I recently created a survey on SurveyMonkey.com and shared it on my online social media channels because I was interested in learning more about my audience. I'm working on my third album right now and I wanted to get out of the vacuum that tends to surround artists a bit to help better guide what I'm doing.
Posting a short survey is a great tool and technique I think more artists should consider, and while I didn't get enough replies to establish any kind of scientific certainty, I did learn some interesting things. These may be useful for you in some way so I'm sharing the results below!
Here's the actual survey link in case you want to see it: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SVYQFW3
How do you prefer to reach new music?
Buy a physical CD / Album (online or at a store) 54.55%
Purchase on iTunes 36.36%
Streaming for Free 31.82%
Purchase on Amazon 13.64%
"I write it."
"Because I am a musician and part of a self producing company, I get more music in the mail and every other way than I can handle."
"I have bought most of my new music through Kickstarter or indigogo"
My analysis: I love the comment, "by steamship" and there are a few other hilarious replies in later questions. It seems pretty clear by these results that a majority of people in my response group prefer physical media for new music.
Do you prefer EPs or LPs?
LPs (12+) 52%
Doesn't Matter 48%
EPs (5-ish) 4%
My analysis: I am on the fence about producing an EP or going full length due to time and money considerations -- I have enough new material for two full length albums, but the quality of the songs may prove more effective in parsing them down into one EP and stash the rest into the the "Simeon Peebler Catalog".
Do you care about accessing album lyrics?
Prefer in a booklet with the CD 50%
OK to have them in easily accessible online 50%
"I can't read"
"Sometimes, it's interesting to see the lyrical interpretation of "Mis-understood" words"
My analysis: I was just curious about this because of some conversations I had with other songwriters and producers at the Folk Alliance Region Midwest gathering in St. Louis earlier this year. I'll produce an insert this time around as my last two full length albums had no liner notes or lyrics with the physical CD.
What kind of album art do you like?
Prefer album themed photography 38.89%
Prefer picture of the artist 33.33%
Prefer abstract album themed art 27.78%
"Naked women are always a safe bet."
"I like all sorts of album art."
"Just good, not one type"
"No preference, although it's nice to see a photo of the artist."
My analysis: This may lead me one way or another. I have a lot of talented artists I'd like to have help out on this -- photographers and graphic designers. Other notes -- the last two album projects I did I used iconic images and didn't really feature myself on the cover other than by name. I also made some other errors like not showing running times of tracks properly. This is not helpful to DJs.
What album are you listening to most these days?
Here are replies in no particular order -- some people skipped this question entirely. As you can tell, there are a few jokes in here I found to be great. But it does help me better appreciate what my audience likes.
"Andy Gullahorn, Beyond the Frame"
"New, by Paul McCartney."
"Robbie Fulks, "Gone Away Backwards""
"Chief Keef Sings Perry Como. The Muppets: Suicide and Shame."
"Jimmy Vaughan Sings Blues and Ballads."
"Can't say there is one in particular I'm listening to most, but I've been listening to Jack Bruce most often."
"Damien Jurado Marquopa"
"Shuffle on iTunes."
"Lots of old stuff--CD's from the library--everything from Cat Stevens to the Stones to Keith Jarrett to Gipsy Kings to Nina Simone. Lots of jazz."
"I like to mix it up...I don't stick with one album or artist too long. Right now Passenger and a local artist playing blues are in my car"
"Any Big Head Todd and the Monsters"
"I'm not, really. I got enough trouble with the music already in my head."
"Though typically not a fan of radio, I keep coming back to Taylor Swift's Red and Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy."
"Nirvana's In Utero"
"One Republic & Imagine Dragons"
"Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City"
"Concerts of 12-12-12, rock HOF, etc..."
"mostly listening to my songs or new Americana music"
"I tend to not get stuck on just one. Usually whatever I am working on."
"New Kings of Leon Mechanical bull"
What's your favorite local venue for hearing local artists?
I'm going to summarize the answers since they were left as open comment fields. Since most of my audience replied from the Chicago area, these venues tend to be Chicagoland-centric.
The Hideout (4 people posted that)
Evanston SPACE (4 people posted that)
Barking Spider in Cleveland
NC Music Factory
The Java Cabana and Otherlands
Chicago Songwriters' Alliance events (Uncommon Ground, Tonic Room, Hungry Brain, Mustache Cafe)
"The closer the better"
"Not that interested in hearing artists live"
"Toss-up between VIPs and Admiral Theater." (These are "adult" places)
My analysis: I am eager to launch the new album in the best venue I can book, and I was curious about other places people like to see local artists perfom. I've been networking with many of these venues and I've performed at a few of them in my "career" to date. I am very fond of SPACE and The Hideout, but I've seen great shows at a majority of these places in the past few years. There are quite a few folk-centric places in the Chicagoland area absent from this list but I think that's just due to the sample size.
What style or genre of music interests you most recently?
"Folk" (Traditional) 52.17%
Alt Rock 17.39%
"Crunkcore and Epic Doom Metal"
"Blues and R&B"
"For live shows, I've probably been seeing Folk type acts most recently"
"I've been in a jazz groove."
"Country Blues, Tex-Mex, Conjunto"
My analysis: No big surprises there given the net I cast to try to get people to reply to my survey. I discovered that despite my love of how my second album turned out, it has a rock flair that turned some people off who probably would have been much more into an acoustic-only experience.
This was a sort of "thank you" note describing why I asked for people to take the survey, and I left a comment field where people gave me sincere well-wishes on my new music endeavors. That positive energy and encouragement was probably among the most valuable gained from this experimental survey.
Obviously, surveys can be helpful because you can learn a lot about your audience you otherwise would have never known. You can leverage what you learn from this data collection and with some thought you can infer a great deal about audience desires and expectations. If you use that to help make decisions about how you package and deliver your work in theory your end result could achieve greater "success." As an independent artist, I suspect this survey will help me be a bit smarter in the end. Maybe my songs will reach a few more ears than they would have otherwise. That's all I hope for. I hope more independent artists try this sort of thing out!