We live in a noisy world. It is known that the human body sends 11 million bits per second to the brain for processing, yet the conscious mind seems to be able to process only 50 bits per second. Everyday we are confronted with dozens of decisions. Most of those decisions we characterize as insignificant or unimportant when considered through the lens of long-term impact on our lives. Choosing which tassel earrings to wear that day is one example. Our brains need a sort of system to organize and process information efficiently so that we don’t overload on all of these little decisions.
Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon coined a term that is useful in this conversation: satisficing. The term describes the situation of not getting the very best option but one that was good enough. We constantly make choices that satisfy us and are sufficient enough to move through decision-making situations that aren’t critical to survival. It allows us to not get bogged down by endless searching and move on to the next step of whatever the process is.
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29 Days to Diva Day 7 Assignment: Identify Your Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Audience
What does satisficing have to do with identifying your audience? I’m so glad you asked. Diva, your materials are often becoming satisficing’s victim. In an effort to appeal to everyone’s attention, you’re asking your materials to communicate to everyone. And, it’s likely not working for anyone.
Good marketers segment and target their messages for maximum effect. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that we have a workforce that is outpacing growth in our field. Academia is doing a wonderful job of matriculating and graduating classical singers, composers, and instrumentalists in a field that is not growing at the same rate.
There’s Room for Everyone in Classical Music
Quick caveat: I fundamentally believe that there is space for anyone and everyone in music. I don’t believe that creativity and expression are a “crowded field.” However, I am realistic and practical enough to understand that there are a certain number of houses/companies and traditional model organizations in this country and abroad. They program X productions or concerts per season. Each production will have X roles in it. Those are quantifiable and can make the field seem impenetrable to early stage professional musicians. However, if you perceive me to be engaging in “there’s no space for you here” rhetoric, please know that is far from my intention.
Because of the abundance of high quality performers, composers, and instrumentalists to choose from, we need to craft our materials for a specific audience (a persona) so they listen and become engaged. If presenters, directors, or conductors are disinterested in your materials, it may be because you’re not showing them a solution to their needs. Their satisficing is kicking in and it’s not helping you at all.
You Are the Answer to Your Primary Audience’s Needs
If you’re not clear on the audience you’re trying to reach, you won’t know how to get their attention. Trust me, throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks is time-consuming, exhausting, and often expensive in our field. Once you determine your primary audience’s concern to alleviate or the goal they have to accomplish, you can position yourself as the answer.
This is an exercise that I do with most of my coaching clients very early in our process. We identify their primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences. Your primary audience is the person/role who hires you 90% of the time. Is that a conductor? Then, your primary audience is conductors. Is that a chair or dean at a university? There ya go, that’s your primary audience. Your secondary audience is often the person(s) who is connected to those decision-makers. Your secondary audience could be other musicians or composers because they routinely suggest you to their contacts. More often than not, your tertiary audience is actually the group of people who we think of as “an audience.” Your tertiary audience is the listeners and fans who come to hear you perform, buy your merch, and stream/download your recordings.
Design Your Materials with Your Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Audiences in Mind
Now, take a look at all of your publicly-facing and/or promotional materials (website, social media presence, bio, press kit, email newsletter, offered programs booklet, and more) and practice tweaking each to make it more explicitly for your primary audience. It’s also useful to look at your website and think about which sections are for which audience.
Obviously, you don’t need to make your materials for your primary audience only. Talk directly to your primary audience most of the time. Focus on smaller, yet still clearly stated, bits of information for your secondary audience next. Finally, think about how you can provide a few interesting items for your tertiary audience.
Apply UX to Your Singing Materials
Most importantly, lay out the path to each of these as clearly as possible. When you bury information that your audience needs to make their best decision, their satisficing instinct will kick in hard. If it’s easier for them to more quickly determine that another singer will solve their pain point or help them achieve their goal, they will check out of your audition, leave your website, or stop reading your bio in a hot minute.
Divas, what questions come up for you when you’re trying to determine your primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences? Was it easy to figure out which is which? Did you look at your singing materials and determine how consistently you’re talking to your primary audience? Do you need help with any of the things I mentioned here? Let me know. You can drop me a note in the comments below. Or, share with me on social media. I’m @mezzoihnen and I love hearing from you. Feel free to share your takeaways or ah-ha moments in a story and tag me or use #29DaysToDiva | #29DTD. It’s really exciting to see you leveling up.
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Drew Morris says
I think I’m giving a lot more time and attention to my secondary audience than I am to my primary. I don’t know if I was passively aware of that before reading this or not, but now I am. It is definitely something to think on. I have had “update my website” on my to do since last spring. I think one of the reasons I haven’t gotten to it was that I wasn’t sure how to recalibrate it. This post helps a lot. I can kind of visualize how to make my website flow based on the primary, secondary, and tertiary audience experience. Thanks for this post!
Megan Ihnen says
Hi Drew! Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad that this post was useful to you. Plus, I love that you mentioned having “update my website” on your to-do list for quite a while. It’s been really helpful for me to look at those tasks that linger on my to-do list because it usually means there’s something within them that I needs more clarity. That’s why I try to break down something like “update my website” into even smaller micro actions.
Can’t wait to see how you apply your insight on primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences to your materials!