I totally agree with you! We need to find our audience day after day.
That’s the real tough part of our journey as composers. We need to practice, we need to listen, we need to record, we need to criticize us, we need to a lot of stuff, but to find our audience! How should we eat that?
I believe in our music evolution (composer’s evolution) as a main part of the strategy, sounds like a long ride home but I think it’s the most enduring one. We need to use facebook, twitter, buzz, a blog, torrents, the whole web, but in the meantime we need to evolve so when someone glance at us we are appealing enough to keep listening.
So thanks, Xavier, for your agreement. And I want to focus on one thing you said:
We need to use facebook, twitter, buzz, a blog, torrents, the whole web.
Yes! If composers are going to find their own audience, this is how they do it. But how do they use all these tools? How does anyone use them? The answer isn’t obvious. Big institutions seem especially baffled (though the London Symphony is an exception). They seem to feel that before they can jump into social media, they have to understand how to use them, and make them part of a larger strategy.
The truth, though, is that they’ll never learn about social media and never understand a larger strategy unless they jump in first! The changes social media have brought are so radical, that an understanding of those changes ought to change — maybe drastically change — your institutional strategy. So jump in now, preferably under the guidance of someone in their 20s. And see where it leads you.
But back to composers, and other individuals and small institutions. What do you actually do?
This is a discussion I’d love to feature here. I’ll try to start. People sometimes come to me — I’m thinking, for instance, of a publicist for a chamber music series somewhere in the midwest, and also of a publicist for an opera company — and they’ll say, “We’ve taken a step forward. We’ve put a video on our website.”
We should be gentle about how late this step might be. Videos on websites aren’t anything new. But everyone moves at their own pace. What matters more is something simpler: How will you get people to go to your site to look at the video? It’s fine if you only mean to appeal to people who go to the site already, but the minute you think that new media might help you reach a new audience, then you have to ask this question. How do you get people to the site?
Here’s the start of an answer. First, you have to keep putting videos and other kinds of sticky new content on your site. It takes a while for interest to build. And people won’t come back to your site if you’re not constantly putting new things on it.
So you can’t stop with one video. Even if no one looks at it! You have to persist.
Second, you have to interact with the people you want to attract. If you’re not talking with them, why will they pay attention to you? And you should involve them directly. So consider this as one possibility. If you’re going to put videos on your site, don’t make them yourself. Get your audience to make them, or else people you wish were in your audience. Have a social media day — invite bloggers, and not just bloggers, invite everyone, to do video interviews with people involved in your performances. Then put them on your website, even if they’re clearly not professional.
Why? First, because you’re showing that people are interested in what you do. Second, because putting these videos on your site will be news in itself, and will incite others to pay attention, especially if bloggers, tweeters, and even the old media start to talk about what you’ve done.
But the third reason is the most important. The people whose videos you put up on your site will spread the word themselves. They’ll blog that they’re on your site, they’ll tweet about it, and they’ll attract others. This is one way that viral marketing works. Don’t think you have to be the only one talking about what you do, you, and maybe a newspaper article, if you’re lucky enough to get one.
Get other people to spread the word. That’ll bring you far more attention than anything you do on your own.
You could also — as the BBC Proms did last summer, thanks to my friend Peter Gregson — do video interviews with people in your audience. Or with the people who come to your new media day, and make videos involving your artists. These will certainly get blogged and tweeted, and otherwise virally spread. Who’s not going to tell their friends, fans, family, and networks that they’re up on a website, in living color? (Well, at least if it’s a big institution’s website. This strategy will have to be tweaked for individuals and small institutions. And I should thank Peter, by the way, for giving me many of the ideas I’m spreading here.)
Next: stage promotional events to call attention to what you’re doing online. This is a crucial interface between online life and physical life. Do something notable. Give a piano concert in a storefront. Play your tuba in the street. Stage a guerrilla chamber music show. Think up better ideas than these, and act on them! And don’t do just one thing. The same principle applies here, as applies online. Doing something once might not get you noticed, but doing it repeatedly gives you a chance to build interest.
I’ll stop here. This is a start. Consider this yet another solutions post, and tell me your own stories. What have you done, to get people paying attention to your work? What ideas do you have?