Entrepreneurial artists are always looking for ways to get noticed and increase activity and interest around their work, but many performers give precious little thought to the basic chicken-and-egg question of arts marketing: “Which comes first — the work or the audience?)
Matt Farley has taken an approach to putting the audience first, using search engines to make money as a composer, with almost laughable results. In the last several years, he’s written thousands of songs featuring celebrity names, monkeys and an entire album about office supplies, including titles like “The Toilet Bowl Cleaners”, “The Vampire & Werewolf Experience”, “The Singing Film Critic” and “The Extreme Left Wing Liberals”. Clearly, Farley has found an odd niche in serving those who seek music about very specific things, and in the process has succeeded in growing a very large, diverse audience. But while his focus on working the numbers is extreme (50 songs a week?), his story (in this article from Wired) contains at least three valuable lessons:
- Be relevant. Whatever your own artistic goals, your work won’t influence and affect others if they can’t use or relate to it. Someone looking for a song about a stapler may not need high art. But the existence of that song, at least in a small way, is still a genuine service. The little things matter!
- Be clear in your own goals. As stated in the interview, Farley’s goal is “To quit his day job and make music, any music, seven days a week.”. Although it wouldn’t be satisfying for everyone, his aim has at least some of the earmarks of a good goal: it’s specific, measurable and attainable. Relevance is, well, relative.
- Really commit. “I’m a big fan of follow-through, for the sheer joy of it,” Farley says, and it’s a crucial point. Too much creative energy gets stopped mid-process because of self-doubt. Even if the result isn’t spectacular, many projects are worth finishing because they can lead to something else. See it through to the end, and know that you’ve completed something. That feeling alone could get you to your next meaningful achievement.
We’ll look at this approach again next week, with some ideas on how you can adapt Farley’s data-driven approach to your own work. In the meantime, give a little thought to the connection between your work to your audience. At this point, which comes first? Do you need to reverse the chicken and the egg?