To Be Truly Witnessed as an Artist

September 7, 2017

I’m in a pretty much constant grappling match with myself over how I want to promote my music/art, and what my goals are for that promotion. It can be really difficult to avoid the “Why am I not an internationally famous auteur with millions of followers?” trap, and I struggle with that on a more or less regular basis. However, the other day (at Burning Man actually) I underwent an intention setting exercise, and the results were illuminating.

I had the opportunity to ask myself why I actually want a “bigger following” and investigate the deep heart’s desires that are behind that wish. What I found (and in fact what I’ve been telling myself in my more lucid moments for the last decade) is that the size of my audience isn’t the really important thing. What I really want is to be deeply witnessed by my audience… For my fans to really get it, and by extension to really get me.

So now the interesting thing is to allow that little insight to work it’s way into my actual activities on a daily basis. Any promotion work that I may or may not undertake can be held up against this simple measuring stick, and evaluated for how useful it may be.

“Will this activity allow me to be deeply witnessed by my audience?” or “How can this activity best be executed so as to allow myself to be deeply witnessed by my audience?”

It’s horribly easy to get caught up with the narratives of “This is what I need to do to succeed in the Music Industry”… I need more Soundcloud followers, I need such and such a label to take notice of me, I need to play at SXSW, I need to make a music video, I need to hire a manager and a publicist and an agent and a radio tracker and a social media person and a ghost producer and a personal trainer and a hair stylist… But all of these are completely irrelevant to my really deep heart’s desire of being truly witnessed by my audience. I could do every single one of them and if I’m not being witnessed then I’m still going to feel the same ache that I’ve been walking around with for my whole life. I could do literally none of those things, and if I have the sense that my audience really understands then I’ll feel like I’m succeeding… And as I’ve said before, feeling like I’m succeeding is infinitely more important than any outer condition that one may think of as “success”.

Being witnessed is scary. It’s vulnerable. It means showing up to the not-so-pretty parts of myself, and it means giving light to the parts of myself that I personally think are awesome but that my Great-Aunt-Gertrude may not be the biggest fan of. There’s a reason we avoid it as Artists and as people, being real gives others the chance to point and laugh… But that true connection with other human beings is only possible if we let our guard down and share our honest perspective.

So. I’m going to aim to be doing more of that from now on.

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