One of the best ways to separate yourself from the competition, in any business, is to focus on a culture of quality. When your music is well-written, when the performance is jaw-droppingly good, when your audience feels like they can’t take their eyes off your live performance…those are all clear ways to stand out. Quality comes down to a handful of principles that should be pursued every day.
Content is King, or Queen
There is no substitute for quality music. When your sound is infectious enough that others may want to cover you or copy you, you’ll know you have arrived. And you may notice that there is already a lot of copycat behavior on the radio – one band so often sounds like another.
A song becomes that much stronger when the words and melodies compliment each other (also known as prosody). And when your music fans start memorizing the chorus and then take the time to memorize the rest of the words, or start quoting lyrics on social media, yes, you will have arrived.
If the music or words (or both) then start to trigger emotional responses, your content is capable of reaching people in a powerful new way. You’ve possibly heard the phrase “affecting change on a molecular level?” That’s what you are approaching when you can create an emotional reaction from a song.
Trust your instincts
There is more than one way to write a song just as there is more than one way to find meaning in life. Every songwriter has the ability to channel their own unique style, combined with their own unique experiences, and their own unique expression. Do what you do best and it will probably be a quality effort.
If you’re not true to yourself, like the copycats mentioned above, it will probably become apparent to the listener immediately. Your real fans can be your best critics. So don’t censor yourself or force yourself to be like some other “success” out there. Trust that you have everything you need to succeed, and then let it out.
Being selective means not settling. Part of selectivity is making some clear choices, and being willing to forgo an easy option for a more quality effort. And as with so much in life, choosing Quality over Quantity usually creates the most impact. As a musician, these choices might be reflected in:
The upward spiral
On-going education and constant improvement are reflected in the model of an upward spiral. If we are making progress, we will keep expanding our knowledge and skills and return to the same concepts on higher and higher levels. And the view will start to become spectacular.
Coming back to the same concepts on a higher plane may mean it’s time for a song re-write. It may mean stepping back and critiquing how you are engaging with your fans. Or maybe you start to realize that you aren’t pushing yourself as much as when you first picked up an instrument, and it’s time to take skills to the next level. Keep thinking constant and never-ending improvement – there’s always something that can be done better.
A word of caution: if you remember the game Chutes and Ladders, the objective is to avoid those pesky slides. The path of least resistance presents itself when you find yourself static, not writing new material, not practicing your instrument, and basically just giving up to the force of gravity. It may seem like a fun, carefree ride down, but eventually you will find yourself heading into a downward spiral. Remember to keep climbing and don’t ever be complacent about quality.