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Meine Damen und Herren…

12 March 2013

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*

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 12 March 2013 1100

    Kevin Smith obviously has his audience locked and speaks to — and includes them in all he’s doing — very well. With writing, Neil Gaiman comes to mind. He has a great relationship with his fans; the times I’ve briefly chatted with him, he’s been as nice as everybody claims. Film: Tarantino comes to mind. Like him or not, he knows what his fans want because they want the same thing he wants.

    And I think that’s the biggie right there: doing what you want and then developing an audience. You can have test subjects and poll people, but when you try creating an audience before creating a work, you’re in it for the money — not the art. And hey, more power to ya if that’s what you want. But…the things with staying power seem to be the things created with heart before an audience knows it exists. Then…finding an audience. Then…making that audience feel a part of all you do.

    I can name countless musicians who have been around for decades because they did what they wanted and love their fans. But musicians created by a marketing team usually lack that kind of staying power, even though they may make a lot of money before the next trend comes along.

    Also, podcasts. As a whole, what I love about podcasts is feeling that sense of belonging. Since the topics vary so wide, and almost every weird hobby or idea is covered, it’s a cool way to find something that speaks to you. Every Tuesday, the first thing I do is check out Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project.

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