The Art, Science and Cognitive Biases behind building Highly Engaged Audiences

Confessions of an ex-music manager
The Art, Science and Cognitive Biases behind building Highly Engaged Audiences
Jake McNeill
June 14, 2021
5 min read
Copy link

TL: DR — I spent 25 years building audiences for superstar DJs and multi-platinum pop bands that sold millions. This is what I learned

Fear Hacking

This is the most important step. 

Why? You will never achieve your creative potential with the iron grip of fear holding you back. 

  • Fear stops you from taking risks. 
  • Fear keeps you in your lane. 
  • Fear stops you from creating extraordinary work that matters.

Being a curious creator and a maverick maker is hard. Super hard. 

Why? Because creativity is personal and you’re scared of failing. 

We invest our hearts and souls into our creative projects. The thought of them being rejected is a terrifying prospect.

  • So people hold back. 
  • They create bland, vanilla products, the same as everyone else’s
  • And they get lost in the sea of mediocrity. 

We’ve all done it. It’s human nature. Most of us aren’t even aware we’re doing it. 

In professional tennis, they call it tanking the game. Diluting effort in expectation of failure in order to protect our egos. 

The psychology is if we don’t try so hard, failure won’t hurt as much. 

Fear of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The truth is: creativity is more about failing. Building products is more about failing. 

Don’t hide from failure. Take a deep breath and run towards it. 

Create. Fail. Iterate. 

Create. Fail. Iterate. 

Rinse and repeat until you:

Create. Connect. It may take months but it will probably take years.

But it’s the only way.

People don’t buy ordinary things. They don’t share mediocre stuff. 

People want the extraordinary.

Tip # 1 —How to create extraordinary work? Run towards your fears, embrace failure as a friend, and create work that is so good that it scares the shit out of you. 

N.b — fear hacking is too big a topic to unpack here. There will be more posts about this in the future. 

Creative Authenticity

Yeah, I know. Authenticity is a word that has been so commercialised and overused it has reached the point of ironic inauthenticity. 

But it is absolutely critical to your long-term success. 


There are only two things you need to achieve to build a highly engaged audience:

  1. Get noticed 
  2. Get your audience to care

How do you get noticed? By building a niche of one. 

Combine your talents with your interests to create a completely unique offering. 

For example, let’s take Jack Butcher from Visualize Value. He spent 10 years designing in the advertising industry. 

He started his own agency but hated it. So he started a consultancy.

To promote it, he combined his skills ( design ) plus his interest in creating digital business products for creators. (Interests)

People love quotes. Jack added a high design element and created a niche for one. 

Jack uses business quotes and high design to provide clarity and insights on complex business problems. 👇

Skills + interests + personality = Visualize Value which now turns over $1MM per annum. 

It only took Jack 18 months to achieve that. 

I come from the music industry. This means I have a few skills.

  1. I know how to build engaged audiences
  2. I have a deep understanding of creativity 
  3. I know how to crush the creative blocks that hold people back
  4. I know how to build creative business strategies that make a racket in saturated markets

My interests are creative hacks and mental models.

I combine them: 

I use creative hacks and mental models to help creators hack into their true creative genius, crush their creative blocks, and build engaged audiences. 

That is a niche of one. I write authentic content around that. 

Tip # 2 — stand out from the crowd by being yourself and using your uniques combinations of skills + interests+ personality. 

Affinity Bias

What is affinity bias? It’s a subconscious social bias that draws us to people who are like us. 

We don’t know we’re doing it. But we all do it. 

This is why it’s important to be authentic. People who are like us will be subconsciously drawn to us — and our content.

When we write authentic content around our niche of one it will naturally attract people like us. 

This creates a tribe of like minded people. People who have a similar ethos and world view.

This how you turn your audience into a community. When you have community it’s symbiotic and your community will become “true fans” in the Kevin Kelly sense of the term.  

It also means you’ll never run out of content creation ideas. 

Why? Because your audience is similar to you. 

