Lichtenbergian Precepts: Audience, part 2


We’re focusing on the Precept of AUDIENCE for a couple of posts, looking at each of our audiences in turn.

The first is those people out there. These are the great horde of people who will buy your book, play your CD, come to your shows, make you fabulously rich and famous. You know, those people out there.

It’s not everybody, of course. No artist should create work thinking that it is going to register with every person who encounters it, because that will never happen. I’m not a fan of action movies. My lovely first wife hates opera. I don’t go watch Michael Bay movies with her, and I don’t make her sit down to watch Marriage of Figaro on (although Figaro is one she would tolerate.) (Although this production is young people more concerned with their vocal quality than any kind of actual theatre. (I have very specific ideas about opera.))

Further, even if you have a huge following, remember the wise words of Austin Kleon: Imagine you’re in front of an adoring crowd of thousands. Do you really think every single one actually gets your work? Of course not. Maybe a couple of dozen people actually get it. Those people are your AUDIENCE.

And my wise follow-up: the rest of those people are THE CROWD. Don’t create for THE CROWD.

SIDE NOTE: The icon for AUDIENCE, seen above, illustrates the point neatly. You’ve put your perfect circle in front of them, but they may be seeing some distorted squiggle. (Or it could be the reverse: you set your poor, imperfect squiggle in front of them, and they see a perfect piece of art. That’s actually more likely.)

Just yesterday, at Backstreet Arts, I met a young man who has published a couple of novels. I was a little puzzled by the one that he brought to show — and then he explained that most of his books appealed to “women over 50 who were entertained by clean, heartwarming stories.” He has an AUDIENCE, and he’s writing for them. (He apologetically said that he would have brought his “guy” book if he’d known he was going to be meeting me.)

This concept is one of the reasons I didn’t get Lichtenbergianism for Kids finished last fall: I couldn’t decide exactly who the audience was. Young people 10–14? 12–18? (Those are not the same thing!) For adults who just didn’t have the patience to read the real thing? I just didn’t focus enough to decide. Ah well, Cras melior est, right?

Decide who your audience is and create for them.