How to Find Your Real Audience
I was listening to a discussion about musicians trying to reach their "real" audience. By real they meant strangers - anyone besides family and friends. It immediately brought up memories of early music projects that were shared enthusiastically by extended family and all of my highschool aquaintences. After college, that participation slowly drops. People become busier, friends grow apart, and even family separates into its own smaller pods and loses contact. So how do you get those strangers on board to replace them? The discussion took a turn I did not expect (I paraphrase):
We are so focused on the 'strangers' we don't know that we forget that the people we love and who love us are surrounded by strangers every day. Our aunts work with 50 people who would never have heard our music. Our roommates commute over an hour to a 200 person corporation where they share your recent release during lunch. Our parents show their friends, who show their friends, who buy tickets to our event so they can hang out together. Our friends and family are the building blocks that connect us to the great wide world. To overlook them and take them for granted spells failure.
Wow. What a powerful sentiment of appreciation and perspective. It's too easy to overlook the support you find in the people directly around you. They are willing to drive the extra mile or spend the money because they know it impacts your success or failure, and their enthusiasm becomes contagious to the strangers they bring with them.
Many music hobbyists understand this idea, that it's about creating opportunity and return for the people who ALREADY support you so they WANT to bring more people into your awesome circle. I promise this works much better than shoving your music down everyone's throat with guilt, frustration, and bitterness. What does it require? Vulnerability... sharing your process, goals, dreams even if they fail. Including your audience, no matter how big. Investing in them the way you want them to invest their time or money in you.
So in a culture where we move so quickly from one "market" to the next, I encourage something a bit more rootsy: STAY THE COURSE. Reach out to your family, friends, cousins, acquaintances and offer them something great. Don't push your art at them, bring them into the inside of your circle. Maybe it's an hour-long freebie house concert for anyone that downloads your music or donates to your album fundraiser. Or maybe you offer a "behind the song" explanation of lyrics to those that follow you and support your social media activity. Whatever it is, don't fixate on the stranger and forget your friend.