A few years back I wrote a handful of strange prog-rock tunes. I had been composing classical music for years and was doing a switch-over to more popular music. I played some tunes for a friend. She gave me a weird look and asked, “Who’s your target audience?” What? I wrote the music I wanted to hear.
“Fine,” she said. “If you want to go on writing music for yourself and playing it for friends and family the rest of your life, OK. If you want to go beyond that you need to define a target audience. You need to study the music they listen to and write something like that.”
The same thing happened when I started cranking out more fiction. Who is the target audience? What genre are you in? OK, after writing The Fireborn, which is an urban fantasy, I read a lot of urban fantasy. Hmm. I like some, some I don’t and some is OK, but none of it is anything like The Fireborn. The Fireborn is sort of like if Douglas Adams decided to write an Indiana Jones story in Dirk Gently’s universe and then had it rewritten by Stephen King. I’m not saying it’s of the caliber of their stories, I’m saying that is where it would fit in the Universe of books. So what is that called and who writes like that?
I’ve read so many pieces of advice telling me that all (insert art type here) has to be along established lines. The thing is, any art I like doesn’t fall neatly into a category, or at least didn’t when it was created. For many the genre was created based on that work.
I’m not saying I am a total original who will create new genre that other artists will follow in the future. I am saying that when I write or paint or compose I have to be me. More to the point, I have to create the work I’ve always wanted to read, see or hear. If others like it great! If not, I guess I will continue to write, paint/draw or compose for myself. I’ve done it for decades, why stop now? OK, to make money, but I’m not in it for the money.
Last weekend I finally finished some music I’ve been working on for weeks. It is not my best by any stretch. It isn’t in the same league as The Hamlet Symphony! But I like it. I like it a lot. It took me a while to figure out why I was so fixated on it, but realized that it’s a piece of music I having been waiting for since I was a kid. I liked the electronic music of the late 60s and 70s and couldn’t get enough of it. Most left me wanting more or wasn’t quite right. So when I wrote this little homage to the music of that era, using very similar technology, I wrote the music I wanted to hear but was never written.
I’m not saying I created the ultimate of the genre. Of course not, not even for me. There is no “perfection”. I will most likely revisit this style again. Yet it is music I wanted to hear that was never recorded. If others like it, great! If not, oh well, it satisfies something inside of me much more than trying to write for someone else.
I understand the point of marketing and market research. I understand creating art that is salable. I understand all of it. But sometimes I just need to satisfy myself.
I think all artists need at least a little of “what I’ve always wanted” in their art. The book they’ve always wanted to read, the song they’ve always wanted to hear. It may not be great art, but it is very satisfying.
If you missed it, here is the music: