Make art. Don’t ask permission.

Todd A

, Inspiration

A tweet showed up in my feed recently that said, “Should you release an album no one cares about?”

In short, no you shouldn’t. YOU should care about it. AND THAT’S EVERYONE WHO MATTERS.

I loathe marketing click-bait bullshit like this. Listen, artists: marketers have nothing to say to you in this regard. The link on this particular tweet went to the author’s blog where he entreats you to contact him to get started on your marketing plan.

“It’s important for you and your band to look ahead and start planning for an album people will buy,” he blogs. No, it isn’t. Make the art. Get all thoughts of people buying it out of your head. It will kill your creativity and set distracting expectations.

Marketing plans are all well and good but they should never prevent or even delay you from releasing your art. I know far too many musicians caught up in the belief that they should delay a release or even delay working on an album until the time is right. All it ever does is prevent anyone from hearing your work. I’ve seen bands break up with great albums “in the can.” I’ve watched nobody folk musicians constantly rework a record to try to make it sell. It’s depressing and antithetical to the act of creation.

My advice here won’t help you make money. But 99 times out of 100, neither will the marketer’s. The world needs artists. Artists make their art public. Marketing comes on the back end. It should always be subservient to the art and NEVER the primary concern.

Today, we’re flooded with brand managers, marketing managers, and just plain managers who want to tell musicians how to make their music before they make it. These marketers of art misunderstand their role and how art works.
Here’s how to be an artist: make art publicly.

It’s the public part that differentiates an artist from a hobbyist. You gotta put your guts out there.

We’ve always had managers telling musicians when to make an album, whether or not to leave it in the can while the manager tries to sell it, when to play shows, where to play shows, and far too many other things about the actual making of art.

These people who supposedly sell the art we make also want to tell us what sells and therefore what to make. I had a licensor tell me once that a song seemed “specific” as if that was cause enough not to consider it. Not “too specific,” just “specific” as if I shouldn’t write about actual things. The overall message from all of these marketers and managers to musicians is: make the music we already know how to sell.

Musicians don’t need to learn to make music that sells. Marketers need to learn to sell the music we make.

I used to work for a camera company who made crazy cutting edge cameras. Never did we in marketing tell the inventors of the camera we couldn’t sell it because it wasn’t like the other cameras on the market. We had meetings and we brainstormed and we figured out how to sell it. It was hard work. It was uncertain work. We didn’t know what would sell already.

It would be great to see the marketing dynamic in music change to embrace that uncertainty. Nothing could make it more evident that the business side of the music business is awash with a bunch of philistines than the fact that these managers and marketers aren’t seeking interesting music to work with but attempting to reel in the same old crap.

All that said, I realize there are managers and marketers and labels and such doing good work and finding interesting music. They’re just quiet about it. If you’re doing interesting art, hopefully they’ll find you. Just don’t listen to the guys telling you how to do your work. They’re trying not to focus on their own.

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