Imagine this …
You get an email from someone you’ve never heard from before. He writes:
“I’ve sampled a bunch of your free downloads online, and honestly, I haven’t heard one song I really like. So I’m not sure I want to spring for your new album. Tell you what … give me the entire album for free, and if I find a few songs I enjoy, I’ll pay you for it. Deal?”
How would you respond? (Once you stopped cursing, that is.)
I ask because I got an email just like this a few days ago. Only this guy wasn’t asking about my music; he was referring to my articles, blog posts, and books.
He said he hadn’t found anything of value in the stuff he’s found of mine online. Then he asked if I would give him some full ebooks for free. If he found something that “worked” in the books, he would gladly pay me.
How do you think I responded?
Thanks, but no thanks!
Why? Don’t I have confidence in my own material? Wouldn’t he be rushing to compensate me if he were only exposed to the awesomeness of my best ideas?
YES, I have confidence in my material. But NO, I doubt very much he’d ever find anything of value or be willing to pay for anything I publish, regardless of the cost or the arrangements.
The point being … this guy is a “fringe fan.” He is not my ideal customer. And while I welcome suggestions and respect a diversity of ideas, I won’t lose any sleep over what this guy thinks.
Do you feel the same way about your fringe fans?
The reason I ask: Artists like to please people. We love a kind word and a pat on the back. Therefore, I bet you often let music consumers of all stripes steer the way you run your career.
So you give everything away, or you beg people to attend your shows, or you water down your identity so you don’t offend anyone.
And guess what? That’s a sure recipe for failure!
Don’t get me wrong. You must be aware of the response you’re getting from people. Your radar must be up at all times monitoring which songs get the most positive response and what types of people are attracted to your music the most. That’s good.
But at some point you must draw a line between how you serve your “ideal fans” and how you react to everyone else.
For me, I know my ideal fans are proactive indie artists who understand the value of lifelong education and feeding their minds with fresh ideas on how to promote and sustain a music career. Those types of musicians are a small subset of the planet’s entire musician population.
So when it comes to the cynical “prove it to me” music crowd … I wish them well, but I don’t expend energy in trying to please them. They are not a part of my core “tribe,” as Seth Godin says. They are on the outskirts of it.
Who are YOUR ideal fans? Who are the people who celebrate and applaud your talents? Are you paying attention to them and serving them well? Because I believe that’s the key to your success as an artist.
I suggest you not be distracted by the people on the fringe of your tribe. Don’t insult them. You can appreciate them and thank them for their feedback … but don’t cower to them.
Focus on the people who matter the most: your ideal fans!