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February 18, 2013

Step 3: Understand your art

New Haven, CT
Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.
- Frank Zappa

Your art starts with your music but goes way beyond it. Every show you put on, every video, every interview, every album cover, every T-shirt, every class you teach, every meet-and-greet - everything you do or create that reinforces people's joy at the experiences you have shared - is your art. Don't feel that your music is all you have to offer - it comes from you and what you stand for.

Seth Godin talks about the Bob Dylan rule:
it's not just a record, it's a movement.
Your music is the soundtrack to other people's lives.

Think deeply about what your art means to you and what it means to other people. It comes from your why. Once you understand why you create, create other things that mean the same things to you and reinforce the joy that other get from your music. Harness your music's themes and express them in other ways.

At your show, you're not selling your music. You're selling access to an experience that you share with your fans because of your music. When they buy a CD they're buying a reminder of that experience and the feelings that it created. When they buy a T-shirt, they're buying a symbol of their identification with the artist who inspired their feelings and with other people who have had the same experience. When they read an interview they're learning about how you got to that point in your life and either sharing your experience or aspiring to it.

Your music is the starting point for all of this, but it's NOT what you're selling. Think laterally about other ways and other media you can use to express what you have to say and seek to use those outlets as well. This has two benefits:

  1. It gives people a new reason to talk about you and your music; and
  2. It gives you something to sell that, unlike digital stuff, can't be copied.

In my research I referred to the first one as "third leg" music marketing. It's about understanding that sometimes it's better to draw attention to your music without mentioning your music. It's very powerful and used by the biggest names in the game ... but we'll come back to it later.

Step 3 Exercises

Think about the music you listed in Step 2. Look for patterns or pathways this music embodies: growing up, breaking up, celebrating, changing the world, standing for a cause ...

  • Think about your favourite musician(s).
  • For each one, write a sentence starting with "Their music sounds ..."
  • Define their image as an artist.
  • For each one, write a sentence starting with "They represent ..."
  • Define their creative worldview.
  • For each one, write a sentence starting with "Via their art, they share ..."

Exercise to take home

Think about all the music you have made. Look for similar patterns or pathways.

  • Define your music.
  • Write a sentence starting with "My music sounds like ..."
  • Define your image as an artist.
  • Write a sentence starting with "To my fans, I represent ..."
  • Define your creative worldview.
  • Write a sentence starting with "Via my art, I share ..."

Now ask yourself:

  • What do I stand for as an artist?
  • What does this mean to other people?
  • How else can I reinforce this artistic message?
  • How else can you give people what they like/want?
    • Artwork?
    • Video?
    • Fashion?
    • TV Show?
    • Stories/novels?
    • My time?

You don't have to do this alone. If you write a concept album telling the story of a group of characters, it might make a good movie, or stage play, or novel, or sitcom. If those creative outlets are not within your strongest talents, find someone who can develop them for you. This is about your enhancing your ART, not about YOU.

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Posted by DrHuge at February 18, 2013 10:36 AM
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