The Earnestness of Being Important

…AKA, What’s Important about your Music… To You?

Following on from the discussion about ‘what makes you interesting?’, I’ve been thinking about the other ‘value metrics’ for what we do as musicians, and the directions they flow in.

Interestingness is one bi-directional value:

  • What you think is interesting, or find interesting about what you do
  • What your audience find interesting about you AND about what you do.

The important element being that YOU being interesting isn’t a prerequisite to making great music, it just provides additional context for the music. It’s why we all bought music magazines – we didn’t buy them for dry descriptors of new music by people we’d never heard. We bought them to read stories, thoughts and opinions from the people whose music we love already, and to discover in the taste of the journalists some new music that they get excited about.

But from interesting, my mind leaps to important. (for some context here, please have a read of Jennifer Moore’s guest-post from yesterday, and this thread over at about new ways of thinking about collections of music).

What’s important about your music?

I wrote about this from a music learning point of view on the blog the other day – looking at the things that are important in learning how to play and what to choose to learn…

For someone who is creating music fit for human consumption, the question of what’s important becomes about the nature of the finished product rather than the process of learning how to develop the skills to make any kind of ‘product’.

So when considering what’s important, it takes a different kind of soul searching:

  • What are you trying to say?
  • Why are you trying to say it?
  • Who, if anyone, are you trying to say it to?

Here, I’m talking about the art itself. But the same questions come up when you start trying to describe what you do, or to talk about in such a way that people find it (at this point, if you didn’t take my last prompt to do so, please go and read Jennifer Moore’s guest post, which talks about a lot of the non-self-generated ways that people find our music).

A few big things need to be said here, then it’s over to you:

  • Being as ‘good’ as you can possibly be is a given. None of this stuff takes the place of making your art as well as you can possibly make it.
  • However, quality of production is not the same as clarity of purpose. Here we can use the process of ‘targeting’ what we do at an imagined audience to help us focus what it is that matters to us. This may even end up with us consciously excluding certain people from that mental process “I don’t mind if my music annoys the jazz-purists who enjoyed my last album, it is what it is” etc.
  • In other words, being able to play what you want to play is the preparation – that’s buying the ingredients – making decisions about the things that matter enough to you to be worth making publicly available as an artistic statement is the end-game – that’s cooking ‘em up and putting ‘em on a plate.
  • Notice I haven’t even mentioned considering the commercial viability of the project –
    that, for me, only comes in if there are

    • a) lots of people involved and
    • b) a fair amount of investment of the kind that expects/requires a projected return…

    if you’re sensible about your planning, and modest enough in your aims to not go into it over-funded, that can actually all quite happily happen after you finished making amazing music – at the marketing stage, rather than making marketing decisions that weaken your artistic vision.

So how do we decide what’s important? Or rather, how do YOU decide what’s important? The comments are open…

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