artistic voice

Work to find your artistic voice

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To find your authenticity, your true artistic voice, you have to explore and create – and be patient. As an artist, your job is to practice without expectation.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing we want it to have. And if you are just starting out, or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass

Profound, right? I’ll take this one further and say while this applies to artists creating art, it also applies to artists marketing their art. Making people aware of good art boils down to marketing, and just like your creative endeavors – songwriting, performing, etc. – your music marketing requires dedication and attention.

It starts with authenticity. Authenticity is why I am so excited about the new music industry! We’re right in the middle of this industry chaos, and those who cannot or who refuse to adapt will suffer. But those who see and embrace the real opportunity will thrive.

Authenticity is why the new music business belongs to the artists – the true artists.

So, why do you want to quit?

This is not to say things are easier. They’re not, and just as in the past, you’ll run up against roadblocks and hardships and you’ll want to quit. But I’ll venture the reality is you’re not wanting to quit because it’s hard to get your music out there. You want to quit because you’re not authentic. Not yet.

You’re either not authentic with your art or you’re not authentic with your marketing – or both.

You’re being impatient. The quote above from Ira Glass is talking about the process an artist must endure to find his authenticity, his true artistic voice.

Your authentic self, the raw, unique inner soul in your music – and your marketing – comes to you as you engage in the processes of creation and exploration. Your job is just to practice.

That’s it. Sounds easy enough!

For all you over-thinkers, self-proclaimed researchers, and never-satisfied perfectionists who use these monikers as an excuse to wait until your work is “ready” – I promise you’ll never lay down all the necessary railroad track for your journey in advance of adding the train.

Your artistic life is about laying just enough track to always stay one step ahead of the train. Your job is to practice your art. Your job is to practice your marketing. There are no excuses for not doing your job. Period.

The market – your potential fans, professional business relationships, and peers – will simply not tolerate anyone who poses as an artist but doesn’t do the work. It’s so easy to spot the artists who declare themselves authentic but clearly haven’t endured enough of the process to find their artistic voice, and it’s a turnoff.

What’s your biggest challenge?

I can’t count the number of artists who tell me their biggest challenges are in marketing. But how many of you work hard at it?

Most of you ignore it completely. You won’t close the gap without the work.

Remember, your job is to practice.

Actually, your job is to practice with no expectations whatsoever other than doing the job of an apprentice. This means you need information, guidance, mentors, teachers, education, and humility to discover your authentic artistic voice.

Find your passion

When you truly begin the journey, in your art and in your marketing, the immediate result is an increase in your passion.

People are moved by passion. People respond to passion. It’s one thing to have a God given talent. It’s another thing to have a talent and passion.

I know several amazingly talented individuals who just don’t give a damn. You may know someone like this. Maybe you’re envious and think to yourself, “I would be a star if I had that much talent.”

But the truth is, maybe you’re really suffering from apathy in marketing. The drive you seek, the drive you’re missing, your true authenticity, will come the more you practice. The impact you want to make in the marketplace will come the more you practice. Your confidence will blossom with dedication to your art and repetition in your marketing.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear

Confucius says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Think about that. The more you work on your art and your marketing, the more you close the gap.

As you close the gap, you get closer and closer to true authenticity, you will become increasingly familiar with your true, artistic voice. As you find your voice, your passion begins to swell. It’s inevitable.

Don’t confuse passion with arrogance, cockiness, or bravado. They are decidedly different things. Only passion cuts through the clutter. The more your passion begins to swell, the louder your artistic voice grows, and the more the marketplace responds. Your audience will grow at live shows, on social media, and YouTube.

As your passion and your audience grows, the teachers and mentors will come out of the woodwork, and your opportunities will truly be abundant.

The rub is, this whole reality starts with one ugly four letter word: WORK.


Johnny Dwinell is a veteran Los Angeles artist/producer/businessman who created Daredevil Production in 2011 to provide innovative artist development in the new music business. In mid 2013 Daredevil Production started a weekly blog as a free resource for artists and songwriters to use for inspiration, advice, support, and knowledge. In late 2013 Johnny Dwinell wrote the bestselling Music Marketing On Twitter book. Thousands of artists and songwriters have improved their understanding and execution of social media with the help of this free book!

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