They don’t want you. What they’re looking for is themselves.
That’s the conclusion I came to with a friend of mine who is learning metalworking for her next bachelor’s degree in art. She had a project where she made a tea infuser, and she was the only person in the class who finished the project on time. Other students in the class took a lot longer, and one in particular told her in conversation why he did it: he had a great original idea in mind, then changed it because to him it didn’t seem “authentic” enough. And for that reason, he finished late.
The thing is, my friend was already an experienced professional artist, having done a lot of jewelry shows and making her own beads. What she discovered was that in the real world, artists do have deadlines. If you’re getting offered a commission on something, the patron is expecting you to turn out something in a given period of time, regardless. Or else the deal is off. That’s how it works. They’re not going to wait around for you to find your muse and explore your inner self so that you can turn out your ultimate masterpiece from the depths of your soul. When people came to my friend’s jewelry booth at the art fair, what they were looking for was themselves: “Oh, this is so me…this will look great on me…this really goes with my hair, eyes, etc.” That’s what the audience is looking for. In the final analysis, they don’t really care about YOUR vision. They care about art that they identify with.
And the same is glaringly obvious for music as well. What people have in their record collection is not the grand personal vision of any artist, but an expression of themselves as human beings. That’s what people are looking for when they listen to music: Does this music suit my mood right now? Do I need something soothing, or something to make me get up and dance? Does this fit my personality? Does this express ME?
They’re not thinking about YOU.
And if they do say they care about your vision and depth of purpose, it’s probably because your work is already identified with them on such a level that every piece you put out there says something about THEM. When they realize how connected they are with your work, they’ll go and buy every album, every piece, every ticket to get a taste of it. Only then will they care about you in any capacity.
But ultimately they care about themselves. You can call it selfish or shallow, and admittedly, most of us are when it comes to our tastes – we guard them with our lives sometimes. But the thing is, when a piece of art moves us, what we feel is US being moved. Artists can’t afford to miss this with their audiences, especially musicians.