Tag Archives: Mark Ostler

The importance of being earnest

I try to stay away from making posts about the music business or marketing, but this post by Seth Godin really caught my eye.

He talks about what people find interesting, and how it’s easy to do things that our friends find interesting. But it’s much harder to do things that strangers find interesting.

There are so many bands that I’ve been in where I mostly just saw my friends show up. I was fulfilling the first part. The hard part is appealing to strangers, if that’s what you want to do with your music.

But the first thing to do is: be yourself. Be earnest.

When I think of “earnest”, I think of Mark Ostler and his Ivar the Boxer epic poem. The poem is about an immigrant to Seattle who falls on tough times. The fact that the story is written in rhyme, might be an instant turn off to many people. But if you were there at the reading, sitting (or standing at the bar in my case because the room was packed) in the dingy, poorly lit Funhouse, you would have heard a man who was completely absorbed in the art. On one hand, he was baring his own soul. A punk rock singer, speaking in poetry. A fragile moment. On the other hand, he was so incredibly wrapped up in the characters and the story, that he would pause and exclaim things like, “Okay you guys, this next part totally kicks ass! This is where Ivar kicks some butt!!” He was like a fanboy, but of his own work. It was infectious. That night, everyone in the room was caught up with Mark in the story, and we all lived the tragic life of Ivar together. Most of us where surprised to be there–we had no idea this punk rocker was even working on any kind of writing, let alone poetry. But Mark’s earnest reading of his very personal epic poem inspired our imaginations and suspended our disbelief. Mark cared, and so we cared. It did totally kick ass.

That’s one way to make strangers care about you. So focus on the art. Do what you love, be earnest, share with others–and strangers will have no choice but to notice and care.