Sunday, October 18, 2009

Being An Artist Versus A Craftsman

The online marketing agency Media Junction Digital has a four step marketing plan they use when putting together a campaign for an artist that makes total sense.
1)  Understand who your audience is.
2)  Create content that appeals to them.
3)  Place the content where they will discover it.
4)  Provide the audience/ consumer with easy links to buy.

Contrast that plan with music marketing company TopSpin’s recently published four step plan:
1) Don’t suck.
2) Get others to introduce you to their audiences.
3) Make those audiences an offer they can’t refuse.
4) Repeat.

Topspin gets all the press these days for being on the forefront of digital music marketing, but if you're an artist just finding out, you'll find Media Junction Digital's advice a little more helpful, but I don't really agree with many of the points above.

If you're good enough to gain an audience of any size, it really helps to understand just who that audience is so that you can more easily communicate and interact with them. But if you're an artist, you can't craft content for your audience. That's not why they like you. They like you because you create content that you like. Crafting music for a particular audience has gotten us into the morose state of music that we're in now. And advice like "Don't suck" make no sense at all. What sucks to one group of people are the songs of angels to another.

An artist must be true to himself and take the results as it comes. If an audience is found, then it's time to interact with them, but not before. As I've said many times before in previous posts and in my books - "Art is something you do for yourself. A craft is something you do for someone else."

3 comments:

Jeff Shattuck said...

I agree, neither the agency nor Topspin offers advice that's helpful or insightful. Not surprised, though, because I guarantee you that both sets of guidelines were written more with the messenger in mind than the message. (I worked in advertising for too long to think otherwise).

What really interested me about this post, though, was not the marketing mumbo jumbo, but the definition of craft vs art. I see these differently: craft is doing something that's been done before, art is doing something new. Which is why I really believe in the notion of knowing the rules (craft) before you break them (art). The importance of the audience is merely personal preference, no matter what you do.

Anyway, that's my take.

Jeff
www.cerebellumblues.com

Bobby Owsinski said...

Interesting take, Jeff. But hasn't everything been done before to some degree? Isn't it just a little different each time it's recreated?

Jeff Shattuck said...

Bobby,

I don't think everything has been done before, there are just too many variables. Further, intent plays a role: is your intent to improve on something without changing it much (think furniture makers in Vermont) or is your intent to do something new (Les Paul creates the Les Paul)? Intent matters. Which is why I'll cut Jackson Pollock some slack for getting drunk and mad and throwing paint all over the floor! He had the intent to push painting beyond what it had been before. Music is the same, I think, in that art is when someone really challenges what's accepted. For example, Lori Anderson and Talking Heads are art, in my opinion. Whereas B. B. King is all about craft. Is one better than the other? NO. They are just different forms of expression and we need both.

Please keep in mind I write all this only as an opinion. There are no absolute answers, I don't think.

Jeff
www.cerebellumblues.com

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