Whether you know it or not, what you do as an artist on and off the stage is part of telling your story. Stories are part of who you are, how you’re unique, where you’re from, and what you believe in. Stories capture memories and provide hope for the future. They are your most powerful tool and competitive advantage. Knowing your story while leveraging themes for your performances your audience can relate to can help you stand out.
In the book “What’s Your Story,” by Ryan Mathews and Watts Wacker, the authors explain “everything is held together by stories, that is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.” To relate to your audience and build superfans, you need to know and answer these critical questions before you engage with them. What is driving you and what is something you are going to give them. I’m going to reflect a bit more on this later.
Now a lot of people doubt who they are. You may believe in your song, talent, or maybe aspire to be an artist you follow. You just don’t have faith to step outside and just be yourself. There are literally millions of fans out there waiting to discover you. Your unique story is your communication tool to stand out and reach them. Your story is your brand, but many people don’t have the confidence to stand on a stage and tell their own story. The beauty of your story is you don’t have to fake it till you make it to stand out. Be authentically you and you will find people who can relate to you or who’ve been where you are at. You don’t have to wait until you’re the next Mr. or Mrs. Big Deal to showcase where you are. Part of the show an audience wants to see is you being real to who you are right now and where you’re at in your struggle or success. That is authenticity. Allow your brand to grow!
Now in Business we call this branding. Who are you; what do you do best; and what makes you different to your competitors? This doesn’t need to be complicated. As they say in the publishing world, work to publish. Meaning you can always go back and rewrite your story, but its good to get a message and style out there people can be familiar with today. Chances are your audience will tell you who you are over time.
Here I just want to focus you on a few simple steps to finding your story.
Who are you?
Defining who you are is taking a look at the relationships, circumstances, and influences that shaped you as a human being. Finding a cause or charity that relates to your particular background can not only align you with others like you, but also build your reputation and credibility as an artist. Plus its an immediate add on to your current network. When you start seeing your brand as a service and not a product, you’ll never go hungry finding others who want to share your mission.
Where are you?
Sometimes difficult to answer, but our strengths and weaknesses really do impact our performance. A healthy sense of skill and being is key to knowing or pushing your limits. The artist Johnny Cash was asked one time why he didn’t push himself to play faster on guitar? He just replied, “that would only mess up my style."
Do your research. Don’t try to compete on a stage you’re not ready for. There's always an audience and stage to find your niche and get started. In the marketing world they say “Think Locally and Grow Globally.” As you start performing creating engagement on the right stages for you, others will find you and share their experience with others provide growth opportunity.
Where have you been?
I think this key point is the most important part of building relationships. It guides the themes, styles, and moments you can create in your shows to tell a story on or off your stage. Where you’ve been are the bridges that help define who you are as an artist today. Somewhere along that journey, someone else has shared a similar road and story.
Where do you want to go?
This is like a mission statement. Your vision for the future. Think of the long game or big picture and walk backwards to short actionable steps you can take today; so that, you are positioning yourself for the future.
When I’m coaching an artist or a band, the first thing I do is get them to write down their story. These simple questions really draw out a lot of creativity later as they start looking at the themes or other types of content they want to create. Additionally this process will differentiate you from copy cat to genuine artist originality.
Now keep in mind the focus of your performance, themes, and styles will change as you research your audience. After all, your audience is buying the seats to your show and we’re going to focus on this next. Your story is, however, a main ingredient for delivering amazing shows that will guide and influence an audience to connect with you.