Writing for Your Audience

Carving out your niche in the world of music journalism.

Estimated time needed for completion: 1 week

Welcome back! Last time we spoke (by which I mean “you read an article I wrote”) we discussed how to get motivated, get focused, and get writing. Today we’ll discuss how to write for an audience.

“Whaaaaaaat?” I hear you say. “What do you mean, write for an audience?”

Simple! You need to figure out what sort of audience you’re going to be writing for, and tailor your work accordingly!

Now there are all sorts of metrics one could use to determine exactly what demographic is most likely to view what type of content, but that sort of stuff is best left to the professionals, and unless you happen to work for a net marketing service or something like that, chances are you are not a professional! But that’s okay! You don’t have to be a professional to figure out who will be reading your stuff.

The way I figure it, audiences tend to skew in two opposing directions: younger or older. I’m not going to assign some sort of numerical value to either of those two directions, as again, that’s professional stuff. Younger or older gives you enough data to work with so that you can generalize and appropriately tailor your content.

For example, if you audience is younger, then it means they’re more likely going to be tech-savvy, at least to some extent. This means that going for a slicker, more modernized presentation of your content is probably the way to go if you want to seem hip and contemporary. I don’t, which is why my layout is as plain as it gets, but I have no pretensions about seeming hip and contemporary, hence why I’m blasting an Aphex Twin album from 1992 while I write this.

Jokes and self-deprecation aside, what this means in layman’s terms is that you can add as much technical garnish as you want to your work without running the risk of alienating your audience. You feel that a review of that new kickass album you love could best be served by an embedded video showing off a particularly kickass song? Go for it. You mention that a musician can be prone to shooting at the hip in interviews, and want to link an example of such an outburst? Go right ahead. A younger audience means they’re less likely to get lost or scared off by having links to outside sources; this sort of technique is used by everyone from Pitchfork to Tiny Mix Tapes to Drowned In Sound, and is generally seen as somewhat of a standard for modern music writing.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can use a billion tech doo-dads to cover up a lack of substance; your own work should be the primary focus of anything you write. Much in the same way that an astute professor will see through a shoddy essay that uses a dozen quotes to cover up a lack of real analysis, an astute reader will see through a shoddy article that uses dozen hyperlinks to cover up a lack of content. Your writing is the lure here; you want the audience to stick around and read your stuff, not flock to one of the other people you’ve linked to.

Contrarily, if your audience skews older, you’re going to want to avoid all the aforementioned bells and whistles. This doesn’t mean that every older person is a Luddite or anything, but it does mean that a more high-tech presentation style could turn them off to reading more of your work. Much in the same way that many younger people these days are turned off from older books because they’re too dry and plain, older folks could see a million hyperlinks, video embeds, or what-have-you and think “I don’t have time for this crap, just tell me about the history of the french horn, dammit!”

These types of assumptions can also extend to your content; while it’s not 100% it’s still pretty likely that a younger audience is going to be more interested in a Kendrick Lamar review than they would be a piece on the life and times of Dean Martin. The opposite is also true; an older audience is less likely to care about modern Billboard chart analysis than they would about, say, an interview with Leslie West. These are assumptions, yes, but they’re fair assumptions to make.

Unless you’re psychic, you’re going to have to generalize at some point; sticking with a “younger = newer, older = retro” dynamic will allow you to determine just exactly the sort of content you want to put out on a regular basis, and to then go about putting out said content.

Next time, we’ll be discussing how to select a web host for your content. That should be fun!

Sound off in the comments below and let me know how you’re progressing!

Author: dtress

Amateur music critic, part-time writing tutor, full-time administrative assistant. Lover of video games, pro wrestling, and music.

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