want to (fill in the blank)”. Sound familiar?
About a year later one of these friends found this cassette with no label on it and popped it in to his stereo. When the music popped on he thought it was some rare Chemical Brothers track and was really digging it. He was amazed at how gutsy of them it was to go for a bit of a low-fi sound and how punk rock it was that they didn’t over finesse the mix. Later I made him aware that it was a track I had done and gave to him a year before. That got us talking about our perception when listening to music. By simply shifting who he thought the artist was, his perception changed from the critic (Hey, you know, if you REALLY want this song to be big, you should consider this) to the Student/Fan mentality (wow, once again they are pushing the boundaries, I wonder what I can learn from this. Is this where the sound is going?)
Just recently I was passing along a cheeky mash-up I did of Nine Inch Nails – Closer with AC/DC – Back in Black to a friend. We were on an instant messenger and my buddy said “That’s already been done, I’ve got a great version right here”. I said, “no, I’m pretty sure you’ve got mine” and he didn’t believe me because he had downloaded the song on limewire years back (remember that?). He had the track in his collection for a number of years (I did that mash-up in ’99) and he never had a clue it was mine. So finally I show him the video I posted on YouTube, and sure enough, he realized it was mine. For a moment I was treated like the most famous guy in the room just because he had always viewed that tune as professionally done (your friends will rarely think of YOU as a professional).
Another angle to look at is the:
“here’s my song, but it’s not yet finished. What do you think”?
When somebody says this to you, how do you listen to the track? I would tend to bet that you are thinking “what is wrong with this song and what advice can I offer about it”? instead of ” Man, I’m so pumped to hear this new tune, can’t wait until the new album is finished!”. Make sure that you aren’t asking for advice from your biggest fans and friends. It’s better to ask someone who is not really connected to your fanbase and who can offer REAL advice instead of just opinions. If you want to know how the average listener will react, slip your song into a playlist or mix and don’t announce that it is you. Just let it play and observe. If the mood doesn’t take a downward turn, then you are in the status quo with the other familiar artists. If someone asks who did that great song, your golden!
If you have a song that you are proud of, don’t get over excited and start giving it away to everybody you know. It’s good to keep secrets sometimes.. build the mystery. Let them know that you just finished your biggest song yet. If you are a DJ, you may want to tell them that if they want to be the first to hear the song, that they better listen to your broadcast. If you are in a band, tell them you are giving away the song free to all the people who purchase a ticket to your next show. Put together a teaser video on youtube announcing an official release date (or just say that details will follow soon).
Do you see where I’m going with this? Now you are showing real confidence in your work and you are building excitement.
Do you think they are going to listen you your new song from the same mindset that they would have before?
Do you think they might share that excitement with friends?
How much value do you think you built by just holding back a little?
The important thing to really consider when you are a smaller unsigned band is that your reputation during this stage is largely word of mouth from your closest friends and acquaintances. This means that if you aren’t getting them excited about everything you are doing, that lack of enthusiasm is going to be passed on from them to others. Pretty soon you will wonder why all your friends aren’t coming out to show shows.
Most people listen to music as some form of fantasy and escape. Are you that fantasy, or is it the other producer/DJ/Band that is getting all the attention?
What I suggest is that you build value in everything you do: music, performances, merchandise, etc. Never present yourself as an average Joe. Nobody buys or becomes a fan of something that doesn’t excite them or stir up alot of emotion. If you can create the magic, you are going to become a much bigger deal in a lot less time.
Stop selling yourself short, Stop desperately begging for fans on Facebook.
How many of your 5000 friends are really your fans?
How many will show up to your gigs? 50? 10?
5 if you buy them beer all nite?
Stop giving yourself away without any return. People value things more if they have to pay for it, so anything you give away should just be a teaser to something bigger and better.
Start with the people you know and get them excited. Don’t unload all your secrets and mystery at once. Make them wait and then deliver something great! They will thank you for it by coming to your shows, buying your music and telling all their friends. Then you can thank me for it later 🙂
Happy music making!