Accepting the necessity to make music for other people

Silhouette at concert 1

If you want people to like your music, you must make music that people like.

As controversial as art is, it is always defined by its effect on its audience. With no audience, there is no art. Music is no exception. To be emotional, resonant and powerful, music needs an audience. These words make no sense in describing music that no one hears, music that no one connects with, music that no one loves. You already knew this.

The leap of faith lies in casting aside the notion that you only need to make music from your heart, put it ‘out there’ and your audience will magically find you. And they will love you. And you will quit your day job.

Make no mistake, this sometimes happens. But mostly it happens by accident. And when it happens, it makes news in part because it’s so rare and unlikely. Life’s already difficult enough without playing this lottery.

Do not make music for yourself and simply hope that other people will enjoy it.

You can be better than that. You can music that is deliberately emotional, resonant and powerful. One of the great falsehoods of our time is that there is a dichotomy between self-expression and service to others. That one is genuine and authentic and the other is cheap and fake and emotionally bankrupt. It’s simply not true. You can deliberately connect with your audience while telling deeply personal stories. You can draw inspiration from deep within yourself and be deliberate about how you craft and present the results to the world. You can put your audience first and make music that is genuine and authentic.

In fact, if you want to take responsibility for your success, you must put your audience first.

Economically, music is a luxury good. It’s a lifestyle enhancement. No one buys music because they need it to live. They buy music because they want it. No one owes you a living. It is your responsibility to make music that your audience feels is worth paying for.

(Alternatively, you may choose to be a hobbyist. A hobbyist is someone who isn’t concerned with an audience – they only make music for their own personal enjoyment. They might share their music with friends, but the key differentiator is that the music was not made for them. The music was not made for any audience. Any audience is incidental. And any success is accidental. If you choose to be a hobbyist, be confident in your choice. Not everyone needs to be an artist.)