A still from “Powers of Ten.”

What are the “right ears” for your music?

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag at spinme.com, Joey M. writes to ask: “I guess my query is the same as many others. How do I get my music to the right ears?”

I think there’s a deeper question behind that question. Who, exactly, has the right ears?

We’re no longer in a world where getting your demo in front of an A&R rep, a program director, or a journalist automatically “breaks” your band.

Your job is to line up a succession of tastemakers and champions, in roughly the right order to grow a sustainable audience.

The problem is, from this question’s point of view, that it’s rarely anyone’s job to discover and socialize brand new music anymore. Instead, each tastemaker earns their keep by amplifying work that’s generated a significant audience. They’re only capable of adding just one more order of magnitude to what’s already there.

The situation reminds me of “Powers of Ten,” a short film that designers Charles and Ray Eames produced in 1977 about what happens when you add a zero to the end of a number.

Let’s work backward from “space” to see what that looks like for your music marketing:

When you hit 10 million audience members, you had just booked a performance on a major live television event (like a New Year’s Eve show or an awards telecast). You’re bringing a bigger draw to the network than they’re bringing to you, but all the press coverage reinforces your presence among your fringe audience and helps bump your iTunes chart position. The talent coordinator felt comfortable with their decision because you already had…

1 million audience members, a number that popped really fast over a winter when you played some larger club dates as a headliner and some arena gigs as an opener for a major act. Those talent buyers opened up their doors after your track showed up on so many Spotify playlists managed my people who were among your first…

100,000 audience members, collected from a summer of playing festival gigs on bills with other bands you’ve loved forever, helped along because the talent buyers, booking agents, and music journalists fell into your early group of…

10,000 audience members, bolstered by your song’s inclusion in a commercial or a short film, placed there by a music supervisor who attended one of your early gigs as one of your first…

1,000 audience members, collected over the course of a year playing small clubs, house concerts, festivals, conferences, each one booked through a personal connection from one of your first…

100 audience members, each of whom ended up getting invited to one of your gigs (hounded, really) or got sent copies of your recordings by one of your first…

10 audience members, who really didn’t know what they were getting into when they first heard you play at a house concert hosted by…

your very first audience member. The first person you shared your craft with. The first person who heard what you’re making and said it was worth growing.

So, Joey, here’s the end of a very long answer to your very short question. The “right ears” for your music, right now, belong to that first person who has the faith and the power to put your work in front of ten of their closest friends. Getting it to them means summoning the strength to overcome your fear of rejection and asking them to help you add the first “zero” to the end of your number.

This post originally appeared at spinme.com, where I write about artist development and creative marketing solutions for musicians and writers.

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