I probably don’t need to tell you that we’re living in an unprecedented time not just for music, but just about every other facet of human life. We have more ways to instantaneously share and absorb information than ever before, and that’s not always a good thing. Whereas musicians working just a decade ago didn’t need to worry much about how they related to their fans online, it’s something that can absolutely make or break an artist’s career today. In theory, musicians being completely open and transparent about their personal lives is something that fans can and long to relate to, but the reality is a whole lot more complex than that. Some musical identities and genres of music are much better served through things like sharing political views and personal stories than others. Share too much or too little with your audience, and you risk alienating your fans or appearing cold and uninterested. How do you find the right balance? Asking these questions can help:
Who are you?
To figure out how best to relate to your fans, you’ll have to discover who you are in music first. It might be tempting to look to other artists for inspiration here, but you’ll have to nail down your own unique identity to figure out what to share with fans and what to hold back. What does your music mean to you, and what do you hope to get out of sharing it? Are you a private person in your personal life? If so, would sharing personal stories or opinions about the world add to the broader story of your music in any way, or would it come off as feeling forced? Asking and answering these sorts of overarching questions about your musical identity can help show you how best to share or not share your life with your fans.
Does it help or hurt your music?
Certain styles of music tend to embrace transparent artists personalities more than others. In today’s tech-driven landscape, musicians can get into trouble when the things they share online begin to crowd out and overshadow their work. This doesn’t mean never to share personal stories or views, but to instead try doing so in a way that ties in with your music and connects with audiences. Once you know your musical identity, a crucial question to ask is whether sharing certain information about yourself or your views will hurt or help your music. Making these decisions can be complex because they involve you, your work, and your audience. If you see your music as something that exists only within your songs, sharing anything non-music related might feel like a waste of time. Your fans, however, might feel completely differently, and would engage more with you if you were more human and vulnerable. It all can get complicated very quickly, but by asking whether sharing something actually adds to your music or not, you’ll have the best shot at getting it right.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.