Scrolling through your news feed, do you ever let out a sigh?
The constant stream. One call after another. All wanting your attention.
Every musician seems to have a Facebook page, youtube channel and Instagram account.
You feel trapped in an overcrowded space trying to get heard.
Everyone seems to play your instrument. Facebook groups love to show you all their content. It can be hard enough offline to process this. Online, it can be paralysing.
You are constantly told to be on social media. Spread yourself across many platforms. Sprint onto the new social media platform. Be bigger, louder and better.
This isn’t why you wanted to be a professional musician. You fell in love with the glorious music you create. The array of sounds you can express. The thrill of performance.
Now you want to extend this love through digital means and have an audience you can perform to.
Despite what your news feed is telling you. The problem isn’t the number of violinists, pianists and singers.
The problem is to do with a mix up of identity and space.
The Mix Up
Do you highlight the instrument you play in your profile & biography?
It can be a defining feature of your identity. When someone asks you, “What do you do?” and you answer with “I’m a pianist”, your identity (I am) entwines you with your instrument (piano). It makes total sense! You have invested a large majority of your time and energy into honing your craft. Your love for what you do is connects with who you are.
The problem is when you use your identity as your online space.
If you want to build an audience through your social media as “I’m a pianist”. You are now trying to occupy the same space as every other person that calls themselves a pianist. Now you are having to play the bigger, better louder game to attract an audience. It takes a lot of energy with minimal results.
There is a different way.
“The Key To Success Is To Be Known For Something.” – Tom Webster
To be known for the instrument you play isn’t going to help you stand out from the crowd. Especially when you want to build your audience. Too many other people are doing that already. Plus, only violinists have a strong interest in violinists. Singers in other singers.
Your audience doesn’t care about what instrument you play. They do care about how you can help them.
Think of the musicians you are absolute fans of. A high proportion will be because they give something beyond their instrument. There will always be an added quality beyond their instrument.
Nicola Benedetti – Providing opportunities for young string players
Joyce DiDonato – Frank, honest and revelatory masterclasses
These artists are known for more than their musical vehicle.
You have more space when you can see beyond your instrument. Now you can move to the next level.
“Different is better than better.” – Sally Hogshead
When you find your own space, you want to enjoy occupying it. You no longer have to put yourself under pressure to be better than everyone else. The other great advantage to being different is it helps people work out if they want to hang out with you.
The lovely cellist, Samara Ginsberg is a fantastic example of exactly this. She could be another ‘cellist’. But she’s found a space arranging theme tunes of TV classics from the ’80s and ’90s and then releasing them on YouTube. This is what she is known for by thousands of people. It’s not being a better or the best cellist. It’s being DIFFERENT!
How can you find your space? Your difference?
There are three areas you can explore.
1. Your Interest
What is your passion or interest as a musician? What could you see yourself exploring and sharing over a long period? It wants to be sustainable because you are committing to the long term to build your audience.
When you commit for the long term you build trust with your initial audience. When they know that they can rely on you, they will be willing to recommend you to a friend. Word of mouth is far more powerful than any social media platform. We will explore that topic another day.
Could your interest be repertoire related?
- British composers of the early 20th century.
- Undervalued works not performed.
- Contemporary folk music.
Then again it could be combining music and an activity:
- Cello Cocktail Evenings.
- Baking and Bach.
- Poetry and Music.
There is a more powerful way to be different.
You can use one of your values to mark yourself as different. If one of your values is Charity. Define and mark your space by it. Whether that’s organising charity music events. Or writing on the impact of music in the charitable sector. One of your values could be Friendship, your space could be a friendly musician.
When you use your values to attract your audience, they can strongly connect with you because they share that same value. Or move away from you because they don’t. This is ok. There is plenty of audience for everyone. Shared emotion is very powerful.
There is a sneaky third way to be different.
I am amazed at how infrequently musicians post. I was working with a client who discovered exactly this. The number one difference that was available in her space was frequency. It’s an easy simple way to be different. You can start it right now. Show up on the same day at the same time. That’s why I send this email out every Sunday at 8.30 am.
If your content is good enough, your audience will bring this into their schedule. That is a special position to be in. It shows there is a genuine connection between you and your audience. Make sure you thank them.
You don’t need to dive into the same overcrowded space. Be different. Finding your own space. It will allow you to stand out from the crowd. Your potential audience will know if you are for them. By highlighting one of your values, you can create a stronger emotional connection with people. No more sighs as you scroll through your news feed. Because you know where you stand and you know people will be able to see and hear you.