As I’m sure you’re aware, talent alone doesn’t determine how successful you are in you music career. There could be two largely identical musicians, both with similar styles, image, and budget. Yet one of them could end up playing to audiences of thousands of screaming fans, the other could end up playing bedroom sets to them and their mates. But why is this?
Well to be honest, there are many factors that could make this happen, but today we’re going to look at just the one: Who you’re making music for.
So who are you making for? This one question will determine your decision making through your whole career. You’re either making music for yourself, or your making it for your audience / potential audience. When you make music for yourself, you make songs exactly as you want them, regardless of feedback of any sort. You have tunnel vision, and as long as you like the music you’re making, nothing else matters. However, when you make songs for your audience, feedback is very important. You make music you personally like, but you’re also open to constructive criticism and making your songs better. Which of the two sound better to you?
Before I go any further, let me explain why I’m writing this post. I have a very successful Dj friend who’s been playing at top clubs for many years. As with anything, to get where he is now he had to put in the hard work and learn his business inside out. One of the thing he learned along the way is this: “You have to play what the audience want”. It really is as simple as that. If he was to turn up to clubs and play what he wanted (For argument’s sake, play hip hop to a people who came to the club for pop music) he wouldn’t go down too well at all. He also wouldn’t get very many booking, if any. If however he gave the crowd what they wanted (And gave it to them well), there’d be a good chance he’d get more bookings from both the current club and others when word about him gets around.
Although this seems like a obvious thing when it comes to Djing, many people don’t think about this when it comes to their music career. It is however exactly the same; you need to give the audience what they want! Unless you’re aim is to sell all your CDs to your friends, then you need to appeal to people other then just your nearest and dearest. If you don’t obtain fans, your music career simply won’t take off. The fans are the people that allow you to get paid for doing the thing you love, so not listening to what they want is basically like asking them to not support you.
How Do You Know What The Audience Wants?
So how do you know what the audience wants? Well, as I’m sure you’ve heard, the simple solutions are often the best. Firstly, you could just ask them. If you have a website or other method of communicating with your audience, you could ask them what they want to hear more of, what other musicians they like, what their favourite all time songs are, and many other questions that’d help you better understand their wants and needs. You could also, for example, run competitions where you give out a prize for the person who gives you the best song idea. By the end of it, not only would you have a great new song idea, but you’ll probably have a few. You may even end up with a whole album’s worth of good ideas in a very short space of time…
Another way you can see what an audience wants, is by analysing them. Going back to my DJ friend, he knows every set he plays is different. Before he even steps up onto the decks, he scopes out the crowd to see what type of people he’ll be playing to. This will determine how his set starts off. He doesn’t however start playing one type of music and stick to it for the whole night, he adapts to the crowd’s reaction. If they look like they’re starting to get bored with one type of music, he’ll switch it up until he finds something they enjoy. No words have to be exchanged, he can simply see how they react to what he’s doing.
You can also do this. By analysing how well your singles, albums and other material do, you can get a better idea of what the crowd do and don’t want. Then you can adapt your style accordingly.
While it’s important to find out what the crowd want from your music, you will find sometimes that even them crowd themselves don’t know. In this situation, it’ll probably be best to give them what you enjoy making and then gauge their reaction. Either they’ll take to it and you keep going down the same route (Switching every now and then so they don’t get bored), or they’re not to keen and you test a new style out on them.
So, when it comes down to it, who are you making your music for? While you obviously have to enjoy the type of music you’re making, your listeners should have a big say in the direction your music takes. They are after all the ones that are funding your career, and if you lose them, you haven’t really got much left.
Before I go I want to say this; Letting your fans know how important their voice is to your music career can help strengthen your relationship and make them feel more involved. Giving them a sense of belonging can make them become more loyal to you, and even spread the word about your music. This can only be a good thing, so if you take the fan’s opinions into account, make sure they know this.
So tell me, who do you make music for?