Monday, January 26, 2009

The limits of mass appeal

A few years ago, when we were laying down tracks for Highways and Hiking Shoes, producer Drew Raison made the following comment:

"Your music appeals to both men and women, and to people of all ages."

He intended it as a compliment, and I took it as such. It meant a lot coming from someone who'd worked with as many talented people as he had. But a big part of me was thinking, uh oh.

See, if you're lucky enough to have the backing of a major label, and you're also lucky enough to be one of the few bands the label is focusing on, then mass appeal is great. They get you on the radio, lots of people like you, and those people buy your stuff. Happiness. If, on the other hand, you're a total unknown with no hope of conventional radio play, mass appeal gets you nowhere. Why? Because people who are into mainstream music don't need you. They can easily satisfy their listening fix by tuning into FM.

If you're working the long tail of music, you want to have a niche. The narrower the better. Your fan base will be easier to find ... and quite a bit more fanatical.

Put it this way. If you made everyone in the English-speaking world listen to a song by Cinder Bridge, and then made them listen to some song in the wizard rock genre, my guess is that more people would be into Cinder Bridge. But I promise you, Draco and the Malfoys have way, way more fans than we do right now.

The way I see it, either Cinder Bridge goes in a completely new direction and stakes out a teeny tiny niche, or we find a way to sell what we're already doing. We already know it isn't going to be the former. While it's great to experiment and evolve as we go, we're not about to change everything up for the sole purpose of marketing.

So how do we promote what we're already doing?

More thoughts in a future post.

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