by Kyle Williams
Exposure is mostly BSâ€¦mostly
If only I had moreâ€¦
From the days of playing guitar for various bands to seeking out more listeners for Seeds of Music, exposure has always been a term on the tip of my frontal cortex.
I need more exposure to get X, Y, and Z. If only I had more exposure people would â€œget itâ€. If only I have enough exposure â€œsomethingâ€ will happen and â€œeverything will work itself outâ€.
I call BS
In all this time there is one simple fact about exposure that Iâ€™ve learned.
Not all exposure is equalâ€¦in fact if you are not careful, it can end up being complete BS and a waste of time.
My main problem is thisâ€¦
Constantly looking for more and more exposure of any kind without added thought to who you are being exposed to is a waste of time FOR EVERYONE!
In its essence, Iâ€™m talking about targeting, having focus, and being strategic.
Though the article is framed in the context of power struggles, Robert Greene really put things well for my point.Â
It is actually a matter of grave importance, the difference between a life of misery and one of balance and success. Strategy is a mental process in which your mind elevates itself above the battlefield â€” Robert Greene
I donâ€™t believe that there is a single correct strategy for musicians to build a fanbase. Every individual has strengths and things to leverage. This is why we see musicians having different levels of success following different paths.Â
But I do believe that smart strategy begins with seeing reality stripped into its true form. One simple way to do this is to reframe your perception of exposure.
Exposure vs Building a Fanbase
Getting exposure and building a fanbase are not the same thing. Exposure is just theÂ potential beginning of the process of creating a fan. And I do mean â€œpotentialâ€.Â
Once someone is exposed to your music its the musicâ€™s job to establish a connection, rapport, or whatever you prefer to call it. They have to like your music, but unfortunatelyâ€¦
Not everyone likes your music
Music is a universal language, meaning the functional language of music itselfâ€”rhythm, melody, tone, articulation, etc.â€”anyone can learn and communicate by regardless of where they were born.Â
I can clap out a rhythm to someone from Bangladesh and they can clap along. I can sing a melody in English to someone from Japan and theyâ€™ll be able to hum the rest of the melody.Â
Music truly is a universal language even for whales, however that DOES NOT mean everyone likes your music. Even one of the greatest performing musicians of modern times, Michael Jackson, has people who donâ€™t like his music. For instanceâ€¦my grandma.
I hate to admit it, but there are quite a few great, popular, successful, and timeless bands that I donâ€™t like. I will never pay to see them. Iâ€™ll never buy their music. Itâ€™s just not my flavor and there are many other musicians that I would rather spend my time and money on.
The biggest music career mistake is to assume that everyone likes your music, because it will have you focusing on broad exposure to both the right and wrong people instead ofÂ just the right people.
Okayâ€¦someone is going to have to market you and your music. Iâ€™m sorry, but itâ€™s most likely you. So you canâ€™t afford to waste time chasing exposure unless itâ€™s targeted to who your fans really are.
The strategy is all on you
You have to approach exposure as a part of an overall strategy. If your goal is to just play music as a hobby then your strategy should be designed to get as many people to listen over and over to your music.Â
If your goal is to make a living, your strategy needs both people to listen but also people to pay, or for you to make money in alternate routes.
Some of us musicians think that if we get enough exposure, things will just fall into place. Itâ€™s a fantasy that we hold on to because, in my opinion, the idea of only focusing on the music while a label or team handles everything else is just so enticing.Â
Itâ€™s like staring into the mirror of Erised in Harry Potter, we see the reflection of our deepest desires and get lost in it, forgetting the reality of our situation.
For non-nerds â€” The Mirror of Erised is a mirror which shows the â€œdeepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.â€â€¦The happiest person in the world would look in the mirror and see a reflection of them, exactly as they were.
Getting exposure in itself is most likely not going to suddenly land you some A&R rep, manager, or rock star discovery fantasy thatâ€™s going to solve all your problems (not saying thatâ€™s your exact position,). Exposure is unpredictable because humans donâ€™t always react in the way that we wish they would.
Donâ€™t live in fantasy land. Live in reality land.
Focus on your craft. Make the music better and better. Play live. Talk with fans in person. Respond to everyone. Hustle. Donâ€™t be afraid to market and promote. Build an email list of fans. Improve by a little bit every day.Â
Everything else is BSâ€¦mostly.