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Why 'Classic Meets Cool'?

Barron Ryan


'Classic Meets Cool' doesn't tell you what I do. It doesn't say that I play the piano or even that I'm a musician, yet my tagline describes exactly what I want it to. How can that be? If you provide a service, shouldn't you try to describe what it offers? Yes, but there's the issue. I'm not a service provider, I'm an artist.

Artists tend to dwell on what we produce, believing that by focusing on the finished product we'll get people to pay attention to it. We describe our music by its genre or our dance by its style, and expect that fans will flock to us because we play or move so well. This is a mistake. If art's purpose is expressing the identity of its maker (as I argue here), then the artist is more important than the work he or she creates.

I don't play the piano for the same reason that the dry cleaner cleans your clothes. They provide a service because you want that spot out of your coat; I make music because that's how I express myself. And if I want to receive value for the ways I express myself, I need to communicate the value not of the expression, but of the expresser.

Marketing yourself instead of your art can be challenging. Initially it might be harder to attract interest when instead of saying "I paint watercolors," you say something like "I overturn expectations" (although that does sound pretty intriguing). But if you can tell a compelling story, marketing yourself is liberating. It means that your fans will continue to follow you even if your work changes because they care about you more than your art.

So though 'Classic Meets Cool' doesn't describe what I do, it perfectly describes me. It tells you that I appreciate traditions and trends, and that I embody them both. Right now I show that by playing the piano, but in ten years there's no telling what it will look like. We now know that that doesn't matter, because if you like what I do, it's because you like who I am.