How Do You See Yourself? excerpt from 'Winning the Music Game by Brian Allen'
The explorers, the chemists and the copycats: Most milestone trends in music history can be traced to 3 waves of development. The explorers are generally open minded free wheelers who aren’t organized enough to be great songwriters. They are experimenters who hack paths through virgin musical jungle with a machete. They are happy to develop a small but loyal cult following, and care little about commercial acceptance. Behind them come the chemists, who are skilled at song writing and creative interpretation, but lack innovation. They incorporate what the explorer did, blend it skilfully with their song writing expertise, and are generally the most popular and successful examples of the new trend. Behind the chemists comes a wave of copiers. Most of us seem to have fairly consistent views about their integrity. Which one will you be?
Will you stand out from the pack? If so, how? If you can’t describe yourself in terms that are any different from those you would use to describe others, what will observers subsequently say about you? Your personal style is a creation that deserves to be just as unique and identifiable as the songs you strive to write. It is how people will recognize you and your work as “outstanding” in the very essential definition of the word – how well you stand out against others. Uniqueness is in all of us. So how do we achieve this? We can’t buy uniqueness in a store, order it online, or take a night course that gives us a degree in uniqueness. If we remove all of the peel from a banana we are left with the most edible part, so the process starts with an inventory of our essential ingredients. Every time we encounter a trait that sounds or looks like other artists, why not dump it? This is a critical step in the development process, for there is the potential of achieving a very scary result: If after dumping all the non-unique elements, we are left with nothing; then what were we made of? In this case, we should remove ourselves from the road to get out of the way of others who have something unique to offer. I like to think that those we consider to be very unique have made the effort to show us the very centre of their creative muse, and absolutely deserve our recognition for doing so.
Do you see yourself as an artist? Or more specifically, a recording artist? Is that a designation or a limitation? Only you can define that. If you are a recording artist, I suggest you do not limit your artistry to recording. Apply your artistry to your posters, your clothes, the way you dress a stage, what you say between songs, how you move, what you say in interviews, your photos… everything! Step back and consider all the sensory perceptions the viewer will take in and tie them together with creative and purposeful artistry. Don’t just be who you are… maximize who you are! But to do this effectively, divorce yourself psychologically from your stage persona. Objectivity is already a difficult exercise, so why hang on to subjectivity consciously? Put an imaginary cardboard cut-out of your artist persona on the wall and assume the role of the contracted designer. Your new job is to consider this artist’s visual image, write songs for them, script their interview style, cast their videos… everything! The mission is to weave strong threads of consistency and character uniqueness throughout all public presentation aspects of the artist’s career. The more objective you can be, the more effective the design. Wherever possible, supplement your best objectivity with opinions from people who have proven experience.
And so… To concentrate solely on the music and expect to have a successful competitive career would be tantamount to expecting that if the front of the house you are building looks good, you can scrimp on the foundation, walls, electrical system, roof and plumbing. It all has to stand equally well to have structural strength, because structural strength is the quality that separates the standing buildings from the flattened ones after hurricanes roar through a town. Consider the building that has a great roof and a strong foundation, but the builder cut costs by forgetting about every second stud in the walls. When tested, the first casualty will be the walls… and then, what value does the well-built remaining structure have?
Build your artistic strength carefully and creatively. It’s the entertainment business – there will be hurricanes.