There is no right or wrong approach when it comes to creating music. But there is such a thing as starving.
As a semi-professional songwriter, producer and musician who shares a rather volatile relationship with creativity and originality, I can hardly even fathom the thought of pre-meditating a style & sound; in other words, creating music that has a clear-cut audience and fits neatly into one of several stylistic pigeon holes created by ‘the man’ – just to be current and ‘marketable’.
After living, breathing and creating music for more than a decade, it feels a bit like I’ve accidentally smeared vegemite down the shirt sleeve of my soul by even discussing this hypothetically.
But on the other hand, I am a business man; an entrepreneur with an empire to build and an eye for opportunity – a disposition that lends itself to forward thinking & planning and careful calculations.
I am now faced with a conundrum.
Do I write off the possibility of earning a living from my original music, keep my day job at Coles and simply do it for the love? Or do I sell short my identity, subscribe to ubiquity and become an emulator of success?
Let me say it again: there is no right or wrong approach when it comes to music. But there is such a thing as planning.
The point of today’s post is not to provide the solution but to ask the question…
Why are you making music?
From where I am sitting (on a moonlit porch somewhere in suburbia) I can see two distinct approaches to creating music, and what it all boils down to for me is this… either you’re making music for your fans or finding fans for your music.
Making music for your fans means that you already have:
1. a pre-existing fanbase, and
2. a good understanding of your audience
The great thing about Social Media and the Internet in general is that you have unlimited access to your fans like never before. By spending time online tweeting with your fans, reading their comments on Facebook, and observing which of your songs and videos they frequently share, you can pretty quickly start to figure out who they are, what they like and what they want to hear.
In the age of technology this information is more valuable than gold; it can be the difference between putting out a sophomore album that blows shit out of the water, or one that signifies your musical de-pantsing.
Finding fans for your music is definitely the way I tend to fall when push comes to shove. And perhaps this is the reason why I am sitting here in front of WordPress at midnight; writing somewhat ambiguously about the topic, rather than swirling my scotch as I decorate the walls of my mansion with platinum records.
To me, this approach stands for liberation, freedom and pure artistic revelry; throwing off the shackles of expectation and creating something that will forever mark a moment in time, an attitude; a way of life. Instead of trying to pinpoint and channel the aspects of your music people like and connect with, ‘fans for your music’ means starting with a blank slate each time – just going wherever the music leads you, never quite knowing where the dice will land.
There is no doubt that each of us prescribes to both of these philosophies at different times, and in my mind each path is equally valid and carries its own merits. Let me wrap up this post with a simple challenge – next time you sit down with your guitar or at your piano, remind yourself of these two things:
If it’s music for your fans, then make music for your fans.
If it’s fans for your music, write the best damn songs you can
then get out and find fans for your music.