As artists we can be one of two things. Very comfortable in our current state of “success,” or extreme perfectionists. I happen to believe many local artists become stuck in a frenzy between the two. So engrossed in their craft that they never release anything for the world to see or hear, crippled by the fact that they’d like it to be “perfect.” Which usually, ultimately translates to a fear of failing. But who am I to judge?
I’m more so focused on those who become comfortable with their current state of popularity. Artists who gain local notoriety and fail to strategize (or form a team with this function) how they will grow their audience beyond their hometown. I’ll take Detroit talent for example, there are SO many talented individuals in Detroit. Yet, many of them have become washed because they don’t see the incentive in creating a team that can propel them while they create. Instead, these artists choose years of the status quo – performing at showcase after showcase. Many Detroiters would blame their immediate audience for lack of support. A team could be the missing piece – strategy is most likely the missing piece because guess what – at least two artists have made it out, one of them even made it platinum.
Support of their city was not a factor, the team and strategy behind them had all to do with their success. So this means those excuses? Invalid.
So you build a team. Now what? Find out who you want to reach. Grow. That. Audience. What would you do with the support of your city IF you had it anyway? People are nothing together without leadership. As the artist, you charge your team with the task of building a plan to engage your audience. The most common way to grow an audience on a larger scale (beyond releasing music on the internet weekly/monthly) is booking – preferably a tour. Now, you’re thinking “well, if I don’t have the support of my city who’s going to book me?” A tour can be a small as 3 dates at local venues in the span of a month. The look and feel of the social media marketing of this “tour” big or small, college or club, is a major key. The aesthetic you create around your brand makes people get on board.
Develop your brand identity beyond your personal style. We all know Detroiters can dress eccentrically. Use the resource of your team to build this look out into other intangibles like e-flyers, a header for your social accounts, and branding around an upcoming project.
Now that you’ve done that: DON’T isolate your audience. You have a solidified fan base in your home town, engage them and they will do footwork for you by promoting your music and buying tickets to the shows you carve out or book as a part of your first tour.
Don’t further isolate your audience by making music about one specific audience. Rappers being the best example, have the habit of going into the lab and forgetting they have a unique situation to write about. If you don’t believe your situation is unique, you should re-think music.
Great artists are great because they have mastered confidence in the face of vulnerability. Their work resonates because it is human, the nuances in every story speak to a different audience. The short, safe way lies in speaking to a general one. Don’t let your ego overshadow your creativity. Your end becomes pigeonholing yourself into writing content about your city and the “haters” in it. No one else relates to that outside of your city — your music goes unheard, you go unheard. No matter what route you choose, be confident that your situation is unique and that you absolutely have something to add at the end of the day when you are just yourself, the human. The artist is simply the vehicle for expression.