While I’m probably still too young to be making statements like “I remember the good ole days when…” I must say that the music industry has evolved at a frantic pace.
One thing that I believe hasn’t changed however is the abuse of perception in music. Regardless of what time period we look at, the music industry and hollywood in general is notorious for glorifying reality to some degree.
It’s interesting to see interviews of artists who were at the height of their careers in the 90’s and early 2000s.
The common theme they seem to be running with is how much more successful they would be if they had things like social media and any other technology that we use today.
In the past, we tended to only relate “celebrity” to those that we saw on TV or the big screen at a movie. We weren’t usually in arms reach with those that we idolized and certainly weren’t given as much access into their day to day lives.
Regardless, we saw their lavish mansions on MTV Cribs, the luxury cars they drove and read about their scandals in magazines.
Perception In Music: Understanding The Attention Economy
Fast forward to today however and social media mixed with other advances in technology have changed our lives drastically. We no longer relate celebrity just to who we see on TV, we relate celebrity to the people we see on our phones everyday as well.
As artists, we are told that we need to create content and stay relevant. Well that’s a lot harder to do now when content is all around us and arriving at an overwhelming rate.
Relevance is harder to acquire because just being a talented artist isn’t enough anymore. You need other elements to develop a full package and be memorable.
That’s why the singer putting out cover songs every week has a longer path to stardom than the artist who puts out videos of him stirring up controversy even though their music sucks.
We are now in what is known as the attention economy. The Vidyard puts it like this “As marketers, we face scarcity when we want the attention of our audience, but are competing with thousands of other marketers, companies, people, and things for that finite resource.”
No longer are artists only competing for attention with other artists. They are now forced to compete with anyone and anything in order to be heard.
No different than what the news glorifies in order to get ratings, artists are turning to similar tactics to bring in an audience and get noticed.
For anyone trying to develop a long and successful career, this can be dangerous for a number of reasons. Most evident is that you are trying to keep up a facade that is damn near impossible to maintain, especially if you don’t have the resources behind you to maintain the lie.
There are two main perceptions that artists are faced with mentally which are the perceptions of others and the perceptions we attempt to portray.
Perception of others
A lot of what we see isn’t real and fabricated to draw us in and hold our attention. So many artists are chasing a dream that doesn’t actually exist. However, because their favourite artist presented this amazing life in front of them, it becomes easy to buy into what we see.
The fact is that a lot of the artists we see out there are broke or in shitty deals with labels and are trying to maintain a lifestyle that is drowning them.
Mansions, cars, jewelry and everything else that they probably don’t own or can’t afford is all shown to you to create the illusion of living a life that’s perfect.
Before the height of social media, we used to only see celebrities doing this but now we have both celebrities, influencers, and everyone else in between portraying a life that we should envy.
Perception We Try To Portray
Now, seeing that we are human, the things we experience and see directly impact our actions. When we see the artist we idolize showing off and presenting a life of luxury, we too believe we need to do the same or else that must mean we’re not successful.
This clouds the things that we value and skew what we set out to achieve as artists. Even when whistleblowers in the industry come out and say that “the industry is not what it seems” or “if you want to become rich by getting into music you are better off focusing your energy elsewhere” we still don’t read between the lines.
None of these statements have to do with talent but are merely saying that there is more than meets the eye.
I cringe when I see new artists fork over thousands of dollars on music videos that have the rented sports cars and models that they had to pay to be in the video. Yes it looks great and you’ve created an image that you’re “the shit” but now what?
Does this equate to someone buying a hard ticket and becoming a die hard fan? It might but now you have an image to maintain and if you’re really not “about that life” then this could be a slippery slope for you.
Is It Effective Or A Misguided Use Of Energy
I urge you to be as genuine and authentic as possible with your marketing for a couple of reasons. For one, keeping up a facade is draining and mentally taxing. Especially when you have enough on your shoulders as it is, why add more to your plate if you don’t have to.
Second, it’s expensive. If you don’t have the money and resources to keep up with the perception you created then you’ll be found out a lot sooner than you think. Furthermore, all that money spent trying to impress others could be used to create real connections with people who will actually support you irregardless of the fancy lifestyle you’re trying to portray.
What To Do Instead?
Regardless of what’s hot on social media and any new fads that seem to come and go, I want you to consistently find ways to provide true value to your audience.
Get closer with your fan base especially when it isn’t very big and develop relationships. You’ll be surprised how powerful word of mouth is especially from someone who is now a ride or die fan.
I am not saying that your image and branding are not important but make sure that they are developed with your long term goals in mind and not carried out to catch some quick publicity.
Anyone can do something newsworthy and grab people’s attention especially from a negative standpoint. If you don’t have anything in place to make sure that you hold on to someone’s attention once you have it, then chances are you are going to lose them.
Don’t rely on paying for perception either because fake followers, likes and streams can only get you so far.
We are always looking for the easy way out or the greatest path of least resistance not realising that the challenges we go through cultivating a true and loyal fanbase are what will support our music careers well into the future.
If you want instant gratification and a short music career focus on fake perception but if you want long term success be authentic, create amazing music and develop amazing relationships with your fans, I promise you won’t regret it.