The market is the ultimate judge of any product, and artists know this, so too often they avoid being judged to evade the pain of possible rejection.
I have a friend who went through some tough times. Her problems were real, but I couldn’t help thinking she had been going through this battle for so long that her emotions were clouding her judgment as to what was important and what wasn’t.
I worried about my friend and her approach to her challenges. It’s easy to lose sight of the facts when your life and mental happiness are constantly, even senselessly, under attack – especially when it has been happening for years. It’s exhausting, no matter how strong you are, like you’re losing a boxing match and it’s all you can do to keep your gloves up to protect your face.
Sometimes, the facts are connected to emotionally charged stories that we tell ourselves – some bad, some good. And these stories might even be accurate, derived from real-life experiences. But sometimes, somewhere along the line, these stories can get skewed and become inaccurate. They become justifications to explain why we can’t win. I believe this is a sort of defense mechanism.
I bring all this up because I feel like this concept translates to artists who are trying to get their music out to the world.
I believe that if your art is done well, and you present yourself as a compelling artist, there is an audience out there that will connect with you. But so many music artists are so protective of their art, like a momma bear to her cub, that they get in their own way. This leads to bad strategies, based on inaccurate information derived from the stories we tell ourselves.
This is why some of you never get your music out there – you trip yourself up because, deep down, the prospect of rejection is too painful.
Often, these are compelling artists with great music who just haven’t put the time in to learn marketing. Because of this, their music never reaches its potential because the market isn’t informed as to why they should care. Distributors are where consumers go to purchase or consume your music: marketing is why they go there.
It’s your job as an artist to behave like a lawyer: you need to navigate the system and persuade the market to believe what you want them to believe. It’s your job as an artist to influence the judgment in the market.
It’s crazy to watch artists fail when you consider they spend so much energy, money, and precious time to create art and produce this music – this product. Then they halt the process based on homemade excuses that results in poor marketing execution and conjure stories about the forces that kept them from reaching their goals.
It’s called self-sabotage, and it’s not just relegated to artists. It’s totally human nature. Deep down, few of us really feel we’re worthy or that we’re ready for success, even though we tell ourselves we are.
Let the market decide
Here’s the deal: your music will be judged by the market. The market is, in fact, the ultimate judge of any product, and artists know this, so they avoid being judged to evade the pain of possible rejection.
To give yourself a chance, you need to avoid the bitterness and stop perpetuating the stories about outside forces keeping you from your dream. You have to take responsibility for your marketing: learn it, execute it, and keep moving forward.
Yes, you’re going to make mistakes. So what? Making mistakes and moving forward is better than believing stories and going nowhere. It’s part of a process called learning.
You may argue that you’re an artist, and true artists shouldn’t have to market themselves. Perhaps. I agree, I’d prefer artists concentrate on their art. But you have to earn that level of success by creating the cash flow to outsource the marketing tasks. It’s critical that you educate yourself on the way the industry really works and get your music career going on zero cash flow.
It’s important that you be the one to do it. If you don’t do it yourself, you won’t have insight into the way it works. In any business – and don’t lose sight that you’re an entrepreneur trying to start a business – you need a working knowledge of every step you need to succeed.
Then when you do get your shot, your “at bat,” you’re going to need this information to hit your home run; even if it’s with someone else’s money. So don’t dip out on your calling because you’re afraid of marketing. It’s just foreign, that’s all, and like anything, when mastered, is quite satisfying.
“I don’t have enough time” is a lousy excuse. I wager you can easily find three activities that take up your time which can be traded for productivity in your music career. Or just get up one hour earlier every day and read a marketing book. Then spend the next 30 minutes applying your new-found knowledge.
For the world to accept you, they must first become aware of you. Once aware, perhaps they’ll listen. If you’re compelling, they might buy your music. Do this enough, and build on your successes, and you’ll gain serious momentum.
If the market judges you harshly, that is a good sign you have work to do on your product.
My first shows in grade school and high school were terrible. So were yours. But we got better, didn’t we?
Your first song isn’t going to be a hit, but maybe your hundredth will. The question is, are you willing to work that hard? Do you want it badly enough?
Don’t lay down on this dream because you didn’t work hard enough, you’ll never forgive yourself. Make your art the way you want to make it. Then understand what must happen for the court of public opinion to accept you. Then deliver it.
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!
Work to find your artistic voice
Take risks with your music
Your musical talent isn’t enough (to make it in the music business)
Music success and the psychology of being great
Should you stop listening to music to find your voice?