I was talking to Marilyn Ingram in Roanoke the other night. She not only has a delightful trio called Aura, but she also manages Shoe Suede Blues, Peter Tork's Blues Band (www.petertork.com). We were talking about how difficult it is to find and develop an audience and began discussing what they call focus marketing research. That's where you determine what you actually do, who might actually like it, and where they are. I realized, as we were talking, that I have been playing and touring for my whole life without really ever thinking about who might like what I do or how I could reach them. My plan was to play everywhere I could and to try to gather people who liked what I do, slowly building an audience. This worked before, but now, with so much media input, no one can see it all, digest it all or even notice it all. Plus, no one has unlimited time to do this kind of relentless touring and promoting without having some other part of their art suffer. There has to be a better way.
Now I believe that you need to tour. I am not suggesting that you can get around that. In fact, you need to perform live, in front of an audience, in order to grow as an artist. But once you have your chops, it only makes sense to perform where you'll have the most impact. That's what I'm talking about.
Here's what I've decided to do and I suggest it to you as well. Take a long, hard and honest look at what you do. Who really enjoys what you do? As a professional musician with a degree of expertise, I have found that given the right circumstances, I can reach people from any culture, race, religion, etc. I am not talking about that. Using me as an example; I play a kind of finger style acoustic guitar; I sing in a melodic, pleasant and smooth vocal style; I write mostly mellow songs; I write intelligent, poetic lyrics; (it's important to me that I not only say something, but that it is said in the most artful way I can do it). Now that's just the positive stuff, but that's what we have to use. You're not going to find your audience by listing all your shortcomings, unless you are coming at it from the intent of eliminating who wouldn't like you. Maybe that would work too, try it and get back to me. In the meantime we'll go with my positive approach.
So, given what I do and how I do it, what else can I do to give focus to this research? How old am I? What kind of education do I have? All these things influence what I create and once it's created, who is going to enjoy it? More than likely, people who have similar backgrounds and/or sensibilities. And once I determine who these people are, where do I find them?
I don't have the answers right now, but I am suggesting that we all take a look at everything I mentioned and share our investigations and results. What I do know is that there are acoustic associations, house concert series, and organizations like the folk alliance. I am a member of the Far West Folk Alliance, (www.farwest.org) as well as the National Folk Alliance (www.folkalliance.org). They have enormous resources and support all genres of acoustic music.
So what I need from you all is some input to this idea. Let's see if we can help each other reach our potential audiences and enjoy the success of performing music well in front of appreciative audiences. Feedback, please.