Play to the fans or play to yourself?Viceroy •
Should artists play to their fans or play to themselves? If you build it, will they come? Does it matter?
We’re constantly fascinated by the creative process of artists and what drives them to start creating in the first place. We chatted with Viceroy, Spencer Ludwig, PILO, and RAC about the inspiration behind their music and what they are hoping to achieve with the creation of their art. We found their answers to be both revealing and fascinating, filled with solid advice for those seeking an answer to their own version of the question. Take a look below and if you’re an artist/creator who’s either struck the balance or still looking, leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Austen Afridi (Viceroy)
The music I’ve made over my career isn’t full on “pop EDM,” but also doesn’t belong in the underground scene. Being a part of this almost purgatory music culture really allows me to see both sides of this prompt.
The question artists need to answer is do they want a long-lasting career or are they in it for a quick buck? The music market is so saturated these days that even if you are in it to follow a fad, it doesn’t mean you will make a quick dollar. And if you just do your thing without awareness of popular culture, you may never get your music heard. I find there’s a key balance. You need to find a niche, branding-wise, that makes you special. Maybe it’s a sound or a cultivated image, but regardless you need the “wow” factor that will hit people immediately and keep them wanting to know more. If you can blend that ability to seem unique and also see what the masses are craving, you can benefit from both being yourself and appealing to a larger audience. Maybe your production style is more your own than what’s popular and you blend that with some pop vocals. There are a million ways to create that middle ground, but that’s how I always found I could follow my passions and appeal to a wider audience. Making small compromises is the key here. At the end of the day, an artist releases music to hopefully have as many people hear it as they can, right?
Luckily since I’m in between pop and underground I have had the pleasure of playing to my audience and as well as playing what I really am currently enjoying. It’s a way for me to share my passions with my fans and I think they appreciate that. If I only played my music every set, that would quickly become boring for both my fans and myself. You always have to keep in mind that the fans are there for one thing and one thing only: You. And if that’s because they appreciate your music selection as a DJ solely or they love your original music, you need to ALWAYS keep that in the back of your mind when performing. Or hell, maybe you make music just for fun and for yourself and that in itself is a beautiful thing.
I took a strange path to becoming an artist and it wasn’t until this year when I became an independent artist free from the control of the major label system that I’ve felt like I’ve been able to create for myself and it feels amazing! The freedom to express yourself freely is invaluable, but it wasn’t until I recently found my voice that I’ve truly understood what that meant. Up until 2015, I was a full-time hired-gun-trumpeter working according to other people’s ideas and then I signed a major label deal three years ago before I had ever written a song or recorded myself singing and I felt pressured into taking creative suggestions from the label that put me on the artist path. Admittingly I wasn’t fully creating for myself until now.
Now that I’m fully independent everything is different and much more clear to me. I create for myself. I don’t even know what genre my music is in anymore but I don’t care because it doesn’t really matter! I’m proud of who I am and I’ve got no shame about anything I put out, but it’s taken me a while to get here. It’s really important to know who you are, what you want to say and how you want to say it. Apart from the personal clarity you gain, I think that people are drawn to authenticity. The artists that I love the most are the ones who have the greatest sense of who they are and the least care for what anyone thinks of them. Therefore, I do believe if you build it some people will come and those that do are your people and that’s all you really need.
Cameron Ward (PILO)
Yeah, I mean there’s a happy balance with that as with everything as an artist. Personally, always play to yourself with consideration that other people are watching. I like to do it my way but with the thought that I’m performing for others. This gives me extra insight on how I should navigate my sets whether I should play more “crazier” stuff or be more reactive to how the crowd is feeling. I believe there’s a nice middle ground that can be reached (not always) between the artists urge to express & experiment but also to create an enjoyable show for the crowd. I believe the biggest factor is the mood of the artist his or herself.. are you at that moment happy with yourself creatively? What do you need to do in order to achieve that contentment? How do I become 100% confident enough in myself that I can really dig deep & push myself to new ground but at the same time not compromise?
In the end, it doesn’t matter I don’t think. If you are thinking that hard then you are already compromising yourself. I believe the best frame of mind is just enjoying having the pleasure to perform & play music for people that support you. Everyone is having a good time or wants to. It’s up to you to be positive & place confidence in yourself because in the end, it’s all about you. What you do as an artist is always in your best interest and I think people will always like that.
André Allen Anjos (RAC)
Always create for yourself. This is one of those non-negotiable aspects of creating music. Not catering to the demands of your fans sounds counterintuitive but it is the only path to creating something meaningful. Trust yourself and your taste and people will gravitate towards it. If they don’t, you still have the satisfaction of creating something that you’re personally happy with. I find the idea of creating music for mass consumption to be wrong on so many levels. I hear it all the time and while I understand the reasons why your fans can see right through it. If you fall into that trap of making music for a mass audience and you don’t succeed, that can be devastating and ruin your entire career. This method is somewhat bulletproof, even if critics and your fans hate your work, you still have that satisfaction of doing something you’re proud of. Nobody can change that.
Relevancy is one of the most overrated terms thrown around in the music world and I lose so much respect for people that chase it constantly. Relevant artists didn’t get there by chasing, they got there by creating something new on their own. When giving advice to younger upcoming artists I often say that the most important thing is to be yourself. It’s kind of cheesy and a cliché but it’s very true. Carve out your own world and people will find it.
Categorised in: Prompts