Is Anyone Listening To Your Music?
At some point in every musician’s career there is silence, a dark period for the artists ego; where hanging out in obscurity is far more real than the promise of success, and for a great many talented musicians, this is the sole reason they walk away from it all.
You have most likely heard of the term “Paying your Dues”, and chances are, you are not all too fond of that term; but, it really is the law of the land, and it does apply to everyone.
So, what does paying your dues mean exactly? And how do you know when you have paid your dues? In a few words, you won’t know until you have undeniably succeeded in your master plan.
Let’s dig in a bit deeper down into the core of why both silence and obscurity are not working against you, and why even when it seems like no one is listening, when it looks as though all your efforts in music promotion are wasted, that this is nothing more than just a lapse in having the proper perspective.
Let us start with why you make music in the first place. Do you make the music for you, or are you chasing celebrity-glory? Be honest here, no one is judging your thoughts, but it is important to know why you create music instead of studying law, or pursuing other more socially acceptable careers.
Are you here working hard in the darkness, creating music from a personal space, because you have something valuable that you must say, or are you trying to impress the world in the attempt to find true acceptance? Either goal is fine, but one outlook will help you through the obscurity, while the other will punish you every step of the way.
As we move into the meat and potatoes of the point of this article, I sincerely hope that you are creating music for you, and for you alone, with a healthy respect for the listener; because I am not interested in music being made to crack the green-back code and line your pockets.
Let’s look at the current state of the music industry, and why it has been a tough pill to swallow for MANY musician’s, both old-school and new.
Musicians used to sell their music. They used to get paid for their efforts before they handed out the final product, and now they are expected to offer it up for free!
Why did this change happen? And is it ultimately beneficial to the artist? I may dive deeper into this another time, but the question I want to know the answer to is this; Are more people listening to your music now, even though they have not been purchasing it? Or even hitting the “Like” button on your Facebook page?
The facts are in, and the answer is, thankfully, optimistic.
Yes, streaming has opened the doors for many more musicians to be discovered, and social media platforms have been giving independent musicians worldwide, a lot more leverage, when it comes to sitting at the table with major labels; but like every great revolution, there is always going to a few casualties, and right now that casualty is the creature-comfort of knowing who is listening to your music.
I tell musicians all the time that they should forget about looking at the numbers, and stop trying to win over everyone in their hometown, and my reasoning is simple; the entire world has a set of ears, and an opinion about what makes great music, and there is a good chance that you are not living in the specific area that embraces your unique sound; and that is just fine.
It doesn’t matter if your neighbor buys an album, or if someone on the other side of the world does. Just as it doesn’t matter if your fans in LA are sharing your music more than your fans in the UK. The end-game is always the same, or it should be anyway, that all that matters is the making of the music, and the constant reaching out to the community with that music.
You are a Firestarter, and you need to be concerned with starting music PR fires, everywhere! Hoping that one of those fires will become a major blaze across the land.
It doesn’t matter where, or when, not to the true musician, because those with the proper perspective will accept, and respect, every single fan they can get.
For many musicians, getting Facebook “Likes”, and other social media related numbers, are the proof of either a successful musician, or a failing one, and this could not be further from the truth.
People hit “like” (or don’t) for many different reasons, and many times it can be a self-serving attempt at trying to get you to return the favor. Having over 10,000 Facebook “likes” looks great, but if you only have 100, don’t compare yourself to the larger number, because your 100 might be real followers, real potential album sales, while the larger number might simply be the result of a lot of marketing and networking, both of which are not directly related to the music itself.
Therefore, I ask all musicians to stop complaining about their lack of numbers, and to start celebrating the ones that they have, because it’s just a number, it will go up and it will go down, either way, just accept that someone is paying attention to you.
Speaking of album sales, how does anyone even make money selling albums anymore, if everyone is just giving it away for free? The question is, sadly, far more complicated than the question itself.
You are going to have to get creative, is the simple answer.
You are going to have to decide whether your current album is for building your audience, or for putting some money in your empty wallet? Yes, it can be used for both, but inevitably, you are going to have to choose your short-term plan versus your long-term plan.
My suggestion, offer your music to the people for free, hit the streaming services and share what you have, and build your audience. As the numbers grow, the doors will open, and then you can start pushing for paying gigs, merchandise sales, and perhaps even a lucrative label deal.
This is all going to take a long time, it is going to be a grind, and you are not going to like the business side of waiting process. Paying your dues is going to get old fast, and you are going to question who is listening to your music, who cares about your music, and who is going to financially support your music?
You are going to put money in, most likely more than you care to, and the payoff is going to seem dismal, but for the seasoned and patient musicians, this process is going to work it’s magic in that place of obscurity and silence that so many of us artists fear.
There are MANY ways to make money from music, for now a GOOGLE search will help you discover that, but just know, that you can make a career out of music, if you are completely dedicated to it, and if you are making music from a truly emotional space. This honest and authentic, obscure and silent space, is a gift, more than you know…because one day, if you succeed at becoming successful, you are going to lose the freedom to create without the opinions of the music business ringing loud in your ear.
Part of accepting the grind is to embrace the state of the music industry always. The greats are masters at seeing the bigger picture, and they do not fight against current trends, such as seeing a rise in Vinyl over CD, and then pressing their album to fit the popular medium.
These, savvy, business-minded artists know that they can avoid the most popular social media, but they choose not to. They meet people on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Spotify (among others), because that is where the people are.
What I am really saying here is this; to find your listeners, to start your fires, and to build your own musical empire, you must accept the grind, the obscurity, and the silence that comes with the search.
You must appreciate the changing industry, and choose to dance with it, rather than fight against it. Embrace the process of music promotion, as much as you embrace the creation of the music. Take solace in the fact that there are billions of listeners, all over the world, who search, discover, and share new music every single day! And that there is no way that no one is listening to your music right now, somewhere.
All you need to do is stay patient, stay positive, and embrace your time in obscurity and silence; because it won’t last forever, if you respect the process.
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