What Kind Of Musician Are You?
When someone poses the question, “what kind of musician are you?” What do you think? Are you like me, whose mind starts considering the differences between classical musicians and everyone else? Do you ponder about what genre your music might fall under, or what distinguishes an amateur/hobbyist from an experienced professional?
All these distinctions are valid, and, what’s more, they’re oft-used among active musicians. I’d have said they’re the best qualifiers for those “outside” the music world to use as well, until my internet escapades led me to this old article from Forbes. It provided a stark reminder that our popularity can also go a long way in defining us as artists, if we want it to.
In addition to calling attention to the fact that “at least 50% of the musicians working today count as undiscovered,” the article mentions findings from a 2016 report by Next Big Sound, The Taxonomy of Artists:
“The report has also identified five types of artists that exist in the world, classifying acts into groups based on their social stats, streams on certain streaming platforms, and how fast those figures are growing over specific periods of time.”
Those five categories, by the way, in order of increasing magnitude, are “Undiscovered,” “Promising,” “Established,” “Mainstream,” and “Epic.” Here’s another choice quote from the article:
“So, now a person (be they at a record label, a marketing firm, or just a music fan) can classify a musician in a similar manner to how a scientist would look at a new species of frog that has just been discovered in the jungle.”
I half thought it to be a joke — another pointless set of metrics for musicians to quibble over and get jealous about. After reminding myself that few things are ever so simple, though, I decided to delve deeper to see if there was a purpose to the report's exploration of performance benchmarks. Next Big Sound was kind enough to state their goals right upfront:
“If we can classify artists based on their online activity and from there set realistic expectations for performance, we arrive at something essential to artists and their teams. With a benchmarking tool in hand, artists can easily understand the strength of their numbers, measure what strategies are working, and really derive value from their data.”
The report goes on to explain how Next Big Sound uses numbers to categorize artists, but I was more interested in learning about how those numbers could serve artists in a more meaningful fashion. As I suspected, it all boils down to comparisons. Set your numbers against the “ideals” within your category, NBS advises, then learn what kind of growth is realistic for an artist of your stature.
The focus on comparisons is further emphasized in a Next Big Sound blog post, where they explain that it’s “all about expectations.” Context is king. Looking at your own numbers, juxtaposed against “artists with similarly-sized audiences,” you’ll likely gain a clearer picture of where you stand and what you can to do to gain that coveted social network momentum.
That is, if you’re interested in social media numbers at all. While I’ve little doubt that Next Big Sound’s data is valuable to those looking to claw their way out of internet obscurity, I’ve also a notion that there are more than a few of my peers in the music world who don't much care about where they fall in the streaming/social pecking order. So, I’ll turn it over to you, fellow artists: how important are the numbers — if at all — when trying to define what kind of musician you are?