Friday, July 17, 2020

Stream How You Want

You may be thinking about making changes to your Twitch channel, but are worried about how they will be received by your audience. You've heard me talk in previous entries about streaming the kinds of things that make you happiest, but you don't see any guarantee that such a strategy would work. It's too simple to work. Sure, you'd enjoy doing this new activity or using this new schedule, but what if everyone else hates it and you lose followers? How can you take that step into the unknown?
Allow me to answer this question with a story of one of the past century's greatest musicians and how he dealt with this very problem: 


By the beginning of 1965, Bob Dylan was wildly popular in his chosen craft. Armed with acoustic guitar and harmonica, he wrote folk music and protest songs like nobody else. Tracks like Blowin' in the Wind and The Times They Are a-Changin' told with stunning accuracy the sentiments of the young culture on hard subjects, and consequently this man was more than a popular musician at the time- among many, he was treated as something closer to a prophet. His simple acoustic arrangements served to amplify the angry, powerful verses within his compositions. The conscious choice to use this classic sound was a major part of his appeal to many young people looking to wean themselves from the loud rock and roll which had dominated the airwaves for the past several years. For good reason, the media had labeled him 'The Spokesman of a Generation.'

Not everyone will agree with your changes
And then something very unexpected happened. A few months later, in March 1965, Dylan released an album which utilized an electric rock and roll backing band. And after that, singles and more albums began dropping with an entirely rock sound. The collective hearts of millions sank. This wasn't a simple gimmick. Dylan had gone electric. On performances and tours throughout the following two years, the 'Spokesman of a Generation' was shouted at and harassed on stage every time he played one of his electric songs. Millions of fans around the country felt betrayed.


Why did Dylan switch to electric music if his fans all loved his acoustic songs? Why did he keep playing on stage when people actively hated the music? Why, at this point, did he even get out of bed in the morning? 

Because he wanted to. 

There's nothing more to it than that. Dylan didn't owe anyone an explanation for exploring a new style of music. His creative driving force wasn't owned by his fans, it wasn't subject to anyone's approval. He didn't, as he put it, "need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," it was clear that a huge portion of his audience now hated him for trying something new. But it was his right to go down that path if he chose, accepting whatever consequences may come with this choice. 

Do you have the same courage when it comes to your Twitch channel? If there's something you want to change, which alters your content to its very core- if this change would make you happier, but upset almost everyone in your audience- would you make it? It's a sobering thought. Not many of us would have such fortitude, and none of us have even a fraction of Bob Dylan's fame. 

Going your own way is one of the hardest things you can do.
I don't think there exists any better example for how to choose the authentic pursuit of your craft over public popularity than the infamous era of Dylan going electric. And yet, there's a part of this story I haven't told yet. Today, critics hail Dylan's 1965 debut electric LP, Bringing It All Back Home, as one of the greatest albums ever recorded. You'll find it, along with his subsequent two electric albums, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, highly placed on any respectable all-time list. After a few years, fans simmered about his change and began to adore him once again, and of course in the ensuing decades Dylan went on to continuously shift his sound even further. He didn't rest on his rock music laurels, just as he didn't rest on his acoustic ones.


It almost doesn't matter what the critical or audience reception to his music ultimately was, however. It's easy to see these positive upswings as a 'moral' to the story, but that would be missing the point. The real gem to take away from this isn't the success or love that eventually came from Dylan's change, but the fact that he didn't allow any opinions at all to sway him from pursuing his craft. Because that's what we all do in the end: we pursue our crafts. Sometimes our muse gets up and flies away, and it's our choice whether we follow it into uncertain territory or stagnate out of fear. So any time you're thinking about making a change to your Twitch channel, no matter how earth-shattering, think back to Bob Dylan and simply stream how you want. You'll be happier for it.

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