Perception is reality in your art. You’d better freaking know this. Sadly, many of you don’t or you do and you choose to ignore it for some reason.
Perception is also reality in your marketing.
I want to talk about how the market, A.K.A. consumers, in other words YOUR POTENTIAL FANS perceive you.
I am seeing WAY too much of this online and on social media so I had to write about it.
Too many artists are stuck in that developmental stage that little children go through when they believe if they can’t see you, you can’t see them.
Do you know what I’m talking about?
It’s a lack of perception awareness.
They “hide” in the middle of the living room by crouching down and covering their eyes. At this stage they believe that you can’t see them.
It’s cute when their little kids.
It’s ugly when you’re an aspiring artist.
In the industry, it’s downright annoying.
It’s a sign of naiveté and complete lack of awareness by an artist who displays every little “finger painting”, every little step of their creative process on the world’s refrigerator expecting to be praised.
Arrogantly believing the world is interested.
You’re going to be judged.
By consumers but also by the industry (if they happen to look. More on that later).
If it’s a well written, well recorded, rocking track, you’ll be praised.
If it isn’t finished, you’ll look like a novice.
On to the video of the talking dog.
When it’s well done it is like magic. People pay to see it.
When it’s ignored its shite.
You will always be judged on what you have done, NOT what you’re going to do or what you think you’re going to do.
All too often, I’ll get an artist who asks me to “check out” their music. I almost NEVER respond to these based on the principle of the matter (crappy way to market) but sometimes I fall for it.
Usually I end up lamenting the fact that I can never get that 30 seconds of my life back.
They were a selection of solitary, distorted, electric guitar rhythm tracks.
Zero on a scale of 1 to whatever in terms of any discernable creative riff.
No other instruments.
I just listened to this Dire Straits isolated guitar track by Mark Knopfler from “Sultans of Swing”. It’s AMAZING!!!
Mark Knopfler is a very special guitar player.
Here’s the key. As amazing as this isolated track is, we are only interested because we know Dire Straits,
we know Mark Knopfler, and most importantly, we know and love the song!
If this exact track, with this stellar performance was not a track from a hit song, I wouldn’t give it 5 seconds. Neither would you.
In my studio, I have many of the original multi tracks from Motown, The Beatles, The Doobie Brothers, Queen, Def Leppard, and more. These tracks are a party favorite because we know all the songs and it’s interesting to hear something we are so fond of being dissected.
We’re fascinated by the soloed vocal tracks.
Freddie’s finger snaps at the beginning of “Killer Queen”.
We’re floored when we discover that “Long Train Running” has 5 different guitar arrangements that brilliantly work together without cluttering the track.
We freak when we hear Queens, background vocals all alone.
I literally cried when I heard Marvin Gaye’s soloed voice from “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. The natural distortion on the vocal mic. It was cut live with the band and Tammi Terrell (you can hear the bleed!). You can hear his toe tapping in the vocal booth. Ugh, so moving.
Nobody cares if they don’t know the song.
Perception is so important there are major label artists who refuse to let the A&R guys in the studio until the track is mixed lest the art be judged by some suit with no vision.
It’s the artist’s way of controlling the outcome as much as possible. They don’t want the suit’s possibly disheartened attitude over an unfinished product to affect their promo budget once the track is released.
Consumers have no vision. They want finished product.
Think about how much apprehension you feel when you shop for a used car. Imagine the experience of meeting a private seller, who is a stranger, to look at their restored ’64 candy apple red Ford Mustang. You walk into the garage and you see a chassis up on blocks with a seat and a steering wheel.
Wait, what is this?!?!
The seller says, “Hey man, it’s going to be great when it’s finished!”
99.9% of consumers would be pissed and walk out; it doesn’t look like a car.
You have to be aware that as an indie artist; you are the stranger selling the car and in your case the consumer isn’t “looking for a car”.
You have to know that the consumer is apprehensive on several levels because your marketing was probably dodgy and statistically the music is going to suck; BIG TIME.
Are you picking up what I’m putting down?
You have to blow them away first.
Look there are always exceptions, but as a rule, don’t post demos, work tapes, incomplete recordings, soloed guitar tracks, etc. up on the internet as you will be judged.
What are the exceptions?
A soloed vocal track to a beautiful melody, intense lyric, with a compelling vocal performance would be interesting.
Anything short of that will sound way better in the track and be boring without it.
I have posted work tapes (a simple iPhone recording of an acoustic vocal) before. We had a contest with Bailey James where we let the fans choose the 6th song on her EP. That worked really well. I will say that many (If not all) of the fans who participated had downloaded the free track we were trading in an exchange for an email which is how Bailey came into their awareness.
That free track was a KILLER recording of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me”. Which allowed us to craft their perception. They were cognizant of Bailey’s professionalism and the work tapes were clearly positioned in the mind of the fans as a “behind the scenes” look at the future mixed with a fun, interactive exercise where they got to participate in the release somehow.
However, if we just posted all the damn work tapes from all songs that were written to be considered for her debut release it would’ve worked against us.
If the fans don’t see the “scene” they will misconstrue your “behind the scenes” as your “scene”.
Many of you don’t even have your “scene” put together so why would you show it?
Does that make sense?
In Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art he conveys that before you become a professional you have to think and act like a professional.
If the car doesn’t look like a cherry ’64 candy apple red Ford Mustang than it isn’t.
I saw it with my own eyes.
In Marketing I see this mistake often with images.
A picture is worth 1,000 words.
If it’s a bad picture, it’s 1,000 bad words. You disappear into the clutter of every other artist who won’t make the effort or spend the money to stand out.
When you present professional images as an artist, the selfies become a savory alternative look.
But only when juxtaposed against the killer images.
If your whole visual presence is based on selfies, you don’t look like a professional.
The world doesn’t want the blow-by-blow, play-by-play rundown of your amazing artistic ascent until AFTER you make it.
The Behind the Music VH1 series where we learn about the artist’s creative stories, business challenges, and addiction troubles are interesting when they’re famous. If they weren’t famous, it would just be a story about a pathetic drug addict.
Let me ask you this.
What if they say “yes”?
I love to ask my artists this question.
What if you get your act together enough to pique the interest of some big label, booking agent, or manager, etc.?
What would their first step be to vet you as a possible business partner?
They’re going to Google the crap out of you.
If their perception becomes that you are unprofessional, happily ignorant of your image both creatively and in the market, you become a turn-off.
Do you want to be a turn off?
Do you want to blow a self-created opportunity because you are unaware of perception?
If you don’t know, you’d better learn.