Blinding white lights illuminate a crowd of thousands, every band in the world playing simultaneously. The noise is deafening as distortion, delay and the clang of singers screams in your ears. Everyone is competing for the attention of musical gatekeepers, the people who will pick the next to “make it” in music. The hopelessness of the competition hits you in the gut as you look around, every band sounding better by comparison to what you do. How can you ever stand out in a crowd this big? Christchurch songwriter Jo Murgatroyd provides this guide on how to stand out as a musician on a globalised stage, the only band in the world.
Combining unusual and unexpected musical textures will hook the ears of your listener immediately. Wurltizer with screamo vocals? Distortion on a double bass? A capella vocals with pedal effects overtop? Ten guitars? The more novel the idea, the more likely people are to pay attention to it.
Consider some of the greats of musical history: The Boston Globe wrote of the Beatles in 1964 that, “They are so unbelievably horribly, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music.” Doing something radically different allows you to move past people’s assumptions of who you are and what you do so that you can hit them with what you really want to say.
Ideas on their own are not strong enough to carry you to your future. The idea must be well-executed by paying attention to the lyrics, the production, the musical execution, and the structure of your songs. This will allow the quality of your idea to take off, especially in live performances. There’s nothing worse than seeing your favourite band perform live and finding out they only sound good in the studio.
Bring the musical combination you’ve always hoped to find to life. I have spent many an hour trawling through Youtube hoping to find a specific instrumentation and a specific style of music and its only in the past year that I’ve decided to stop hoping and start making it happen for myself. Creating the sound you’ve been searching for is a dream come true for you and for the other people who’ve also been searching for that sound. Being the one to action your dream requires enough guts to take a risk, a decision you are able to make!
If there’s no one else like you, you’ll stand head and shoulders above the crowd in any stadium. Being incomparable eliminates the pressure of needing to be better than anyone else and allows you to maintain your natural strengths as a player. More importantly, comparison is a killer of motivation and a toxic element in relationships, both professional and personal. Keep your eyes focused on what is going on for you right now, what you want from your music and ignore the voice that tells you you’re not good enough, you’re not enough like that band you know who you feel is always one step ahead… Be kind to yourself and become the only one of your kind!
The people who make it in music possess more than just musical ability. Successful artists carve a niche for themselves that becomes their territory and is hard to compete with. They are connected with a strong idea of who they are, what they can do, and where they want to take their music. Think of The Beatles, of Michael Jackson, of David Bowie. Each of these artists had a unique sound that set the tone for the generation they were in and you can do the same. Eliminate the competition and become the only band in the world who can do what you do.