What Your Band Can Learn From One Quote

While reading the Business Day section of the failed New York Times on my phone this morning, I came across THIS ARTICLE about Instagram’s surging popularity and continued success.  

What Your Band Can Learn From One Quote

There was a great concept in the article that made me think of two circles.  

What is the smaller one and what is the bigger one?  Here’s a first quote:  

“I can confidently say that most of the people who’ll eventually use Instagram don’t use Instagram now.” – Kevin Systrom

Look again at the circles.  

Quote #2 is right here.

“Mr. Systrom is a fan of academic business theories, especially Clay Christensen’s, whose ‘Innovator’s Dilemma’ addresses the tension between serving an incumbent audience at the expense of a much greater potential one.”

Again, look at the circles.

I was speaking with a student recently who had an album coming out this summer.  He wanted to know what to do with it. My only advice was for him to get out of his house and play.  Find one or two other artists of a compatible genre and get them to play with you.  House parties.  Basement shows.  Open mic nights.  Bars.  Just get out and play.  

Why?  Besides the obvious reasons, like the more you play, the better you’ll get, I was thinking about the circles.  Let’s say you’re a solo artist or band with 500 Instagram followers.  Or we can be generous.  Let’s say you have 2,000 Instagram followers (and a similar number of Facebook Fans).  If you read THE ARTICLE I just told you to read, you’ll know that, as of April, 2017, Instagram has 700 million users.  Do you know what percentage of Instagram’s total user base follows you?  .000286 of 1%.  You’re not even close to a quarter of 1%.  

Compare this circle in a circle to the ones above.  What’s different?  Think of your band’s audience as the smaller circle (which should actually still be smaller than what you see).  But don’t get depressed!  That’s the point of quote #1.  Instagram sees itself as the smaller circle.  

Why?  

700 million users is great in comparison to other social apps.  It’s not the top app (the article states Facebook has 2 billion users).  But it’s doing very well.  The guys who run it, however, know that there’s an even bigger audience out there for them. They look at themselves as the smaller circle too!

“I can confidently say that most of the people who’ll eventually use Instagram don’t use Instagram now.” – Kevin Systrom

You can confidently say that most people who’ll eventually hear your music and see you play live have never done so as of this minute.  You can get down on yourself, sure.  There’s a mighty hill to climb.  But the hill is there and it needs to be climbed.  

Nobody needs to climb Mount Everest.  There is nothing up there that can help mankind.  There’s no new science.  No natural resources.  No great land mass for armies to fight over.  It’s just a big, freakin’ mountain.  It’s there.  And people want to scale it.  They want to do this because it’s a part of them.  Because THEY HAVE TO.  Or, otherwise, they will never forgive themselves.  They’ll never feel complete.  

Sound familiar?  You make music, I assume, because YOU HAVE TO.  As my esteemed radio show co-host, Dr. Esteban Marcone, has said many times, the music finds us.  It’s a part of us.  It’s a second heart. Or a third kidney.  The music keeps us alive. 

Your job, which is incredibly difficult, is to scale your own mountain; to get an audience for your music to scale to a size so you can do this for the rest of your life.  

Your job is to make your tiny circle bigger.  How?  That’s where quote #2 comes in.  This part might be even harder.  Think politics.  In spring, 2017, the media has been reporting that Donald Trump is doing things and saying things that appeal to his base, the smaller circle.  What he’s NOT doing is anything to make his base bigger.  As Christensen says, there is a tension between serving an existing audience (his base of voters) at the expense of growing a larger audience.  Unless he makes his smaller circle larger, he will have trouble getting his big bills passed and, ultimately, getting re-elected.  

Let’s look again at your band.  You love your 200 or 2,000 followers on social media.  But there are millions upon millions of people who have no idea you exist. What can you do to grow your circle?  If you understand that your base is probably not as passionate as Donald Trump’s base, you should feel “liberated,” as Kevin Systrom says he felt after thinking like this for Instagram.  

You can do anything.  You can be more creative than you are now.  You can play out more than you are now.  You can work harder than you are now.  The only thing holding you back is probably you.  

 Written while listening to David Gilmour’s “Live In Gdansk” (2008) on Spotify.

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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music Management & Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too).  Your favorite professor is also co-author (with Dr. Steve Marcone) of Managing Your Band – 6th Edition.  Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.

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