SO, I’ve been thinking more and more about what having a following really means. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently, most of them with YouTube creators. A topic that is often discussed, particularly with online creators, is what it means to have a following. Throughout my life as a musician, building a following has been a big part of playing, performing and making music. You want people to show up to your gigs, you want people to listen to your songs, you want people to actively engage with your social media profiles. Overall, you want to see that people care about what it is that you’re putting your energy and efforts into. It is the same for most creative activity, despite your initial love being for the creating itself, it is often at least a secondary goal to have that creative work acknowledged.
When I first picked up a guitar, I was captured by the idea that I could use it as a tool to create songs that I could then perform to people. It wasn’t just a process of wanting to learn to play the guitar, but also to be able to learn the guitar so that it would allow me to stand in front of an audience with something of my own to exhibit. Simple enough right? The formula going something like: 1. Learn guitar – 2. Use knowledge to create a song – 3. Play song to an audience. Except, that’s the part where it gets tricky. The audience has to come from somewhere? Where do you get an audience? Well for me, at the time, it was at primary school in the annual talent show. However, that doesn’t sustain well into adult life. The smaller your network gets, the harder it is to find a ready-made audience.
The internet and social media mean there is now a market full of countless amounts of people, ready for you to exhibit your work too. The problem is, there are also countless people exhibiting their work online. The internet combats this by sticking to algorithms and filter systems which makes it ever tougher for the work you put online to get seen or noticed. The way a lot of creators seem to talk about it, the golden age of using the internet as a place to build an audience is over – the more saturated with content and creator’s it becomes, the more difficult it gets.
So, what do we do now? Await a new platform? Put out as much content as possible and hope that it gets seen? Play tactics and try to play the systems in order for it to work in our favour?
I don’t have an answer, but I do have a question. Do I really need a following? If I had a loyal following, would I feel any more satisfied than I do now? I expected I might get more in return in terms of money or sponsorship, but would this really gain me any satisfaction? Would I spend more time creating? Would it cause me to have more time to create?
As someone who has never really had much of a following, perhaps except a very small one from my time in the band, I can’t really say whether having a following is something that I should hold as high as I do.
I think, it’s why I have fallen so much in love with running. My athletic endeavours don’t require a following. I don’t need people to know when I have churned out 10 miles along the river. I talk about it and tell people (as well as this blog) because I’m passionate about it and it’s one of my main interests. However, it is not an essential part to being a runner.
We live in interesting times, but I guess so does everyone who doesn’t know what the future might become.
Peace & love.