“She’s your down-to-earth friend whose pals are Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise,”
– Eric Deggans of The Petersburg Times, describing Oprah Winfrey.
If you are looking to grow your audience, Oprah Winfrey makes a pretty good role model. What has made her so incredibly popular for so long?
It’s this: though we all know that she is one of the wealthiest, most influential people on the planet, she still manages to come across as down to earth.
You are focused on building a profitable career as a performing musician, not a TV personality, but learning how to cultivate and project a down-to-earth attitude is a critical key to connecting with audiences, and gathering support.
Practical and Unpretentious
Flighty, head in the clouds, high and mighty, up on a pedestal – just like down-to-earth, these opposites conjure vivid images.
A person who is down-to-earth is grounded in reality. She may have big dreams and extravagant goals, but she also has a solid understanding of her current situation. She knows her strengths and weakness and what kind of work is going to be required to reach those goals. She sets priorities, recognizing that there isn’t enough energy in the world to manifest every whim or idea. Her head may be touching the clouds, but her feet are planted firmly on the ground.
A down-to-earth person doesn’t hold himself above others. No matter how successful, he doesn’t look down from on high, feeling entitled while oblivious to the people below. He’s right there on the ground, on equal footing with everyone else. That’s perfect because that’s where his audience is too.
Say What You Mean
Down to earth people are attractive because they are relatable. They are relatable because they make an effort to understand what is important, interesting, and of value to others. The choices that they make and the things that they say are based on the circumstances and people that surround them.
They define what they do in simple, concrete terms that show they understand the needs and interests of the people they’re talking to. For example, when convincing someone to hire them for a performance, they present reasons and benefits that matter to that person.
A promoter may not care that fill-in-the-blank composer is the most undervalued of the Romantic period and you are one of the very few musicians who has mastered his most challenging piece. However, tell him that the end of the piece is so dramatic that audience members find themselves holding their breath on the edge of their seats, and you have his attention.
This isn’t dumbing it down – this is taking into consideration the fact that other people are not obsessed with the same things that obsess you. A down to earth person doesn’t need to flaunt an expansive, technical vocabulary because he has taken to heart Oscar Wilde’s sage advice: “Don’t use big words. They mean so little.”
As professional musicians, we know things about music and instruments that the average person has never even considered. Subtleties of sound stand out to us like black stripes on a white wall. Being down to earth doesn’t require ignoring those subtleties, but it does require we look at them in context.
You may be able to tell the difference between two instruments – you may know that one is significantly better than the other, but being practical means honestly assessing whether your audience can.
If traveling with the superior instrument requires a great deal more hassle than traveling with the lesser one, and the difference in experience for the audience is negligible, the down to earth person packs the lesser instrument and is on her way.
On the other hand, demanding that you be able to play only the very best, no matter the hassle, is not only impractical but also wildly arrogant. In essence, you are saying that what is important to you, because of your elevated status as an expert, is what is most important in the situation.
That isn’t down to earth, that’s diva-esque. If Oprah can’t get away with it, neither can you.
If you are committed to building a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, learn the five strategies for success in Concert University’s FREE webinar. If you would like to hear a live discussion about this, and other Characteristics, please visit ClassicJabber.com.