In the world of creativity and performance we must “know our audience.”  I’ve preached that, and it has really helped me to focus my efforts on the people that I can most easily reach, and that are most interested in what I’m doing.  Sometimes, however, I perform for the wrong audience.


When I was an elementary school music teacher, I had the task of creating a show “for the parents.”  So I’d craft the show to please them, to give their kids a chance to shine, and so forth.  But I found that my principal would not necessarily respond with the glowing praise I would have expected.


Perhaps this is because I didn’t realize the principal was my true audience.  Yes, I had to make sure it was a good show, but not according to my standards, or even the parents’ standards…I had to make it according to the principal’s standards!  Until I realized that the principal was the actual audience, I could work myself to the bone and get nowhere.


What’s especially difficult about this is that the principal didn’t necessarily see himself as the audience.  So I couldn’t really ask him what he wanted.  If I had, he’d simply insist that I please the parents.


This isn’t one of those things you can call someone out on.  It’s one of those unfair, unwritten realities that successful people figure out.  Unsuccessful people keep on barking up the wrong tree and getting nowhere.


If I have a deal with a major publisher, the executives at that company are my real audience, no matter what they may say.  So it stands to reason, if I say I want a publishing deal, what I’m really asking for is to the opportunity to please them.  If that’s not what I want, I should stay away, self-publish, or just write for myself.


If I am performing on the piano, and I want to prepare so that I don’t get nervous, I have to consider who my real audience is so that I can prepare correctly.  If I have a bunch of friends in the audience who like difficult, atonal music, I can program pieces for them.  But if there’s someone else in the audience who will determine if I get to play again, I’d better consider that person first.


Some people don’t really think about the audience at all.  They may be in a long-term situation where the audience is so consistent that the relationship is part of their regular mindset.  Or they may believe that focusing on the audience means neglecting nobler reasons to play or create.


If, however, you make your living in a way that requires you keep track of a shifting set of opinions, it’s wise not only to consider your audience, but to be sure you know which audience is the most important.  I don’t see this as cynical so much as pragmatic, and anyone that’s been fired from a job will likely agree with me.


Were you the right audience for this blog?


Adam Cole is the world's most interesting music teacher!  Educator, author and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Instructor living in Atlanta, GA, he is the author of numerous books, songs and video presentations.  His weekly blog can be found at 





Elizabeth Drake December 06, 2017 @07:15 am

Yes, i believe I am the right audience for this blog! As someone who studied music very seriously as a youth and then went in another direction in terms of a life's work, i sometimes wonder what it would have been like if i had gone into music. this blog tells all the interesting perspectives.

Steve E. December 04, 2017 @09:01 pm


Dave December 04, 2017 @06:36 pm

When coming up with a visual treatment for broadcast imagery I tend to keep two major audiences in mind. The criticial viewer such as the director and cinematographer and the casual viewer, i.e. the majority of television viewers. I reside in the Venn Diagram section where interested viewers have something interesting to watch that isnt too distracting or challenging for the casual viewer. Learning that those two audiences concurrently view my work took awhile. Learning that they both matter did as well. Finally, learning how to attract more work by delivering custom imagery to the directors while also “fitting in” on air was the crux of the biscuit. I would suggest that musicians keep that in mind as well. Inject your personality and favorite moves for the other close listeners while entertaining the casual listeners with the song.

Leave a comment:


Take a quiz!

What Kind of Music Warrior Are You?