I heard an old interview w/ Adrian Belew where he was fretting about knowing whether anyone was interested in his music. This is a feeling I believe most of us artists share (at least I know I do); wondering as you’re creating something whether anyone will even hear it, much less enjoy it.
In the old days you had to wait for record sales and concert attendance to determine if your art was appreciated, but nowadays, with statistics available on many websites, you can find out immediately. But somehow this doesn’t fix the issue.
To demonstrate: YouTube will tell me how many views a video gets, and when. And when I first put up videos, every single view was cause for celebration. But after a while that joy starts to wane, and I started looking at other stats: “like”s, for instance. And even though I was happy about the views, there were videos w/ over one hundred views but only a few “likes”. So were these videos valuable to people or not? There weren’t many (or any) “dislikes”, so it’s hard to say.
Another stat that YouTube provides is “estimated minutes watched”. But this is a perplexing statistic for me, as sometimes a 5-minute video that has 10 views for a certain time period shows only 2 estimated minutes watched. So is this minutes per view or total minutes? If it’s 2-per, does that mean that two people watched it all the way through and the others skipped it immediately or did everyone only make it about 2-minutes into it before they ceased watching? (These same issues occur w/ sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, who give similar statistics). These things can all contribute to the erosion of an artist’s self-esteem.
So I’ve decided two things: 1. People in our culture (meaning our era) tend to be both lazy and easily distracted. It’s hard to hold people’s attention not because your (or my) work doesn’t have value, but everyone is so bombarded w/ stimuli demanding their attention that human beings may be losing the capacity to pay attention to anything for a reasonable length of time (or to listen deeply). This may not be true, but it’s a way for me to not feel like everyone’s skipping over my tracks ‘cos they all think my stuff sucks.
Also, I make a point of watching other videos all the way through, and listening to their tracks in their entirety. I don’t know if statistics affect other folk the way they do me (I’ve got a degree in psychology) but in case they do, I can at least do my part to let them know their expression landed w/ someone. Also, I try to put a comment whenever I can, since I know personally how much this means to any creative person. A positive comment is far more cause for celebration than any statistic.