We have all seen behind the scenes work by creative business owners. Countless videos, television shows, articles and even books of how a particular project comes together, be it an event, a home, a show or even a photograph. We, the audience, love to see what it takes to make “it” happen. Rarely, though, are the behind-the-scenes created for a specific audience, whether for a particular kind of client or business. I can appreciate that from a media and entertainment perspective. From a purely business perspective, however, it is an opportunity lost.
Jeff is a brilliant jazz musician and has a terrific business running jazz groups for avid adult jazz musicians in the Washington, D. C. area (mostly amateur but some semi-pro members too). He has begun teaching music entrepreneurs how he has created what he has created so they can start their own jazz group business. It is all based on the specific community of avid jazz musicians, both amateur and professional, who live to play (and maybe teach) jazz.
Recently, Jeff got offered to be a part of a jazz group that will perform Tchiakovsky’s The Nutcracker set to jazz (ala Duke Ellington) in front of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Jeff will be playing alto, tenor and baritone sax for the performance that will have many solo spots. He has decided to create a Facebook live video series, archived on Youtube documenting his preparation. Although he is a professional musician, he has not played the alto or baritone sax for years. So quite a journey to relearn the instruments, learn the music and get ready to play on a very important stage in six weeks time.
Here is the point: 99.9% of people will not care about watching Jeff get ready for his performance. The videos are highly technical and if you are not an avid player, you will get bored quickly. I know nothing about music and, were I not a fan of Jeff’s, I would have clicked away pretty quickly. However, the video series is not for people with a passing interest in playing music generally or even jazz specifically (definitely not for me) and Jeff knows it. The videos are for those musicians to whom playing jazz is everything. Instead of talking to the audience to make sure they understand as most teachers would (music or otherwise), he stays at the level of players who can appreciate his process. So far 23 people have subscribed to his Youtube channel in the week or so he has been doing the videos (there are 3 so far).
Teeny tiny, who cares you say? I say he has 23 people that matter, several of whom he says he does not know at all in his very large circle of fellow musicians and students. Maybe more will subscribe, maybe not. The point is that Jeff has defined his community and they have responded to say that they want to be included.
What opportunity lies ahead for Jeff with this series? Who knows? What I do know is that his business – teaching jazz groups and teaching teachers is sure to benefit directly. Then there will be what he cannot yet see.
Of course it takes courage to expose your creative process, to let the world see an unfinished, flawed product. You have to be vulnerable and that vulnerability can be very hard on the ego. Raw vulnerability is so eminently watchable. Move beyond mere watchabilty though and towards only your specific community. To take the risk that your specific community might reject you and what you hope to organize for you and your art. This is the risk of creative business. Using the tools available to say “I built this for you.” is easy. Being willing to say and be okay with: “This is not for you”, that is where the work is and where all the rewards lie.
If you were willing to be fearless in this way, what would your communication be then? If two of the wrong clients left because of it, but only one of the right one showed up, would that work for you, your art and your creative business? If it does not, please look yourself in the mirror and ask what exactly it is that you are doing. If it does, keep going and go further every day.