With Jake exported to lovely Rochester, New York for little while, Gina and I have retooled our mid-week rehearsal into a sort of combo rehearsal, business meeting, new material audition, and general goofing-off night.
Which, honestly, is not so different than what it was when Jake was around for it, but now it’s been officially christened as such.
One of the things we talked about last night was something that came up over impromptu dinner with Matthew Ebel and Nan at #140Conf in June.
Matthew is an indie musician who is totally on the path of 1000 True Fans – and he makes it work spectacularly with steady touring and releases combined with a subscription service and webcasts. He was also the first ever musical director of the conference. I’ve wanted to sit down and chat with him ever since a brief run-in with him at the 2010 conference, so I was psyched to catch up with him about touring, songwriting, and our shared love of Amanda Palmer.
Eventually, conversation turned to my own motley collection of musical acts. Matthew set down his drink, stared me down across the table, and said, “Who are your fans?”
Now, I’m not so delusional as to think I have a massive fan base across all of my acts, but we’ve accumulating our steady listeners over the years. I began to stammer about them, but Matthew cut me off.
“Look, you’ve got friends who dig you. Fine. That’s not what I asked. I said, ‘who are your fans?’ Your people?”
This is the rabbit hole that Gina and I headed down last night. Matthew’s point to me over that dinner was that it’s all well and good to have fans here and listeners there, but it pays to know who your true demographic is. Twenty-something 70s nostalgics? Steam punk enthusiasts? X-Men fans?
It’s basic marketing, and I do it at work all the time at the start of a new project. We produce ad campaigns towards a specific audience, so why not do the same thing for our music?
I guess some musicians might shy away from this whole concept because it’s not artistic, or some frilly bullshit like that. Whatever. In the old, “find a label to be your patron” model of music, there was some marketing person and their intern out there scrambling to figure out your target audience so you could focus on being an ARTISTE.
Well, now your target audience is your patron, as it should be – and it’s your job to know who they are. Figuring out who they are doesn’t mean you have to write songs just for them or anything like that. It’s just a matter of fishing where the fish are. If all the Star Trek fans dig your music, then you better be playing it somewhere where Star Trek fans congregate. Matthew’s point was that putting together that thousand-plus fans is a little easier to do if they aren’t all one-off transactions.
So, who are our people? I don’t know. People in Philadelphia and People on Twitter are apparently categories too large, and People With an Endless Fascination With the End Times But Not In a Morbid Way might be a little too specific.
We’ll figure it out.
(Thanks to Mr. Ebel for a delightful dinner, and for hopefully being gracious about all of the misquoting of him I just did above. Be sure to check out his Lives of Dexter Peterson.)