How musicians put up barriers between themselves and their listeners.
by St. James Infirmary
Be an Elitist
The most devastating thing you can say to your fans, or even potential fans is to say, you’re not worthy of my music.
What you say:
- Those people just won’t understand what I have to offer.
- I have heard your music, your tastes suck and you make bad music so I don’t want to be associated with you.
- You associate with people who are not like us.. so I don’t think we should be friends.
- You’re not even in my league
While a lot of this comes from some informed places, these actions are based on fear and how an artist conveys their image to a prospective booking agent, promoter, or label. The real problem with this is not the artist, it’s the system of cynicism that places snap decisions on artists. Instead, the artist should be looking for a promoter that values their music, artistry, and quality of production.. rather than what labels they’ve been on in the past if they have friends who produce naive music, or if they have friends that don’t necessarily make them look cool.. all that matters is the music and if you as an artist have got some super down friends who’ll be there for you and you connect with them, that’s all the better.
You Just Don’t Promote
You make some hella dope tracks, you rock the hell out of your bedroom every damn night, and yet you say to yourself, “How come nobody’s booking me?” One of the problems artists face is finding time to be confident in themselves enough to say, “Hey! check this out!”
What you do:
- You don’t find the time to include the promotional aspect of making music
- People have heard that you make music, and the rumor is that you’re pretty damn good but they just cannot find a lick of it anywhere, not on podcasts, not on other people’s charts, you have no website, you stopped paying for Soundcloud.. and your Discogs profile hasn’t been updated since 2008.
- Your promotions that you do make an effort for are, weak, unprofessional, and lack any punch.
- You rely only on your promoters and your label to hype you all day and night while you are timidly hiding behind their coattails.
One of the best things people can do to connect with their listeners is to exude confidence.. which is possibly why there are a lot of people out there who have weak tunes but have built up a super great rep, yet somehow seem to get bookings regardless. But as we all know, that shit is hollow and a wack way to represent yourself. Good promotions are based upon strong substance. Because a strong message and a good set of tunes will always provide listeners with something about you and leave your listener with a positive feeling that they discovered something new.
You over-promote and have nothing to say.
If you instantly want to deaden yourself in the mind of anyone trying to listen to your music.. yell from the rooftops about yourself all day and all night and have absolutely nothing important to back it up with.
- You shotgun your music to everyone all at once, no matter who the hell it is, thinking, the listener will edit their tastes.. or at least be aware of your existence.
- You didn’t bother showing your music to people before just putting it on blast to all labels at once.
- You played your music to the wrong people and it falls on deaf ears.
There’s a balance you try to walk when promoting yourself.. It’s hard to stay cool and humble, walking with that “faceless techno” persona while trying to navigate in a sea of shit music, but if you’re yelling about your shit music, you’re part of the problem. Always get feedback on your music from people you respect and trust. If you’ve shipped out your tracks or mixes for review, or tried getting feedback from tons of people with no replies, it might be that you’re not all that together. If you get butthurt about them telling you your music sucks.. well, maybe it does. That doesn’t mean you suck. Just that you haven’t fully developed as an artist and you’re not ready. Rome wasn’t built in a day, everyone’s a work in progress, and all truly great musicians will get heard.
You’re Not “Real” Enough.
If there’s one thing people can’t stand, and especially techno people can’t stand, it’s a poseur.
- Your music and how you carry yourself, isnâ’t personal and doesn’t come from the heart.
- People have a hard time talking with you and following what you have to say on social media.
- People who like your music have a hard time approaching you because you’re standoff-ish.
- You invest all your time in a genre you don’t actually believe in.
- You spend too much time primping and building up this fake, def-as-fuk, hardcore persona when you know when people talk to you, you know you’re just a little old marshmallow softy boy.
One of the important lessons in being human is to learn how to be human when interacting with others. If you are a musician, this also means that your music is an extension of who you are, and that also has to remain genuine. For example, if you want to build up this super fake alter ego, DJ, and produce this pumped-up music based solely on a concept, then you gotta be about it. Wake up in the mask and the mile-high boots, go to work or school on the bus wearing the giant triangle spaceman glittery disco collar. If that is who you really are, then that is who you are… people love to see artists who believe in themselves and as soon as you start fronting, that is when people stop believing in you. Nothing really creates a division between themselves and their audience more than being a faker, one who doesn’t or refuses to relate to the people that listen to them, and one who thinks that they are somehow different than the people around them. You might actually be the strangest nut in the fruitcake, but at least you don’t have to let it stop you from being honest and transparent about yourself and your love for your music.
Nurture Social Anxiety.
Social anxiety is a bitch. If you’re just a shy wallflower who actually just blooms when there’s only a monolithic wall of sound in front of you, or just speaks better with a sampler than you could to your own family, it might be helpful for you to thicken your skin a bit.
What you think:
- I don’t need new friends to get my music heard.
- Most people will probably hate my music.
- I could never give that guy a DJ demo they’re the dopest promoter in the city.
- Fuck, I can’t go out tonight. There’ll be people there and I don’t know what the hell to say to them. Anyway, it is midnight already..
If you are a techno head that suffers from social anxiety, your mind can be your own worst enemy.. but there is hope, the secret is most people who like techno are completely socially awkward as well. Those people are just like you, just that some people have better ways of dealing with it.. but the key is control. Anxiety stems mostly from the lack of being able to control an outcome, or more accurately, some falsely perceived set of outcomes that you’ve likely made up as excuses not to go dancing to your favorite DJs. For some people, that sense of control comes from alcohol, but it’s not entirely necessary to lean heavily on drinking or drugs to accomplish this (miraculous) social feat. You need to fearlessly believe that you have the ability to deal with whatever the outcome may be.
For example, your new mix is fire, all your homeboys, homegirls and their grandmothers have been playing it in their cars for weeks and your new EP you have been polishing sounds actually better than what you would buy in the shops. Â Your DJ friends keep telling you that people keep asking them “Who’s made that track?” and they won’t say, cause it is a dance floor destroyer… You know your tracks are dope, but you still have nagging doubts about how this part could fit better here, or how that transition could connect a lot smoother.. (blah blah blah). Do you, a. sit on your tracks and DJ sets content that someone will pick them up eventually, or b. get out there and actually see if more people like them? Most people would reasonably choose b. because good music should be heard.. plus making new friends is cool. Finding out people who share your interests is great, maybe they can influence your understanding of music as a whole since their perspective is different…
Of course, there will be people who you give your music to, and they will be like, “Who the fuck are you?” Or will handle your promo like it was toxic waste, casting a downward glance off their upturned nose… First off, those people are what is known as “douchebag pricks”, secondly, are toxic to the scene, and furthermore, don’t deserve to listen to your music.. They will only believe in your music if their friends or a magazine article told them it was ok to do so. What is more effective is that you should probably find some other people to chill with, share music, and collaborate with. The people who are dissing without listening have put up a wall to you and it is entirely up to them to tear down their walls, because you have done your best to break down yours.
- Don’t be an elitist douche, be open-minded to the people around you and foster a supportive environment for your peers.
- Work very hard and develop something to promote that you believe in wholeheartedly, pack it up neatly and get it to people to listen to.
- Don’t go out half-assed with an underdeveloped style. Make sure you’re the shit before saying you’re the shit. Always get opinions and perspectives on your tracks and DJ sets.
- Be who you are. Don’t be a faker. Represent your own style and vibe. Â Give people music that is an extension of who you really are.
- Be fearless and believe in yourself! If you’re ready to show & prove and know it, take control, and step up.. there’s only one life to live and if you sleep on yourself, everyone will sleep on you.