As a person whose loses interest quickly, I always appreciate a good surprise. Learning how to capture an audience’s attention is great, but learning how to keep it is better.
As an artist, you should always push the boundaries of your artistry to keep your audience engaged. I’m not suggesting that you go to extreme lengths to do it, but you should keep it fresh. Suppose you’re a new pop singer who just got signed to a recording contract with a very well respected Hip-Hop legend. You can sing, dance, and dabble in a little acting from time to time. You just so happen to look like every other Pop star out right now (fairly attractive, good physique, and a decent sound), how do you attract an audience and then keep them engaged? Both are very good questions, the first answer has to do with image and sound. If you look like every other typical Pop star ever to touch the music industry, you have to work to create an image that sets you a part. Focus on the things that are unique to you. How many brunette Pop stars have you ever seen? Not many because the tradition has always been blonde is better. Create an image that goes against the grain of what people are used to seeing. Now that your image is created, define a sound that challenges the conventions of Pop music. Will the lyrical content be the force that drives your brand of Pop music or will it be the production? Madonna, throughout her career, has been a master of keeping her image and sound fresh. She was able to keep her audience’s attention by constantly changing. I know what you’re thinking, but shouldn’t an artist’s brand be consistent? Yes, but there is such a thing as consistent spontaneity. For instance, Lil’ Kim’s brand was outrageous and sexy. Every time you saw her at an event, she may have looked differently but her outrageous sexiness remained. Same with Lady Gaga, she’s consistently eccentric with her image and you hardly ever see her look the same.
Keeping an audience’s attention is simple: create music that reflects their lifestyle. If the music is relevant to their life, they’ll keep listening. Mary J. Blige’s audience has grown with her and her music reflects this growth. Her lyrical ideas are more mature and therefore appeal to her core audience. She may appear on records with new artists just to keep her brand in the minds of the younger generation, but she’s not making music that appeals to a younger generation specifically. To make music that your audience will relate to you have to know your audience.