If you have been following this Artist Development Course all the way (and I hope you have) you may be wondering when I get to the point where I give you the magic formula for making irresistible Pop hits? When I tell you that if you put all your songs in A#Min with an Augmented 9th and set Ozone’s Ditheration knob to 46.75789548654 so your choonz will be guaranteed hits..?
You are in the wrong place.
You are asking the wrong question.
Yes, there are people using formulas like Max Martin and his Melodic Math thing. And after the fact, they seem really clever but I can pretty well guarantee that if you manage to nail every one of those rules then you probably still aren’t #1 on Billboard. You probably aren’t even #224,358,679 on the Self-Funded Lesbian Ukelele Players From Yellow Knife List at Spotify.
Oh, the horror! (not of being a self-funded lesbian from Yellow Knife – there’s nothing wrong with lesbians or being self-funded, even with coming from Yellow Knife)
Can You Hear Me Calling You
In the last week or so I have managed to be exposed to some great unsigned music. All of these people have committed & released something to the wider world. But they are all still looking for their place, their audience. I know that feeling.
Listening to their music I hear things that I, and more importantly other people, would like to hear again and even put in their collections. Yet they are still effectively unheard.
There are no guarantees of success but there are things you can do to hinder it. The flaws I see in common are things I have already covered in this course:
- Not having created a sense of Identity & Story for themselves.
Coke is always creating story for themselves. All those ads every summer showing cool fashionable kids jumping in water whilst chugging liquid gut rot. We know where Coke fits into our lives. We know where ABBA & Metallica fit into our lives. We don’t know where Jane of Evil fit because we can’t see who they are. Acts tend to forget that potential fans have no idea of who they are so present little to nothing of themselves to latch onto.
- Not having made any Pitch for their material. Too many people post with no supporting material to give me a reason why I would want to hear their song. All too often they don’t even provide a link! Yup. “Hello there. Check out our new song on YouTube” and “(Street Value 2) By R.I.P Productions -AKA- R.iches I.s P.ower Productions” are not useful pitches. My reactions are Why? & WTF respectively. If you can create a more human or storied connection, you are more likely to get feedback. Once I saw Larry’s story and could see the depth of his work he converted me from impressed to owning.
- Not learning how to do the basics of the two points above. Then get upset that nothing happens. Learning sounds like it sucks. But that is really the wrong attitude. That is fear speaking. Do you regret learning your instrument of choice? Nope, because it lets you do your desired thing. Sure it is scary but so is eternal disappointment from not even trying. There is no shortcut.
- Not stepping back to re-assess who they really are and where their strengths are. Did Bob Dylan try to write ABBA style songs? Nope. It didn’t fit his strengths (or story). Suzi Quattro found great authenticity (and ability to extend her career) with slower songs. I see too many artists not stepping back to see how they can use their instrument to strengthen their uniqueness. (That includes people insisting on using that horrid faux singing thing when they could really sing instead). If you have a strength then use that. Make it your feature or groove. Ignore what everyone else is doing and tell your story. If you sing songs that would make a Neil Young or Gordon Lightfoot fan happy then why try to be Keith Urban? Play to your strengths.
- Plays are ego, saying you sound like Ed Sheeran is too. “Listen to my super cool new song so I can get more Plays on Spotify” is just so egotistical. What is in it for me? Doesn’t even seem I am going to like the song right now. This assumes that music is about getting likes and not communicating with others. Real art never plays it that way.
- Not letting the songs & talent lead. I have heard albums where there are a few truly great tracks that remind me of great artists (in a good way), then sadly a lot of tracks that were diluted by trying to fit what they think they should sound like if Band X were doing that song. They stop listening to what their songs and talent need to do. It ruins the work as it isn’t real anymore.
- Most have done the finishing pretty well as there is an album but amazingly the supporting work isn’t done. Part of an album is the artwork, the cover. If there isn’t one of those properly made then how will it look in someone’s collection? Like shite is the answer. Websites don’t exist, guides to where I can buy the record don’t exist. No discography, no artist Bio… Get off Soundcloud and onto CD Baby or Bandcamp.
