Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Jump with briefcase

There comes a time when you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Watching and talking and hypothesising are necessary, but not sufficient. Your knowledge must not merely be theoretical – it must be practical. You need to put it into practice.

You need to go out on a limb.

Lots of limbs, actually. You’re constantly making decisions about your music. From songwriting to instrumentation to band members to promotion strategies to graphic design to video direction and everything in between. Sometimes it’s obvious which choice you should make and which path you should choose. Sometimes you’ll know what will best support your creative direction. Sometimes it’s clear what your audience will or won’t respond to.

But sometimes it’s not obvious. Sometimes you’ll be faced with some uncomfortable indecision. It might be in selecting the right photograph for the cover art. It might be in selecting the right band members. Or the right venue. Or whether to release an EP or an album. Or whether your next song should be down-and-dirty or clean-and-upbeat.

It’s ok. Indecision is a natural part of being an artist.

This is where it’s important to go out on a limb. Jump in and do it. In fact, do both (or all) options. Perform at both venues. Try both band members. Write the down-and-dirty song as well as the clean-and-upbeat one. Present both to your audience and observe their response.

This is more than just ‘see what happens’ and it’s a far cry from avoiding decision making. Your audience should be your guiding force in making and delivering your art. If you don’t know what to do, it’s because you don’t know what your audience wants. At this point, your #1 priority should be to find out what your audience wants. To find out what resonates.

It’s important to recognise that this is somewhat like a scientific test. In order to get the clearest results, you need to try to keep all other relevant factors the same. If you’re choosing between two venues by playing both, keep your promotion and line-up the same for each. And make sure they’re both on the same day of the week. Similarly if you’re choosing between two song styles, record them both in the same studio with the same musicians and release them in the same way.

Of course, some choices are too big or volatile to realistically do a scientific test. For these types of choices, you’ll have to rely on the conversations you have with your audience. Ask them directly – would they prefer an EP or an album? Would they prefer a single high-profile gig or a series of smaller gigs? Would they prefer an animated video or a live-action video for your next single? All the while, keep in mind that your audience might not be as articulate as you need – they might even incorrectly predict their own actions.