Content ideas that excite you will probably excite your audience too. 

Tip # 3 — We’re all a bit weird. Embrace it and share it to naturally attract your tribe with cognitive bias. 

The Zulu Philosophy of Ubuntu

What is Ubuntu? It’s the Zulu philosophy that inspired Nelson Mandela to change the world. 

It was the spirit of Ubuntu that helped Mandela forgive the jailers who beat and abused him year after year.

Mandela knew we are only human through the humanity of others. We are only pure from serving others. 

We are joined together through the spirit of unity and mutual experiences. 

Asked to define Ubuntu, Mandela posed a question “ What are you going to do in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?“

This is the same question that every artist, rebellious entrepreneur and curious creator should ask themselves. 

What are you going to create that will inspire and improve your community? Your audience?

What are you going to do to connect with them?

Your success is directly related to your communities success, and their success is related to yours. It’s symbiotic. 

The more success your community has the more they will tell their friends and the bigger the community will become. 

The bigger the community gets the bigger your business will be. 

But it all starts with improving your community. Get that right and the results will take care of themselves. 

Tip # 4 — Improve your communities lives and the business results will take care of themselves. 


Empathy and Generosity

Building a community boils down to two things:

  1. Having the empathy to understand your communities wants and needs.
  2. Having the generosity to serve them time and time again.

Do these two things and you will build a successful brand and a community of super fans who will buy all your work —it’s what they want and needs.

They will share your work and share the word. The community will grow. It will get stronger. 

And best of all you will have found a sense of purpose. 

“In an ideal world, nobody’s work would just be about the money. People could pursue excellence in what they do, take pride in achievement, and derive meaning knowing that their work improved the lives of others.” — Barry Swartz

Tip # 5 — Creativity is having the empathy to understand someone else’s needs or wants and the compassion and generosity to provide it.

Access and Distribution

This is almost as important as step 1. It doesn’t matter how authentic or extraordinary your content is if you fail to reach your people.

Your community is the outcome of good distribution and content. 

When designing your niche of one start with the distribution. If you don’t have access to the people you want to serve, you should re-think your niche of one. 

Tip # 6 — Distribution is king. 

So there you have it. You now have the game plan to build a hyper connected audience.

Peace out


A bit about me

I help maverick artists and creatives hack into their true creative genius, crush the creative blocks that hold them back, and build engaged audiences

Every creative rebel’s worst enemy?

Creative mediocrity: Being bland. Staying in our lane. Creating in our comfort zone and following the crowds.

The Goal? To create authentic work that matters. Take creative risks, avoid creative burnout, and making a racket in saturated markets.

I’m a former multi-platinum artist manager who got burnt out and became a creative blogger, coach, and consultant.

I’ve challenged myself to write 50 articles in 50 working days. 10 down, 40 to go.

Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

Share this post
Copy link
Subscribe to the newsletter
Mental Models For Multipotentialites To Maximise Their Potential. Cost? $0. Unsubscribe anytime✌️
Read about our privacy policy.
✅ Great stuff. You're now subscribed to my newsletter!
Hmm, something went wrong with the subscriber form. Please send me a quick email to let me know.

Related posts

Read more of my posts about related topics.
💪 Your Ambition Is Crushing Your Potential 😫
May 4, 2023

💪 Your Ambition Is Crushing Your Potential 😫

👉 Why We Fuck Up Our Ideas And How To Avoid It
Read post
😱 Welcome To Fucked Up Club 🥳
May 4, 2023

😱 Welcome To Fucked Up Club 🥳

😜 The Surprising Creative Power Of Fucking Up
Read post
😀 Multipotentialite: The Happiness Dilemma ✅
May 3, 2023

😀 Multipotentialite: The Happiness Dilemma ✅

🤓 The Four Part Divergent Thinking Framework For Clarity, Purpose, And Peace Of Mind 🙌 😎
Read post
Jake McNeill

Ready to unfuck potential?

Let me help you get shit done!🤘