U2 performers’ observations imply emerging artists should focus their audience development more on engaged listeners, less on general audience

Emerging artists may be able to generate some audience development ideas from U2 band members’ observations about listeners reported in an earlier post (“U2 interviews suggest distracted listening and slower engagement with recorded music may contribute to declining CD sales”).

The headline message is that broader audiences are becoming less engaged and less motivated. And the implication is this: Focus your efforts on finding and maintaining connection with your most engaged listeners. More casual listeners are an important part of your audience and revenue, but they will not drive a career. Unless you are creating a mass-market, formulaic product, your success depends on a narrow subset of the public for whom your music holds special meaning.

Engaged listeners are unique and important. They are motivated differently than incidental listeners. “After every performance one or two individuals approach us to express their joy and interest in our performance,” says one singer/songwriter. He says they often describe something personal they found in the performance, “How they found the light in what we do.”

Audience development does not mean trying to persuade every human that they need to hear your music. It’s simply finding efficient ways to locate and connect with people to whom your work would be most meaningful. Social networking tools and your engaged fans can be one of the most efficient channels. So you want to make it easy for these engaged individuals to reach you, both at live performances and on line, so you can ask their help in reaching out.

Marketing to a more general audience based on an extrapolation of the engagement and interested of your core fans would probably produce disappointment.

It’s too obvious to mention that live performance is increasingly important to both revenue and audience development. It is worth a brief look at ways the “live performance equals fans equals record sales” equation is decoupling. And what it means for audience development. A future post will look at some subtleties that may help artists improve their offerings.

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