Monday, October 12, 2009

Sobering Truth: People don't trust their own musical taste

Many people don't trust their own ears when deciding what music they like. Some carefully-staged scientific experiments have confirmed this unfortunate fact. People rely largely on external cues — for example, if other people seem to like the song, or if the artist is on a respected record label.

Separately, an overwhelming body of anecdotes confirms that even the people who are paid to exercise their musical judgment — people whose decisions could directly affect your own musical career — mostly don't trust their own ears either. They also largely rely on external cues.

As a songwriter or musical artist, you must learn to trust your own ears. If you can't find the courage to have an independent opinion, who can? More importantly, without confidence in your own musical tastes, you won't be able to create anything new and powerful.

If you want to have a career in creating music, it's important for you to realize that "creating unique, better-quality music" is not a realistic business plan. Creating better music is only Step 1. You need to plan to put just as much or more effort into Step 2, to work on those external cues that will help people (both fans and music insiders) see you as successful and thus decide that they like your music.

Many musicians find it distasteful to work on marketing, branding, promo, and the other elements of Step 2. Remember, this stuff is necessary only if you want to build a career; if you just want to make music, you can skip it.

But there is one external cue that is completely under your control, and there's no reason for you not to master it. I'm talking about your own attitude about your own music.

Your confidence and enthusasm for your own music makes more difference than you might realize. If people sense that you like your song a lot, they're more apt to like it themselves. Conversely, if your performance is tentative and apologetic, your audience will be underwhelmed. If you aren't sure about your own song, why should they stick their neck out and like it?

So make sure that you are writing songs that you can perform with confidence and enthusiasm. Write about subjects that light you up.

When you practice performing your songs, don't just practice the words and notes. Also practice your confidence and enthusiasm. Success begins as an attitude inside yourself, and, like so many other things, it too improves with practice.

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