There are two kinds of successful marketing strategies in songwriting/performing: you’re either targeting audiences, or you’re waving a big flag.
The majority of songwriters (knowingly or unknowingly) target an audience. Targeting simply means trying to figure out what fans are looking for, and then give it to them.
You may be the kind of writer, however, that tries to minimize the notion of targeting audiences, because targeting, to you, is a bit too uncomfortably close to compromising.
So maybe you don’t target an audience as much as you wave a big flag at them and say, “Hey, I’m over here… If you want to hear what I do, you’ve got to come to me.”
You’ll notice that I call them successful marketing strategies. That’s because you can build for yourself a rather nice career by adopting either approach as your plan of action.
Targeting your audience means that you find out exactly what pleases your fans, and then move your songwriting style in that direction.
Done well, songwriters and performers who give the audience what they’re expecting means boosting sales in a rather immediate way.
But there’s a downside to that. If audiences know what to expect from you, your chances for building an audience base are limited to those who like that style you’re focusing on.
On the other hand, if you’re a flag waver, you make demands of your fans, and of potential fans. You’re not going to necessarily always give them what they’re looking for. Instead, you’re requiring fans to do a bit of learning, to take a chance with you, and to accept that you’re going to do things that you want to do, whether they please everyone in your immediate fan base or not.
Done well, songwriters and performers who go out on a limb with their audiences — who wave a big flag and say “You have to come to me” — will build audiences more slowly, but with the potential for being more committed, more dedicated and more “evangelical” in the sense of spreading the news about you and your music.
Songwriting flag wavers are the kind who build legacies. They tend to be unique, and they tend to be more creative.
Being a flag waving songwriter who demands that audiences come to them also tend to be more courageous. If you’re writing songs that aren’t immediately accessible, or songs that are surprisingly unique in some way, you’ll also have to face the onslaught of online criticism from fans who aren’t necessarily on board with your creative direction.
I favour the kind of songwriter that demands audiences come to them over those that simply target audiences. Their music challenges me, causes me to think, and demands that I listen and give them a chance.
To me, those songwriters are the ones that open up the world of music and and make it look much bigger and much more creative.
What are you, a targeter or a flag waver?
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