For all the times that you ask others for their opinions about your latest song, you might be neglecting the obvious: your audience’s reaction.
Once all the knowledgable musicians we know have weighed in, what really counts is your target audience. Audiences aren’t going to fill out a questionnaire regarding the excellence (or not) of your songs. But as you know if you do live performances, you can just tell if they like or don’t like something.
Not every song you write will elicit a positive reaction from an audience, and that unexcited response might cause you to rethink a song. There are times when, despite the noncommittal applause you might hear, you might choose to leave a song the way it is because you happen to like it, and audiences for a song might build over time.
For example, David Bowie’s signature song “Changes” (1971) never made the Billboard Hot 100, but became one of Bowie’s most well-known and celebrated songs. The audience for it built over time.
Audience Reaction – There’s Something Organic About It
Lately there’s been a spate of videos on YouTube that feature one or two folks just doing what we all love to do: listening to music. The point of the video is simply their reaction. The most famous of these is TwinsthenewTrend, and their reaction to hearing Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight.”
We love watching people love music. Maybe it’s because most of the songs featured in those “first time hearing” videos are ones we know, and in a way it’s our opportunity to relive that moment when we first heard that song.
In any case, and for whatever the reason, watching and experiencing the reaction of a listener to music is a big part of why you are a songwriter. You give people an opportunity to feel something wonderful.
In your songwriting life, you’re going to naturally seek out the opinions of good musicians to help you polish and perfect the songs you write. That’s a good thing, and we should all be trying to help each other become better writers of music.
But never dismiss the importance of the ordinary listener and their reaction. Seeing their eyes light up or judging the intensity of their applause is “information” that is every bit as relevant and insightful as anything a career musician might be able to tell you.
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