DOES THE DATA DRIVEN WORLD OBJECTIFY US?
This may or may not be the last post in my series around „identity, potential and self-development“, that I think is crucial to think through as an artist!
In my last post I was honing in on the plea for more freedom as opposed to restrictive identity boxes. We like to put people into boxes, including ourselves, and I believe we often reduce ourselves to these pre-sets that exist merly in our minds!
In today´s post, I would like to take this topic to the next level, by examining the pros and cons of creating a personal brand as a musician. This thread basically refers to the old distinction between
FREE ART vs COMMERCIAL SUCCESS
It is true, that in order to achieve commercial success as an artist, creating a personal brand around ones music is crucial. Not only does this somewhat „artificial“ identity make you stand for something, that fans feel attracted to and will consistently come back for, but also does it prove necessary if you want to make use of today´s Marketing tools, such as music playlists and automated online campaigns, that identify your key audience for you based on their key interests and your key identity.
This brings me to the core problem I see in Online Marketing. It is data driven companies like Google, Facebook, Spotify and the likes that decide which content might be „of interest“ to us. Or, to be more accurate, which contents we may fall prey to most likely!
THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY
From a Marketer´s point of view this is great news. Tailor-made target groups that are receptive to your messages and products.
From a consumer´s point of view this system has its pros and cons. Some may argue they enjoy receiving customized ads, helping them find new products they really like. Others might feel manipulated and like they are being used!
LET`S ZOOM OUT
On a broader scale though, the danger i.m.o. lies in the segregation that is happening by means of data research. Companies can play out trending topics to various peers, thereby chosing who to inform about what (and who to keep out of the equation) and re-grouping social structures according to their needs! Heck, even facebook won´t play out your content to all your „friends“, but makes use of algorithmns to determine and select who „should“ see your latest posts! I am not implying, that these companies are evil or that they mean to harm us (in most cases they probably do not – hopefully), but it is undeniable that they are capable of using our data whichever way they want! There is an immense power behind this, that we all too often like to ignore- lazy and distracted as we are.
We have become stats in a world of numbers and cash value indicators! And even worse, we are a product of the media we consume. We are being told what to like, what to buy and who to spend time with! And we are victims of what I call „diffuse information policy“.
Frankly, as an artist, this does not feel right! It does not feel right to support this system and it does not feel right no narrow my art down to what my target group might like! As an artist, it is my goal to create value for people! Not to make profit out of people!
Am I an artist or a service provider? Do I want fans or clients? What is the priority? Do I want people to look at things a certain way (a different way) or do I want to cater to their way of thinking?
Do I want to invite people to expand their vision or do I want to comfort people by reinforcing what they already „see“ (or in the case of music „listen“ to)?
As always, there is a sweet spot somewhere in the middle! But the truth is, that it is usually an artist´s desire to explore new territories constantly and questioning everything! It is an artist´s job to discover new angles to old problems as well. As a lyricist this can be as simple as finding new words to describe universal feelings!
There is almost no story that has not been told, but it is the individual twists and turns that add appeal to these stories making them attractive over and over again!
So, why would we stick to the familiar presets all the time? Why don´t we allow for new experiments? New flavors? And new ways to look at things?
I believe that a Personal brand is helpful in terms of certain basic values! But there needs to be so much room for trial and error and exploration! In order to attract your fans´ attention over a long period of time, you need to introduce something new every now and then! Balance out the „old familiar“ with the „yet to be discovered“ time and again!
I believe as people and as artists we need to break free from the chains of data driven predispositions and allow for equal access to content and information/education! I believe in taking back our right to choose for ourselves what we like and let ourselves be surprised not by playlists provided to us by streaming services, but enjoy unexpected song discoveries, that strike a chord as we discover them in settings we do not usually touch base with!
We need so much more room and so much more freedom! But to gain it, we would have to stop being sedated by the online dictatorships that make us believe they are on our side!
I´m almost certain that they are not!