Excerpt Number 6 from Winning the Music Game by Brian Allen
Here and Now. We tend to think of the relevance of an artist’s appeal as measured by and applied to today’s market, but the position of “now” is the confluence and sum total of yesterday and today. In fact, “now” is quite literally where yesterday and tomorrow meet. We have all heard the term “dated” as applied to describing an artist’s style. It is very difficult to better the stars of yesterday at their own game – we have already seen the best… why would the world need another one? This is one of the more common faults I have seen in failure to be relevant to the market. But, every year we see a fresh crop proudly displaying their skill at producing a style that was already developed and practically patented by musical icons. Congratulations – what took you so long?
Yet, without the foundational lessons learned from experience and historical precedence, coupled with an inspired vision of what tomorrow might be, the depth of relevance associated with “now” becomes a lot shallower.
A prime manifestation of the more negative outcome of a current trend-following approach is the term “flavour of the month”. The closer a current trend is followed, the more one becomes relevant to the style established recently by others rather than enduring through today into tomorrow. Following trends too closely means you are tied to something that is prone to unexpected and fickle changes, but for those without imagination and vision, it seems like an easier way to gain immediate acceptance. If it works for them, it can work for me, right? So, what happens when it’s over? The immediate image that comes to mind for me is that of a bull ride – really exciting, but over pretty fast after a brief violent run. And, you know what can happen if you are following the car in front of you too closely and it suddenly stops. So, let’s sum all this up:
You can’t go back in time to become a success yesterday Following current trends too closely is a ticking bomb There is greater risk in developing a style that is entirely experimental, hoping the world’s taste will eventually converge with you.
Why not analyze and understand what made the historical artists great, be aware of where you are now, and use that intelligence to develop what might work tomorrow? Adopt a broader perspective; incorporate it effectively into your craft, and your relevance expands from now through the future and beyond. Geez, you might even be labelled “timeless”.
GPS again: Where is your competition? “Competition” is a word that a lot of artists cringe at. The common reaction seems to be that artists would rather not associate with the distasteful side of sport and business competition, but consider this: your future fans were not at your last show, did not visit your website and don’t own a copy of even one song file of yours. The romantic reason we would like to believe is that they simply don’t yet know that you exist.
So, it makes sense that if they weren’t at your show, they were doing something else. Really?
If entertainment was the activity they were engaged in, they could have been watching TV, a movie, gaming, reading, dawdling online or listening to someone else’s music. They are not going to know who you are if your message does not intervene in that selection process. Like it or not, this is called “competing for attention”. Know what? We’ve all done it in our personal lives. Just because someone listens to and actively consumes music doesn’t mean that they are automatically a consumer of your type of music. So, if you wish to grow your fan base (translate: “compete”), would it not make sense to identify the attractive elements in the artists your future fan is currently listening to? Do you have those elements?
It’s sort of like the old philosophy “know your enemy”. If you don’t, how will you ever understand why someone could be loyal to you?