I discovered a long time ago that people would rather hear something mediocre in a genre they love than something exceptional in a genre they don’t like. It’s the same in films as well as in music. Think about it. When you’re looking for a movie and you like thrillers, and your friend wants to go see a romantic comedy, you might agree and go. But no matter how great that romantic comedy is, you would still prefer to see a thriller. And whether that thriller is great or not so great, you will probably still prefer it to the guy-gets-girl, loses-girl, gets-girl-back plot.
Of course, there are those rare connoisseurs who like the best of EVERY genre. They’ll love a great country song as well as the rap they usually listen to. Or they will watch the Grammys and root for something in every category. Most people, though, will go fast forward through the category they’re not interested in.
So how does this relate to you and your career? Well, no doubt you’ve performed and greeted the audience afterward and while many people are throwing themselves on your neck crying about how your show changed their lives, there will be that one person who says “That was nice.” Of course, that’s all you can think about the next day. They used the “n” word. Or if you’re doing comedy songs, they’ll use the “c” word—cute. But what you may not know is that when this person is alone, he listens to music completely foreign to what you write and perform. Someone dragged him there or he decided to come knowing nothing about you, because he liked the venue.
It’s vital to find your target audience. And the way to do that is to survey. The best way to survey is to perform and see who buys your CDs, who signs up for your mailing list. Get to know that person a bit. Find out what kind of music he or she listens to. Age and other demographics also come into play but not always. Just about the time I decided my demographic was people over forty who remembered the seventies and really liked melody and lyrics with emotional impact—a bunch of teenagers became my fans. They were each in a relationship and wanted to learn from my experiences (heaven help them). So you can’t always go by normal demographics. Sometimes you need to interview your fans and find out why they like you.
And once you find your target audience, find out where more of them might be. Try to book shows where they congregate. If you’re folk, go to folk festivals. If you’re funny, play comedy clubs, not just singer/songwriter venues. If your songs are highly emotional and clearly written with not so much repetition, try cabaret clubs. You can increase your fan base by finding out who and where your fans are, rather than limiting your performances to the same singer/songwriter clubs everyone is playing.
And don’t worry about that person who said your show was nice. Learn from it.
Harriet Schock wrote the words and music to the Grammy-nominated #1 hit, “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady” plus many songs for other artists, TV shows and films. She co-wrote the theme for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” currently showing in 30 countries. She and her band were featured in Henry Jaglom’s film “Irene In Time” performing 4 of Harriet’s songs. She also scored three other Jaglom films and starred in “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Jaglom’s recent film, “The M Word,” features Harriet’s song “Bein’ a Girl,” performed on camera at the end of the film. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. In 2007, Los Angeles Women in Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and a popular online course by private email.