There a Buddy Hackett joke, presented here in abridged version:
I’m playing roulette, and after losing the guy next to me tells me to spread my bets more. I lose again, and he says to make sure I’m evenly spread across red and black. I lose again, and he tells me to make sure I’m on both odd and even numbers. I lose again. As he starts giving me more advice I notice he’s dressed in rags and has no shoes, and I ask “Why am I listening to you?”
This is how the field of music marketing and promotions feels to me. I am constantly getting advice from others in the industry, who in general aren’t very successful themselves. (Though they’re always quite willing to offer me a detailed analysis of what I’m doing wrong and what I should be doing, even if I haven’t asked for it. It’s a constant source of amusement for me when someone at a show of mine takes it upon themselves to critique my act and tell me all about how to bring people to performances, and when I go to see them play I’m the only one there.) I even went through a period of reading interviews and biographies of successful musicians to determine how they got where they are, and quickly came to the conclusion that they don’t know, either.
Some people I know in the advertising/marketing industry have suggested surveying audiences to find out what it is they want (and then giving it to them). This led to two issues: 1. audiences aren’t all that sure about what they want. 2. When it comes down to it, people seem to want to to hear music they like. What do like: stuff they know. Audiences are predisposed to hearing stuff they already know they like, and aren’t interested in being exposed to anything new or original (musicians most of all). But if the idea is to promote my own music, then I’m starting out w/ something unpromotable in this regard.
(as an aside: I’ve played in a lot of cover bands, and they have trouble with promotion and marketing as well. I think for one thing if the field is glutted w/ artists doing covers, then how to convince audiences to specifically check out your cover band, and also with YouTube readily available on everyone’s phone, why even go hear a cover group trying to duplicate a recording that you can listen to anytime you want)
My conclusion: I’m an anomaly. I don’t like hearing cover bands, especially ones that attempt to duplicate the original arrangements. If I’m going to go hear live music, I want to hear something I can’t get at home. If a group does a cover, I’d rather they did it in their own original way (Devo’s take on the Stones’ “Satisfaction” is a great example of this). So in creating the kind of performance I would want to attend, I’m probably alienating the majority of people.
I don’t think there’s a solution to the above dilemma, other than redesigning the human race.
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