Are you an artist baring your soul for the world to see but the world isn’t seeing you? You know that if you just had the platform, if just the right people recognized your talent, you’d rocket into stardom. But you’re standing on your soapbox, belting out your passion … and no one is listening. Or are they?
Is it you? Or is it them?
My interest was piqued by an article over at Expert Enough about the creative process. It goes through 11 steps to help you find your creative muse. However, the opening laid out a fascinating story of a world-class violinist who played incognito in the metro (read more at the Washington Post). Here’s an overview of their experiment:
My surprise came mostly with their surprise: I was surprised that they were surprised that almost no one paid attention, recognized him, or tipped much. They talk about how famous he is, how expensive his violins are, and the master works he performed there in the station. But a crowd didn’t form and almost no one recognized him (he was under cover in jeans and a baseball cap). Isn’t it surprising that this outcome was supposed to be surprising?
Is your audience ready?
You can make up loads of similar scenarios: hang a famous original painting in the metro or better yet, have the real artist paint it live on the wall. A famous author could read from his latest best seller. Is the difference pop culture versus classical culture? Yes, sure. If Angelina Jolie stood in that same spot and posed for photos with whoever came by, that would attract a crowd.
Context, Perception and Priorities
They interviewed some of the passers-by and, sure enough, they were mostly too busy to stop and listen, they were late for meetings, they had to get to work and their kids to school. It wasn’t the right context, it wasn’t the right time or place. If your kid is late for school, even Angelina isn’t going to delay you by much.
If our metro station is the Internet or YouTube, it’s a big, busy place with people in a hurry. How do we find the spots where the most people who are genuinely interested in our passion?
- Websites or blogs of your peers: what are they doing on the subject? Comment, guest post, visit.
- Offline: MeetUps, workshops, conferences. Where are the people in your tribe? Show up.
- Create: just power it out. Get your passion out there. Brute force. Write.
- Connect: peers, advisers, people you admire. Reach out. What do you have to lose?
The metro station is for people getting to work or school or somewhere other than where you are. Where can you go where they’ll stick around a while? Where you’re not a surprise, but a welcome sight?
Placement, Packaging, and Promotion
If Mr. Bell’s public relations team had Tweeted that he was going to be playing there, it would have been standing room only (OK, it’s already standing room only in the metro, but these people wouldn’t be going to work). Great, he has a PR team. But let’s drop down from the stratosphere to reality. He might have not have chosen morning rush hour, but maybe an afternoon in a park: placement. He might have set up a stage or at least a banner or maybe a CD of his next to the violin case: packaging. He might have told some friends or passed out a few flyers: promotion.
He was just out of context. That’s our challenge: how do we bring our work into context?
What’s your metro station? Is it your floundering blog with only a handful of visitors and subscribers? How can you reach the audience you know is out there for you? It’s probably not the metro, but it’s probably not Lincoln Center either. It’s somewhere in the middle and that’s what you need to find for yourself.
- Possible: play the violin in the metro
- Impossible: play the violin at Lincoln Center
- Repossible: play where your audience can hear you