Seems like now more than ever there are more and more ways to get excited about an artist : good voice, cool vibe, great web presence, innovator of new technology partnered with some type of online gimmick, great live performance, great merch … and the list goes on. As important as some of those things might be, the long term success of any artist, ALWAYS starts with the music. No fun Youtube video or great looking social networking site embedded with the latest music player trumps the music, ever. I know that seems like a no brainer seeing that we’re talking about the ‘music industry’ but in a day when more music is being created, produced and distributed than ever before yet the ability to get noticed or even be heard is becoming more difficult, the need for great music is essential.
I know everyone has their own opinions as to what ‘great music’ is, but if you look back at what’s stood the test of time I’m sure you’ll see a common thread of well crafted lyrics, memorable melodies, great production and something intriguing and unique about the vocals. (You obviously can’t bypass some good luck along the way but that’s generally a byproduct of something that’s already great.)
We listen to a lot of artist demo’s. Recommendations from producers, publishers, and managers is pretty frequent and on a scale of 1-10, most of what we hear lies in the 5 – 6 category. (Not horrible but not exceptional. It’s just. ‘o.k.’ on every level.) Over time I’ve learned not to expect greatness with everything I hear, but in considering an artist to work with I always listen for what ‘MIGHT’ be special, … or what has the elements of being great. There has to be something unique about the vocals, lyric approach, song structure or melodies that make me want to lean in and take another listen. A lot of times I’ll build a play list of the different demo submissions we get and let it loop at a lower level as I’m working. A good indicator of whether or not something connects with me is when I’m listening and subconsciously turn the music up ’cause something jumps out at me.
I recently read an email from music attorney Bob Lefsetz, where he listed the top album sales for the week. (Thought it was interesting to note based on this topic.) Bold faced type below is my emphasis and it’s true, … it started with the music.
Darius Rucker “Learn To Live”
- Sales this week: 14,785
- Weeks on: 68
- Cume: 1,240,902
That’s a lot of records. And it’s still selling more than a year in. This is what’s right with the industry. After all, Darius isn’t making it on his good looks and charisma, and he didn’t even use the name “Hootie”. It started with the music, and was built by a ton of glad-handing and roadwork. But, if you don’t fit the country format, I’d add in a ton of social media networking.
Next time you’re writing or recording something, make sure you’ve spent enough time on the development of the idea, the development of the lyric and song. Make sure the melody is as strong as it could be, hooks where it needs to hook, breathes where it needs to breathe. Make sure the vocal performance is as strong as it can be sung, the production is as tight, innovative and relevant as it should be. Creativity is great, … something different is applauded, however knowing your market and knowing what works within that market it is pretty important. After all, everyone only has one chance at a first impression. The power to pull people in and want to hear something again is a powerful feeling, however the inverse is equally true.
“I don’t want to write songs people can remember. I want to write songs that people can’t forget.” I’m not typically one to remember quotes but this one has always stuck with me. You want to heard? You want to be noticed and considered? You want to grow your fan base and have a career ? It all starts with the music.