Meine Damen und Herren…
Several conversations recently have gotten me thinking about audience. No, I’m not requesting a meeting with the Hand of the King — I’m talking about the folks that we, as creators of many things, produce content for.
The conventional wisdom, at least with TV, movies, and books, is to shoot for the broadest possible audience. Make your work appeal to as many segments of the population as possible. After all, the more people you appeal to, the more money you get… and that’s the name of the game, right?
I find myself 100% disagreeing with the conventional wisdom here, because personally, I don’t much like trying to modify the things I write to have any sort of appeal, broad or specific. I just want to tell the stories that capture my imagination, and if people end up digging them and throwing a few dinari my way, that’s really all I can ask for.
It’s not really a revolutionary theory. At Sundance a few years back, Kevin Smith famously pointed out the inherent lunacy in spending $20 million to promote a movie that cost $5 million to make — because, as he pointed out, the movies he makes aren’t for everyone, and the people who go to see them were the people going to see them anyway. He knows who his audience is, and doesn’t see the point of advertising Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back on the Lifetime Channel. It’s just a waste of money.
Closer to my own wheelhouse, Joe Peacock has done exceptionally well building and talking to his audience. And guess what — his Art of Akira talk at SXSW this year was wildly popular. So it works.
We don’t tend to see movies, TV, and books as art these days, and that’s not necessarily a wrong assumption — there are plenty of works in all three genres that definitely don’t qualify as art. But all of those mediums can produce great art. They can produce stuff that not everybody likes or gets, but that has real social and cultural merit.
Maybe, instead of trying to hit the broadest possible audience, we should just focus on making good stories, or good paintings, or good music.
What’s a great example you’ve seen for an artist, author, etc. really knowing his or her audience and talking to them? What’s the worst example? *cough*Michael Bay*cough*