They [literary critics] saw three reading publics: by far the largest consisted of the “barbarian” masses, with no awareness of demanding fiction and inevitably content with shallow fare; the second, much smaller, though still substantial in numbers and with easy access to high culture, feeling superior to the multitudes but reluctant to spend the time and effort an avant-garde novel would exact; and finally, a small elite, an aristocracy of novel readers open to innovations and experiments. (p. 182)The implications of this broad taxonomy are far-reaching, despite its roughness and its aggressively elitist cast, which few critics would embrace today, as least as stated here. It should be noted that the three categories outlined here do not directly map onto socio-economic groups, educational levels, or any other way of grouping people. The final, smallest group, the “elite” audience, is self-selected and potentially includes members of all demographic categories.
I want to look at these audiences from the point-of-view of a practicing artist. How do you get your work in front of members of the different groups, and get it there in a way that they can “get it”?
The smallest group, the self-selected “elite” open to “advanced” expression in art, would seem to constitute a (the?) natural audience for new music. For them, you do the best work you can and hope that they are a good faith audience whose taste hasn’t ossified.
The middle group, those “with easy access to high culture, feeling superior to the multitudes but reluctant to spend the time and effort an avant-garde novel would exact” presents specific challenges to artists. From the description you get the feeling that they like art, but that they like what they know—their adventurousness, if it’s there at all, may extend only a little bit outside their comfort zone. For them, you do the best work you can and hope that they are willing to extend their comfort zone a little to meet you.
I have to admit that the largest group, the “’barbarian’ masses” interests me the most. How could I get them interested in what I do? I tend to think that this is a, to an extent, a self-selected group as well; that, for a number of reasons, they “choose” not to have any interest in art. How to reach them? I don’t know, but again, it’s always important to do the best work you and work to put it out where people can be exposed to it.