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 www.mymusicfriend.net