As much as you might want them to, loads of new listeners are probably not going to spontaneously flock to your next release and listen to it, especially if you’re a developing artist. Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of sharing new music that we forget that connecting with audiences is far from a predictable, sure thing. Music is not an “if you build it, they will come,” endeavor because when it comes to making and sharing music, the reality is that no one owes you anything whether it’s coming to your shows or streaming your songs.
Making music and getting people to listen are two different skill-sets
Building a real connection with listeners takes a lot of thankless work, and if no one has bothered to check out your latest album or single, the chances are high that you haven’t been putting in enough promotional effort. The best and most honest starting point for developing artists to promote their work is a tricky one these days. It’s acknowledging not only that listeners don’t owe you anything, but also how uniquely challenging it is to connect with audiences at this point in music history. This comes down to the fact that it’s never been easier to make and share music, which means that artists now have more competition on their hands than ever before.
It might be easy to think your music is great and is therefore deserving of an audience. However, there are some unhelpful assumptions with those beliefs to unpack. Even if your music is really good (you can’t be an impartial judge of that) there is tons of excellent music being made and shared every day currently, and lots of it never makes its way to an audience. Also, good music doesn’t “deserve” an audience just because it exists. It doesn’t deserve anything. It just is.
If you want any chance of your music being heard, you have to throw time, money, and energy into music promotion, and this set of skills couldn’t be more different than music creation. Don’t assume that being good at one skill will automatically make you good at the other. Some artists are understandably not strong when it comes to music promotion, which leaves them with the choice to either get better or pay to have it done for them. Either way, unless you’re one of the lucky ones, your music is not going to find its way to an audience without some type of promotional effort.
How adopting a healthier perspective can help you as an artist
Staying stuck on the idea that listeners owe you something is unhealthy, but trying to create only the sort of music you think people will like isn’t any better. A good perspective to adopt is the idea that something authentic and unique only to you that you create might be able to resonate with and relate to other people. That every time you create music, there’s a chance your work could improve someone else’s life in some way. It’s remembering that if you truly love making music, you’re starting from a place of bettering your own life. The music industry is already hard to succeed in without a negative, self-sabotaging attitude. When you work from a place that asks what you can give to others rather than fixating on what they owe you, your music gets better and you end up being a lot happier as a creator.
Working with this mindset isn’t always easy, of course, especially if you’re a professional songwriter or have a full-time job in music doing something else. But with so much chronic uncertainty pursuing something as unpredictable as music, it’s an approach that will improve not only your music, but also your mental health. Expecting listeners to naturally gravitate towards your music release after release and never seeing it happen will leave you discouraged and stuck. When you acknowledge the challenges of finding your audience and work from a place of humility and clarity, creating is less stressful, and you’re able to put control of connecting with listeners back in your hands.
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.