- The call has been answered to some degree with all of the above and that is to be applauded. But sadly the artist has backed down at the gate. I do understand. I really do. Take your fave artist, let’s say Garth Brooks (everyone should at least admire him) and see how you would feel about Garth if his albums didn’t have covers, you had to struggle to find him and his records? Yep, you’d move on to someone who did the work, not because you plan to be testing this Garth bloke but because the message doesn’t seem complete. He doesn’t seem to be really talking to you. The real Garth is impressive on all fronts. He may pay people to be that way but so what, his finished product is top quality.
Be Yourself Tonight
You may have noticed that a lot of this course is telling you what not to do. Not trying to be un-New Agey and a downer at all but no one can tell you how to be uniquely you. Only you can work that out exactly. I can, however, point out the common pitfalls to help you avoid them and stay on a good path.
Also, I am working broadly here. If I were working with you and your songs one-on-one I could definitely be saying, well I like this but how about we change this chord to A#Min with an Augmented 9th and set that Ozone* knob there to 46.75789548654 (hi hi). i could say well, really you have a Neil Young sort of vibe so let’s forget trying to be Keith Urban and win where we can.
The thing about Life is that it loves complexity. Worms are better than Amoeba; Butterflies are better than Worms; Giraffes are better than Butterflies; Monkeys are better than Giraffes; Humans are better than Monkeys. Nature loves us all as we have our place in her great scheme but the more a critter can express life, the more it serves life’s purposes.
Authenticity may not be currency in Top 10 right now but it is coming back and will strike suddenly. Soon.
The last 20 years of music have been about narrowing down to some secret sauce of instant hit songs. Most of which are coming from a very small spread of record labels. This is the exact opposite of what Nature wants. For Rock to survive it requires the same variety & individuality that a species needs.
The main parts of the music industry are shrinking. Bandcamp is doing the exact opposite.
What this says is that there is no sense in chasing the closing door, but a lot of sense in entering the opening door. The way to succeed behind Door #2 is to be truly you, truly unique. Bold and unafraid of your uniqueness, your flaws, your YOU.
Homework: I want you to take a look at anything you have put in public up till now and see how well it covers all the things that it needs to compare with Garth Brooks (or your fave artist but Garth is great as he is darned good & made it all the way). Covers, Story, Website, Avenue to Action, emails to Blogs..? You get me. Be real honest. Now, look at your current project. How are you going with things this time? Sure you can’t do some things till the record is done but you can be planning.
Action: Why not fill in this about your current project and post below:
- Working Name:
- Projected Completion Date:
- Estimated Number of Tracks:
- Estimated Project Duration (mins):
- Project Concept or Story:
- Intended Audience:
- Release Format:
- Release Platform/s:
- Possible Blogs or Promotion Avenues:
- Targets to call the project a success:
No matter when you meet this course, please feel free to participate actively in the Homework & Action sections at the bottom of each page. Even if this article is old, I am still listening.
* I don’t own or use Ozone. I’m sure it is great but I haven’t felt the need.
- Working Name: Run From The Sun
- Projected Completion Date: April 2018
- Estimated Number of Tracks: 10
- Estimated Project Duration (mins): 60
- Project Concept or Story: a space journey from Mercury to Pluto fusing my Electronic Space Music with elements of Metal (all synths as no guitarists answered the call and I don’t want to abandon the project – besides I actually like the sound now).
- Intended Audience: fans of Prog Rock & Metal who are open to a really different experience.
- Release Format: Digital download
- Release Platform/s: Bandcamp & CD Baby to aggregate to Spotify etc
- Possible Blogs or Promotion Avenues: NWOTHM Full Albums, Prog Sphere, Stoned Meadow of Doom, The Metal Observer
- Targets to call the project a success: picked up and blogged by several sources and 10 sales in the first month (low target but I usually manage 1-2).
UPDATE: the album “Run From The Sun” is out 15 March 2018. Last night before I had anything announced on Facebook etc, a fan called Doom Heart gave a review & promo on his Facebook so technically the album was outed 14th March. I don’t mind that at all.
As at release day 0/1 I have hit all the targets and sent to all the intended Promo avenues incl a few others (not to mention the viral from Mr. Heart). The one I haven’t done so far is ProgSphere because I have concerns – so I found a recent act they reviewed and asked him how it went for him. No sales yet but perhaps a bit early to expect any as while I am awake, most of the rest of the world sleeps.
For the moment I am holding on a YT video as I would like to see if one of the YT fan sites would like to get a first for themselves with that.
This chat is super wonderful (as the others in the series I have watched)