Startup explorations #13 / A problem I hate

February 12, 2021

Lately, I have been reflecting on my relationship with this problem I’m working on—that of audience building—and the irony of finding myself working on it now as a builder and developer. It is a problem that haunted me throughout my years as a musician; now, it continues to be my problem. The difference is I no longer view it with the same set of eyes as I once did.

As a musician, or anybody adjacent to the broadly elusive thing known as “the arts,” I’ve noticed in myself and others that it can be very difficult to accept that one’s industry is a business as much as it is an art. And that means, whether one likes it or not, that one needs to adopt the language of business to some extent if they hope to make a meaningful living out of their craft. This means having to do things that you wish you didn’t have to, like having to build an online following, and using the tools available with some consistency and discipline.

A useful thing I’ve encountered repeatedly by learning everything I can about product discovery is the importance of passion for problems rather than solutions. In other words, it is better to be committed to whatever problem you're working than any one solution. Indeed, a product may go through many different forms, and at the end of it you may find that in reality, it’s not much use at all—but a problem that remains to be solved is a wellspring of endless possible solutions. 

And personally, this is a problem I hate—not one that I hate trying to solve, but one that follows me wherever I go, no matter how much I try to ignore it—because of my history with it, and because of the stakes involved. Like it or not, as a creator working in the present day in whatever industry, when there are no middlemen anymore, and traditional institutions have largely failed, an audience is the most useful asset one can have next to actual skill.

As a fun little side note, I’ve also been thinking of all of this in terms of Derek Siver’s approach to business, which I wrote about earlier. A business, just as a work of art, can be an extension of its creator’s personality. How fun to think about: an audience building solution for people who hate audience building.

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